By Jaron Zanerhaft
Back in the car, I wrap myself up in a blanket that one of our runners tossed my way before she lined up with the team. I go over my notes in the back seat as we merge onto the highway, wrap around the city, and end up on the wrong side of the street at our next stop. Lauren, Erin, and I cross the street, dodging people as if we were playing Frogger with the marathon runners, and land safely at the transition zone—the respite 13.1 miles down the course designated for two-person teams to switch runners. For them, this is the starting lines and finish lines, but for most runners, this is only the halfway point.
It’s hard to believe that the sparse flow of runners right now came from the focused torrent I just left. But a crowd still gathers, greeting and sending off runners who are taking advantage of this year’s half-marathon partnership. A single open lane is partitioned off from the main drag by lightweight metal bike-rack barricades. People wander in and out of this lane, gathering a little every now and then, but break apart when a runner comes, just like kids playing street hockey would make way for oncoming cars.
At first, we don’t see anyone we recognize, and my media team sets up near a tent where some guy with a microphone is shouting out runners’ first names as they pass, creating an eerie sense of familiarity. Of course, the announcer only knows the runners’ names from what he can read on their bibs, but it makes it seem like today, Los Angeles, normally broken into countless cultural and lifestyle distinctions, is united.
Craig, the first of our team to reach the transition zone, swooshes by at 9:09, one minute earlier than he had predicted. He grabs a bottle filled with some deep green nutrient concoction and jets off.
Our 2nd half runners eagerly await their counterparts’ arrivals. One runner received word this morning that his counterpart did not show up to the hotel the night before. Still committed to running his half, he waits with the rest of the BTS team. I wait with him and watch him as he takes off, not early and alone like he could have, but only when another from our team gets the go-ahead, so that he may run with a friend.