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Published on March 28th, 2012 | by Amancai Biraben

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Going the Distance

The Samohi follows students and faculty who took to the streets to bike or run the LA Marathon 

 Amancai Biraben
Staff Writer

The mid-March sun had just risen, casting rays of bright light onto the runners’ shiny foreheads as they jogged at a steady pace from Downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier. They pushed on towards the finish line where crowds were waiting to congratulate them for completing 26.2 vigorous miles.  This 26.2 miles LA Marathon route first appeared in the 1984 Summer Olympics. In 1989, it became an annual challenge, which hard-core runners train to overcome.

Though an extremely tedious and strenuous feat, many believe that enduring the long distance is a mental challenge, proving that it is indeed possible to do anything you set your mind to.

Senior Monique Robertson completed her fourth marathon this year and feels that each race has been an invaluable opportunity.

“I’ve gained experiences that I will remember forever, like doing a marathon in the pouring rain [last year]. It really was a challenge mentally, and to overcome that and finish is an experience I can’t get anywhere else,” Robertson said.

Robertson felt that by motivating herself and not giving up, both mentally and physically, was the main reason why she was able to complete the marathon.

“I have gained the strength to believe in myself. Whatever I set my mind to, I can do,” Robertson said.

Robertson motivated her good friend senior Melissa Luis to run with her after Robertson completed her first marathon. Since then the two have teamed up, and Luis has participated in three marathons.

In her three years of running the marathon, Luis has built up an endurance and a resistance to temptation.

“Quitting is not an option because I’ve come this far and to quit now would be pointless,” Luis said. “The dedication that I’ve acquired throughout the years has also helped me with my attitude towards school.”

The marathon, however, was not limited to the youth of Samo. College counselor Frank Gatell also participated in his third marathon this year.

“I told myself three years ago that I’d never run a marathon, so I wanted to prove myself wrong,” Gatell said. “Since it starts at the Dodger Stadium and goes all the way to Santa Monica, when I got really tired, I would just tell myself that I was running home.”

Because running 26.2 miles not easy to accomplish, Gatell trained intensely to build his endurance. Before the marathon he ran 10Ks (6.2 mile races), which convinced his family and friends that he could run the marathon. He also trained by mentoring physics teacher Brian Lowe, who participated for his second time this year.

“I started running a lot on the beach last year, which was a huge stress reliever,” Lowe said. “I started running longer distances, like 18 miles. I was thinking about running the marathon, and then [former Samo science teacher] Matt Mabrey said I should.”

With Mabrey’s encouragement to participate in the marathon, Lowe enlisted Mabrey as his “beginner trainer.” This year, however, he believes he has reached a higher level of running.

“Gatell is my advanced trainer. I feel like this year, I’ve really been training,” Lowe said.

Though most participants run the LA Marathon path, just three hours earlier when the sky was a few shades darker and the air a few degrees cooler, the same path was full of bikers from the Wolfpack Hustle bike group, racing in The Marathon Crash Race. There, the bikers “crashed” the LA Marathon path, which is considered semi-illegal, according to senior Zach Canning.

“The Police are there just to supervise and make sure everything’s okay,” Canning said. “But it’s not like we’re doing anything wrong. We’re just biking.”

While biking works mainly the thigh, running uses the entire leg, including the foot. Therefore, according to senior and participant Gus Graef, biking almost 27 miles is substantially easier.

“I can bike a marathon — I can bike 50 miles in the night,” Graef said. “But I can’t run more than three.”

Many of the participants of the bike race are a part of the bicycling group the Wolfpack Hustle, which goes on regular group biking trips in different areas of Los Angeles. The main motivation for being part of the group is their communal love for biking.

“I’m really into biking and I thought this was a good way to get out there,” Canning said. “Even if it was pouring rain, I would have gone.”

Because the streets are all closed, the bikers did not need to worry about cars, distractions or pedestrians. Such circumstances are rare and according to senior Jesse Robertson, that was a reason in itself to go.

“I can’t think of anything better than going out at four in the morning to bike on a street completely blocked off from the public,” Robertson said. “The whole situation is really exciting.”

Though those who cannot complete the race usually give up due to loss of physical strength, Graef was not able to complete his ride due to bike trouble.

“Unfortunately I was not able to finish the race. My friend and I were riding a tandem bike [a two person bike], and about half-way through our first mile our axle broke,” Graef said. “That kind of put a damper on things.”

According to Canning, there is nothing better than a fulfilling bike ride, even if it means getting up at the crack of dawn.

“You can sleep when you’re dead,” Canning said. “I’d take a bike ride over sleep any day.”

abiraben@thesamohi.com


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