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Los Angeles Marathon shift sparks angry response

November 11, 2008 |  7:15 pm

The Fabulous Forum has drawn more than 120 responses since we posted an item on Monday morning about the race date being shifted from the President's Day holiday in February to Memorial Day, which falls on May 25 in 2009. I've received more than two dozen e-mails.

A handful were positive, or, at least, neutral on the decision made by LA Marathon LLC, the new race operator funded by Dodgers owner Frank McCourt that has Russ Pillar as president. The rest expressed anger about the idea of running a marathon on Memorial Day.

We've heard from veteran marathoners, including some "legacy" runners who've competed in the 23 previous races that were held on Sundays in early March.

Rookies who are struggling to get in shape for the biggest race in their lives have complained that the date change is wreaking havoc with training regimens already out of sync following an earlier decision to shift the race from a Sunday in March to a Monday in mid-February.

We've heard from members of the LA Leggers and LA Roadrunners, two of Southern California's premier running groups.

We've also heard from out-of-towners, including New Jersey runner Johnny Larsen, who wrote in an e-mail that he and his wife were looking forward to flying to L.A. this year to compete in the marathon. But he's already paid $300 in airline fees to change his flights from March to February.

"I don't think I want to spend another $300 or more," Larsen wrote. "Also, it would be only 23 days after the New Jersey Marathon, and I don't think I can run back-to-back marathons. I just can't believe this."

We also heard from a runner in Ohio who describes himself as an eight-year L.A. Marathon veteran and a city councilman.

Here's his advice to runners who want the race date put back on a Sunday in March:

If you want the date changed, you need to talk to a member of the city council.  If you talk to two, that's even better.  Now I'm not saying to send an e-mail.  Pick up the phone and talk to your councilman.  Even better, take a few minutes to meet with your council member one-on-one.  I can tell you it is very difficult to tell somebody "no" in this situation -- that's human nature.  Remain courteous and polite, but stand strong for what you're asking.  If you can attend a city council meeting, go and ask them to change the date.  City council members are people and they will listen.  In my experience, they generally want to help if you ask and remain polite.  Attending a public meeting does put a little pressure on them to make a commitment one way or the other.

Finally, this is not an issue of runners versus those who attend church services.  I go to church every weekend and would never promote an idea like that.  This is an opportunity for the community to come together for all, like what happens at other major marathons across the country.

We've also heard from runners who wonder whether the decision might be reversed. One of them is Jeff Urband, a marathoner for more than 20 years. He's thinking about circulating a petition seeking a reversal of the decision.

"I totally support Russ Pillar," Urband said during a Tuesday telephone call. "What I don't support is the decision his company was forced into by the L.A. City Council."

Urband said he hopes to distribute copies of his petition Saturday morning when the Leggers and Roadrunners hold training runs in Venice Beach.

"I love running the L.A. Marathon," Urband said. "And even though I was planning to run the San Diego race in May, I'll probably end up running it, even in the heat."

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: A child tries to get a better look at runners approaching the finish line during the 2008 Los Angeles Marathon. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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