By Ben Platt
March 20, 2011
LOS ANGELES -- It was wet and rainy, but more than 26,000 runners got up before dawn on Sunday to descend upon Dodger Stadium for the start of the 26th annual Los Angeles Marathon.
For the third consecutive year, the race was run by the McCourt Company, which is owned by Dodgers chairman and owner Frank McCourt, who had a lot of success last year when he and his staff changed the race course that begins at Dodger Stadium, runs through Hollywood, Beverly Hills and ends at the Santa Monica pier. McCourt made some small changes to enhance the race even more.
"We did make some tweaks," said McCourt. "Our people took feedback from last year's race and smoothed out any rough edges. I anticipate a much smoother race this year, but the basic course is intact -- the stadium to the sea."
McCourt's goal for the past three years has been to constantly improve the race in order to get the world's elite runners to add Los Angeles as one of the more prestigious marathons along with the Boston and New York races.
"I think it should be a better overall experience for the runners and a better overall experience for the fans," said McCourt. "I think we made some improvements in getting runners in and out of Dodger Stadium, and hopefully the improvements between last year's race and this year's race will be noticed by the runners. I'm also not too worried about the weather. The fans may be a little uncomfortable, but for the runners it will be cool and damp, and that might even help them."
"The last two years with Frank McCourt and the LA Dodgers, this event has been taken to another level," said Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who led the participants in a moment of silence before the race for all the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan 10 days ago. "The race now is a world-class race, one of the more difficult races I've seen, and the weather gods [have] been great to us today -- it hasn't started raining."
"After 26 years of doing this here in LA, it really has become one of the most beautiful experiences," said actor and Los Angeles native Edward James Olmos, who was a special guest at the race. "This has been an important unification of this city. There are 100 runners from Japan that are taking part in the race and we are very grateful they are here, and this is a very monumental moment to unite us as human beings. It's a really good thing to do."
The people participating in the race had different reasons why they came to Dodger Stadium to take part.
"We're running for T2, which is part of AIDS Project LA," said a group of runners as they were loosening up before the race. "We have trained for over six months to do this, and all the people taking part make this a lot of fun."
One runner had the name "Big Moe" on his race shirt.
"I used to be 'Big Moe,' but I lost a lot of weight training for this Marathon," said Michael, who is an LA native. "This is my first race and I trained a long time for it. I was thinking, 'Why I would want to get up at 3:00 a.m. and do this? But I realized, if I finish it, it will all be worth everything I put into it."
"My daughter and son-in-law live here in Los Angeles and I came out here to join them as we run for Autism Speaks," said Jeffrey, who lives in France. "This is a very good marathon and a good way for us to raise money and awareness about autism. This is [my] eighth marathon -- the first I've done in Los Angeles -- and to start at Dodger Stadium is just fantastic."
McCourt has bigger goals for the future of this race.
"We want this be one of the elite, world-class races," he said. "Not only for the top-notch runners, but for the individuals who are looking for a personal challenge. I think in terms of numbers, in terms of the experience and in terms of the different places runners come from around the world -- those are our goals. We want to have a robust race that appeals to all types of runners."
Ben Platt is a national correspondent for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
© 2011 MLB Advanced Media, L.P.