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They came, they ran, they finished the L.A. Marathon

March 23, 2010 | 11:54 am

Earlier this month, we profiled four people who were set to make their marathon debuts at the L.A. Marathon. We asked what motivated them to sign up -- and we wondered if that would factor in to whether they would finish. This week, we learned: All four completed the race.

Official times aren't in yet, but each one reported back that yes, they're glad they did it and, of course, were proud to get their medals. That's not to say there weren't rough patches. Here's how it went:

Ulrich - Frank Ulrich, 35, nursing student, Burbank (Ulrich ran the marathon with his brother)

How he did: According to his brother's phone, GPS, and running tracker, he ran it in 7:28. He'd hoped to run it in 4:45.

What got him through the worst moments: After mile 20, about every half-mile Ulrich and his brother would start praying aloud, "Dear Jesus, get us through." They'd also periodically turn to each other and say, "We're really going to do this."

Will he do another marathon?: Although his blisters say no, he's been told that in a month he'll be thinking about doing another one. His brother is already considering the Chicago Marathon in October.

- Carol Serrano: 49, office manager, Simi Valley

How she did: According to her watch, 5:17. She'd hoped for five hours.

What got her through the worst moments: Serrano had a friend waiting for her at mile 19 who planned to run with her for part of the race, so she knew she had to make it that far. At mile 16, however, she developed a bad cramp in her calf that caused foot problems. She stretched and walked for a bit, although the pain kept coming back. "I was thinking, 'Oh, my God, am I going to finish this?' " she said. "Yes, I am, even if I have to walk the rest of the way. I knew I had to complete it for myself. I trained far too long to give up!"

Will she do another marathon?: No, she's marked it off her bucket list and is moving on.

Guillaud - Philippe Guillaud, 44, in charge of technology for a credit card company, Los Angeles

How he did: Guillaud finished the marathon in 4:58. He'd hoped to run it in 4:30.

What got him through the worst moments: "I saw incredible people along the way, helping and encouraging runners," Guillaud said, adding that in other countries he hasn't seen such devotion.

Will he do another marathon?: His time in this race left room for improvement, so he will do it again next year. Also, one of his sons wants to try running the Long Beach half marathon in October.

Rodriguez - Grisel Rodriguez, 25, customer service representative for a jewelry manufacturer, San Gabriel

How she did: Rodriguez completed the marathon in 5:56. She'd planned on finishing in 5:30.

What got her through the worst moments: Pain was a problem at mile 19. "Never in my life have I felt so much pain," she said, adding that her calves, thighs and feet were all affected. But texts from family and friends, encouraging her to keep going, propelled her to the finish line. "Also," she said, "it helped to tell myself over and over, 'I'm almost there, and the pain is only temporary.' "

Will she do another marathon?: She might, but with a group of people instead of going solo. "I saw that many people who were doing it in a group were able to support one another and encourage each other. Plus, it looked like more fun."

Some random notes from the runners:

Ulrich liked the route, especially as he got closer to Santa Monica and felt the cooling sea breezes. He also enjoyed the camaraderie with the other runners. However, running in the back of the pack does have its downside, such as missing the fresh oranges that faster runners got at the finish line.

Serrano ran with an iPod but wasn't sure if that was a good idea, since the music drowned out the shouts from the crowd that might have helped motivate her.

Guillaud said he made a beginner's mistake by drinking too much water during the race, which gave him a cramp. He alternated running and walking, which slowed his time. He re-set his finish time for under five hours, and finished two minutes short of that.

Rodriguez called the experience "awesome" and said she learned a lot about how much she can push herself.

Here are the original profiles of the four, plus an explanation of why motivation matters.

-- Jeannine Stein

Photo: Frank Ulrich (top), Philippe Guillaud (middle) and Grisel Rodriguez (bottom) trained for months -- as did Carol Serrano (not shown).

Credit: Brian Vander Brug (top), Wally Skalij (middle) and Gina Ferazzi (bottom) / Los Angeles Times