It was Miguel’s first full marathon, and for the last few months the 13-year-old has been going to Whittier Narrows Park every Sunday to run 10 miles with his Student Run LA group as part of his 22-mile regimen in preparation for the big day.
Roxana Fuentes, Miguel’s mother, held up a sign of encouragement for her son to see as he darted past: “Go Miguel.” Fuentes, a certified medical assistant from Boyle Heights, wore a purple T-shirt with a picture of her and Miguel at the 30k Friendship Run in Hansen Dam.
“He says running makes him feel so great, so free,” Fuentes said. “I had a lot of anxiety, but I have always been a big supporter mama. I never tell my kids not to do it. Let’s just do it!”
Undeterred by cloudy skies and cool temperatures, Miguel was one of more than 20,000 participants who took to the streets Sunday as part of the 38th annual Los Angeles Marathon.
The marathon kicked off at Dodger Stadium at 6:30 a.m. with wheelchair participants, followed a short time later by elite runners and then the general public.
“This is so exciting,” said Mayor Karen Bass, who attended the event to show her support. “This is an international event. Everybody is coming together to celebrate Los Angeles.”
The 26.2-mile course spanned some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods, including Chinatown, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Century City, with the majority of the route along large sections of Sunset, Hollywood and Santa Monica boulevards.
Most participants in the marathon — which draws people from around the world — were expected to take three to five hours to complete the course, while elite runners typically finish in a little more than two hours.
Kenya’s Stacy Ndiwa was the first to cross the finish line Sunday in the women’s division, clocking in at 2 hours and 31 minutes, followed by Ethiopia’s Jemal Yimer, who won the men’s division in 2 hours, 13 minutes and 13 seconds. Under marathon rules, elite female runners started the race 18 minutes and 19 seconds ahead of the men.
The marathon continued for thousands more as their supporters cheered them on.
Early Sunday, dozens gathered in front of Walt Disney Concert Hall along 1st Street in downtown Los Angeles to encourage the throngs of runners as the sun peeked through the clouds. It was a festive scene with a group of about 20 people beating taiko drums. Some onlookers rang cowbells, while others waved signs of support.
Lauren Moussavy, who came with her 3-year-old golden poodle Rocco, was anxiously checking her phone to find the location of three friends in the race. Finding them was not easy, as hundreds of participants ran past every minute.
But Moussavy, who held a pole with a large American flag, could not be missed. She jumped with joy and hugged her friends as they passed by. The three stopped to take a selfie with her in front of the concert hall.
Moussavy said she and her friends often hike together. They all are very active; Valerie did a 400-mile bike ride last July. Moussavy said she plans to run the L.A. Marathon herself next year.
“I get so much excitement, energy and motivation from it,” she said. Running “pushes you to the limit which I love. It’s never easy and I love it.”
In Hollywood, Maria Bell, 60, held up a 3-foot cardboard cutout of her daughter, Sabrina Bell, who was running with a friend. She also brought her daughter’s two barking dogs to cheer her along.
“I’m nervous and excited, but mostly I just want her to know her family is cheering for her along the way,” Maria Bell said. Her daughter texted her from the course, saying that pain in her left foot was starting to intensify.
Eduardo Santiago and his wife, Heralia Martinez, found an empty spot near the intersection of McCadden Place and Hollywood Boulevard to support their 16-year-old son, Luis, who has run the marathon before, and their 13-year-old daughter, Joselyn, who was making her marathon debut Sunday.
“I just want her to finish; I’m not really worried about her time,” said her father, a native of Oaxaca. “I know she’s been nervous and so are we, but we’re also really proud of her.”
Heralia Martinez said her children have been training for months.
“Since about August, they’ve been running a mile and adding a mile to their routine about every 10 days with their school groups,” she said. “They’ve been building to this moment.”
Santiago said the teens have been “loading up on carbs” the last two weeks, eating pizza, pasta and meats to ready themselves for the push.
He said he and his wife can’t wait for a post-race hug.
“We’re going to celebrate, let them get some rest and then go out for some good food,” he said.
Kathryn Young tries to make it to the marathon every year, to support the runners because she understands what they’re going through.
Young, a 58-year-old Beverly Hills resident, has run the marathon six times. The last time was more than 10 years ago, before she was forced to throw in the towel because of back and knee problems.
She is grateful for the times she did complete the marathon. She said it showed her parts of Los Angeles she never ventured into before and made her feel part of the larger community.
It also taught her grit. She said that after multiple back surgeries following a car accident, she powered through and ran the marathon again. Her husband was nonplussed when she told him what she planned to do, but she responded, “Trust me, the body has muscle memory.”
Running marathons has taught Young a life lesson: “One step at a time, just one step at a time,” she said.
As runners streamed through the intersection of Crescent Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard just before 9 a.m., Young stood on the corner clapping and hooting them on.
“Woo! Come on!” she yelled before turning to a reporter. “I am getting chills.”
A short time later, Young stopped cheering to lend a runner a hand.
With nine miles left to complete, Josue Duarte, 17, was cramping and stopped at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Drive, clearly in pain. Young asked if she could help, then stretched out Duarte’s hamstring as he sat on the sidewalk.
Another runner came up and handed Duarte a salt tablet and ibuprofen. Young lowered Duarte’s leg to the ground, and he slowly got up and resumed his journey to the finish line.
“You don’t see that every day, strangers just helping each other,” Young said.
At the finish line in Century City, runners hugged their families and friends, while others lay down on a grassy field, enjoying celebratory snacks and beers.
Jason Yang was one of the fastest, finishing ninth with a time of 2:27:57.
“Top 10?!” he yelled when his friends came by to tell him the news.
He had been hoping to finish in the top 20 after winning the Surf City Marathon in Huntington Beach. But the 32-year-old Koreatown resident was able to push the pace late into the race.
This was his first L.A. Marathon, and the first time competing with elite runners, Yang said. But all the training on city streets — he runs 14 miles every day — helped him, he said.
“The last six miles, I passed four people,” said Yang, who works in the finance industry. “I saved [my energy] for the second half.”
Xiao Liu, a 47-year-old electrical engineer, flew from Dallas to run in the race, which finished near his daughter’s UCLA campus. She was at the finish line to cheer him on.
Liu, who finished with a time of 3 hours and 19 minutes, said he started running six years ago, to mark his age, 42, which matched the length of a marathon at 42.195 kilometers.
It was his way of dealing with the “mid-age crisis,” he said with a laugh.
This was his 10th marathon and it was among the hardest, given the hills along the course, he said. Miles 21 and 22 were the toughest. “You know you are getting there, but it’s uphill,” he said. “It almost killed my legs.”
But he was all smiles when he saw his daughter at the finish line.
“Finishing a marathon is like going through a journey,” he said. “It feels awesome.”
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