An insider’s view of the La Jolla Half Marathon 2013, Greg and Katie Wiest share their experience
By Greg Wiest
La Jolla Photographer, Runner
My wife, Katie and I have been running together for almost 15 years. Since then, we’ve run a combined 10 marathons and nearly 80 half marathons, mostly in San Diego. We’re not particularly fast. We’ve never won a race. We’ve never finished in the top 100 and never will. I’m not being negative or pessimistic; it’s just a reality. We started running in our 30s and the math is clear. That’s OK, we love to run and will do so just as long as our bodies will permit.
On Sunday, April 28, 2013, we ran the 32nd La Jolla Half Marathon. They say it’s one of the toughest half marathons in the United States. There is no doubt it is certainly challenging, but also ruggedly beautiful and worth the effort that goes into training for this event. The 13.1 course starts at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and ends at La Jolla Cove.
The thing about participating in distance races is the ridiculous time in which you have to get up in the morning. My alarm startled me at 3:45 a.m. and the house already smelled of coffee. Katie had been up for a while which is her normal weekday routine. Some people are morning people, and then there’s me. I always awake with the sun unless there is a plane to catch or Molly the dog is licking my face.
The last bus departed La Jolla Cove at 5:30 a.m. and we headed to the fairgrounds for the 7:30 a.m. start time. That left us an hour and a half at the staging area for runners to stretch, eat bananas and energy bars, drink fluids and to socialize.
One thing is clear at big events like marathons; pre-race hydration efforts will cause several trips to the porta-potty. While training for my first marathon, my coach gave me very good advice; ”as soon as you arrive at the start of the event, get in line for the bathroom. When you finish, get back in line. When you finish get back in line again.” The man was a sage.
At 7:25 a.m. came the National Anthem. Usually there is some activity and chatter during the singing, but after the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon two weeks ago, everyone was very attentive, many were singing and paying tribute to the victims. The race announcer also had us sing “Sweet Caroline,” Neil Diamond’s 1970s hit that is popular at Boston’s Fenway Park and has been played at every game in the middle of the eighth inning since 2002.
The race started in waves of 1-6 with the fastest runners in the first wave and the slower runners in the back. This is smart so the slower runners don’t get run over.
For some reason, Katie and I got low numbers and were right there in the front row with elite athletes half our age. Katie wisely said she was moving back. The front row was good for me because in addition to running the race, I was taking pictures. The gun sounded and I sprinted out of the gate and veered to the right and waited for Wave 2. They lined up as I was standing in the middle of the road to get a good centered shot (it’s on this week’s front page!) as they ran right at me. I got the shot I wanted, but I barely had time to get out of the way. No slouches in Wave 2.
The reason the La Jolla Half Marathon has the reputation as one of the toughest is that after mile five is The Hill. It winds its way nearly a mile up through beautiful Torrey Preserve. Most people run up the entire hill, some will walk. We do a little of both. We find you can power walk nearly as ”fast” as you can run.
What really makes all these races, from 5K to full 26.2-mile marathons, so much fun is the people. The runners you meet from all over the country, who have a goal. A goal to lose weight, a goal to raise money for worthy causes, a goal to finish the race that some in Boston weren’t able to finish. We run in packs of up to 10,000 but we run with a singular purpose. We also love the neighbors who line the street in front of their houses and offer orange slices and frozen popsicles while their kids give you a high five.
Katie and I finished our run with sore aching legs but huge smiles on our faces. Thirty-three days separate us from our next half marathon. We should be recovered by then.
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