The Lazy Marathoner: So this is what V.I.P. looks like
Despite all the cold and rainy weather we've had of late, the conditions were excellent for Sunday's inaugural Rock 'N' Roll half-marathon, which started in Griffith Park and ended up in downtown Los Angeles. I did this on a bit of a whim, feeling strong after last week's walk/run in the Long Beach half- marathon, and I'm glad I did. Those guys really know how to put on a race.
Perhaps that's no surprise, given the cross-country slate of marathons and half-marathons they put on under the Rock 'N' Roll banner. But this team has it down to a science. By the time I decided to do the race, I'd missed the online-registration window. I arrived at the L.A. Convention Center late Friday afternoon, dreading the possibility of long lines at the registration tables and at the Expo. All that worry was wasted: I registered, paid for my bib and had my race packet in hand in about four minutes. Seriously. It seemed like the race organizers had one volunteer for ever runner in attendance. Was it different on Saturday when the crowds were larger? What was your experience like?
While at the Expo, I met race spokesman Dan Cruz, who kindly invited me to visit the V.I.P. tent on race morning with others from the media who were largely there to cover the celebrity quotient of the race. Among the competitors: actors Jerry O'Connell, Jennifer Love Hewitt and James Marsden, as well as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his girlfriend, KTLA TV reporter Lu Parker. (The mayor began the race but peeled off shortly after the start for work obligations: He was there to support Parker, whose charity, the Lu Parker Project, helps at-risk youth and homeless animals and raised more than $7,000 on Sunday. Perhaps even more amazing? The Miss USA 1994 looked as picture perfect at the end of the race as she did at the beginning of the race. Maybe even better, thanks to the post-workout glow. See photographic proof below.)
The race itself went smooth as could be: The weather was great -- the temperatures were cool, and, if anything, it was a bit too sunny by the time I finished. (But that's what happens when it takes you 3:42:20 to finish, which is about three minutes better than I did last week. At this rate of improvement, I should be winning half-marathons in about 100 more races.) The race course itself started out in scenic Griffith Park and meandered its way past Silver Lake reservoir, Echo Park lake and past a variety of cute little neighborhoods and storefronts, ending into downtown Los Angeles near L.A. Live. It's not the most scenic race, but it's a good race for first-timers because there are only a handful of short hills. Because the field was relatively small at 12,000, it also led to a more relaxed atmosphere than larger races.
For a back-of-the-packer like me, it's not all that unusual to cross the finish line and find that the race is out of water, or bananas or whatever post-race fuel they're offering. And race volunteers are often bored and tired themselves, wanting it all to be over. Not so with Rock 'n' Roll. I was greeted by enthusiastic cheers from the volunteers, who acted like I had won the race, more bananas than I could eat in a lifetime, and I had to fend off offers of bottled water. Nicely done, Rock 'N' Roll.
By the finish, I was a little more sore and tired than I was last week, but I still had a fun and comfortable race sticking to the Maffetone Plan. I started out slow, kept my heart rate at a steady pace and resisted the impulse to speed it up. Now, with all those details out of the way, what I really want to tell you about is the V.I.P. tent, 'cause who knows when I'll ever have that experience again.
First off, I walked into the tent and immediately felt warm and cozy. Why? Heat lamps. And there was a refreshments table: coffee, tea, flavored creamers, fruit, and bagels and cream cheese. But the best part? The posh portable toilets. That's right, I said posh: They had running water, flushing mechanisms and mirrors. Outside the portable toilets, there was more running water and a tray of pre-race luxuries including hand lotion, sunscreen, tissues and more.
So this is how the other half lives.
I also found myself in the V.I.P. tent at the end of the race, where there was more food, tables, shaded seating and the like. And Champagne. Yes! Champagne! If there's a better post-race combo than a medal and Champagne, I want to know about it.
My single favorite moment of the day, however, came while standing in line for the food trucks on hand to greet finishers: An employee at the Dim Sum Truck refused to let a security guard pay for a can of soda. A nice reminder that none of this would be possible without the men and women who volunteer at these events. A round of applause for them, please.
Here are some images I snapped from race day:
Jennifer Love Hewitt
Nice headband, dude: This guy signals the home stretch.
-- Rene Lynch
twitter.com / renelynch
Photos: Rene Lynch / Los Angeles Times