By Jaron Zanerhaft
Last Sunday, I was tasked with covering the 2012 Honda LA Marathon for Beit T’Shuvah. My day began with a fresh notebook three hours before dawn and didn’t end until our last runner crossed the finish line. The day was so full that I felt compelled to break my story into four parts, one for each stop along the way. This is Part 1.
The Starting Line
In the cover of a dark morning, thousands of people file in with 5 a.m. mechanized legs, as if on moving sidewalks made invisible by the black asphalt of the Dodger Stadium parking lot. The stagnant cold pricks my half-closed eyelids. I tap the sharp tip of the pencil in my jacket pocket and make my way from the car with Lauren and Erin towards the gathering.
Tents speckle a large section of the parking lot closest to the stadium. Only two days before, these tents hosted a myriad of vendors, presenters, solicitors, supporters, and fundraisers in a bustling expo. Now, the tarps shelter bundles of runners. The Beit T’Shuvah team leans against a tent across from a table handing out last minute bananas and bagels in the middle of the parking lot. Some are quiet. Some are stretching. All look ready.
As the sun begins to rise, the runners take their places behind a starting line 23,000 people deep. I take my place on the other side of the line, just around the first curve. I watch the wheelchairs take off, then the competitive women take their 7+minute head start, and finally, as the loud speaker bellows a count, the 2012 Honda LA Marathon begins.
In an instant, the thick crowd takes the first turn like a herd of predators starving for the next meal. They share a hunger for the road. Underfoot, powerbar wrappers, energy shot empties, and chapsticks that fell from overstocked utility belts get trampled by the stampede.
Flashes of uniforms speed by my perch— four yellow tank-tops, three forest green headbands with a white stripe, too many spandex-and-short-shorts outfits, and finally, a group of light blue t-shirts with white lettering and a dark blue runner silhouette. Those who are running to save souls stick together in a tight pack, looking out for each other, making sure every single runner gets off to a strong start. The race has just started, and I’m already proud of my community.