By Zack Van Eyck
March 18, 2011
The 2011 LA Marathon will pass through Echo Park this Sunday, but local residents won’t just be watching the runners go by. A good many of them–more than 160–will participate in the race.
Marathon officials expect around 26,000 people to run from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica–about the same number as last year. Of those who had registered by Thursday afternoon, 163 are from the 90026 zip code. Forty-one more marathoners hail from 90012.
Those are big numbers considering Echo Park's urban confines. It might not be the first place people think of when it comes to distance running.
But according to some of those who will compete this weekend, this area is more than adequate for distance training and provides an enjoyable ambiance for the runners who pound its pavement, parks and paths on a daily basis.
“L.A. is an amazing place by foot,” said local resident Robert Lisauskas, a 39-year-old architect who is running his first LA Marathon but his 11th marathon overall.
“You can learn more about its neighborhoods and parks on one long training run vs. driving the city in a car for years," he added. "In my opinion, it is one of the country's most diverse running cities.”
The marathon begins Sunday at 6:55 a.m. with the start of the wheelchair race. Hand cyclers will follow at 7 a.m. and runners will begin the race at 7:24 a.m. A 5K race begins at 8 a.m. and will follow a course through Elysian Park and the neighborhoods around Dodger Stadium.
Lisauskas said his typical training run takes him from Echo Park Lake, down Sunset Boulevard and up to the Griffith Observatory.
Vivian Viscarra, a third-generation Echo Park resident, said she would advise any local resident who wants to start running to begin by training around Echo Park Lake.
“It’s a great historical landmark that will help keep you motivated as you run around the lake a little at a time,” said Viscarra, who is running her first marathon Sunday.
“The hills are also a great place to walk or run slowly to stretch out your muscles and gain strength.”
Richard E. Ziegelmann, an Echo Park resident also running his first marathon Sunday, knows the Echo Park Lake distances well.
"The Lake's inner loop is about three-quarters of a mile long," he said, "and the outer sidewalk is about a mile."
"The run around Silver Lake Reservoir is about 2.2 miles," he added. "If you run around Echo Park, then circle Silver Lake Reservoir and return, it’s about a 7-mile run."
Some local runners have found additional inspiration and encouragement by choosing to run for a sponsored charity.
Echo Park resident Matthew Wheeler, a 33-year-old competing in his 11th marathon, is running for The Dream Center, a non-profit outreach program dedicated to helping impoverished inner-city residents.
“I am running to raise money to support women who are coming out of human trafficking,” said Wheeler, who has dropped from 205 pounds to 185 since he began training for the marathon in December. “I am running to raise money to house these women and help restore hope to them.”
Viscarra is running to raise money for AIDS Project Los Angeles. She said proceeds from her sponsorships will help keep programs like the food bank, dental clinic and case-management programs open for people who are living with HIV/AIDS.
“I was fortunate to have been trained by the T2 AIDS Marathon Training Program,” she said. “They have been great in giving us tips and guiding us in weekly training sessions at Griffith Park.
“I learned that I can do anything I set out to do through discipline and a vision to help others. This is a driving force for me,” she added.
But no matter what the motivation, training for a marathon is no easy task. Much like finishing the race itself, the arduous training regimen takes dedication and perseverance.
“My advice to newcomers is to try and find interesting locations to run in,” said Amialya Elder, 26, a New Hampshire transplant who’ll be running her first marathon.
“Sometimes I love to run up and down Sunset Boulevard because there are a lot of great sights, smells and sounds pretty much any time of day," she said. "Plus, afterwards I can grab some tacos--my favorite post-run snack--at Costa Alegre.”
Elder competed in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon last October. That course also traverses the Echo Park community.
She suggested that race as a good one to train for as a precursor to running next year’s LA Marathon. This year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon is scheduled for Oct. 30.
“The LA Marathon is appealing because you can get a real sense of the diversity of the city by running through so many neighborhoods, including Echo Park, where I am proud to live,” Elder said.
Quesha Wiley, 23, is an Ohio transplant who moved to Echo Park a year ago. This is her first marathon, and she said she’s learned a number of things during her two-month training process.
“One very important tip is to know why you run and to keep it real in your heart,” she said. “That way you won't feel the ‘pressure’ to please everybody when you run."
“Also, it's important to practice mind endurance when you train," she said. "The more happy thoughts, the better off you'll be.”
Ricardo Mayorga, who teaches at Belmont High School and trains with Students Run LA, said one of the keys to preparing for a marathon is to have a positive mental attitude.
"Oh yeah, and the pain goes away," he joked.
Running itself may be a fairly inexpensive habit – one pair of running shoes per year is about all the equipment that’s needed. But running a marathon isn’t cheap. It costs $145 this year to run the LA Marathon and $35 to run the associated 5K race.
For first-time Echo Park marathoner Jordan Sheehan, the money and all the sacrifices she’s made to prepare are well worth it.
“It's been a game-changer in terms of lifestyle and has taught me so many valuable lessons that reverberate in all areas of [my] life -- personal, professional, relationships,” Sheehan said.
Online registration for the LA Marathon is now closed. But for those who may want to jump in at the last minute – not advisable if you haven’t been training – it is possible to register for the race at the marathon expo Friday and Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
Marathon runners are allowed to use iPods and mp3 players to keep them entertained and moving to a beat. There will be 12 water stations along the route.
The course record for the marathon is held by Kenyan Wesley Korir, who covered the 26.2 miles in 2 hours, eight minutes and 24 seconds in 2009. The women’s record of 2:25:59 was set in 2009 by Tatiana Petrova of Latvia.
© 2011 Patch