LA Marathon – The Finish Line: Part 4/4

By Jaron Zanerhaft

“Last year, I flashed this badge and they let me through the police line.  I parked just two blocks away,” John Sullivan says with a sly grin.   As we slow down to take our exit ramp, John and I practice showing our press passes to imaginary parking guards, pulling the lanyards with cocky conviction and cool self-validation.

It didn’t work.  The police line this year had been pushed back two blocks, leaving the VIP street parking from last year open to the public.  We had to wait for someone to leave, just to get a spot in a parking garage.

Turning a corner out of the garage, the sharp wind turned on like a switch, immediately asking more of us in each step.

We arrived at the gate where media could enter the finish line area, and, flashing our badges just like we had practiced, the guards parted the metal barricades and let us walk through the line.  As soon as we breached the gate, we were bombarded with runners, family supporters, volunteers, and gust after gust of windswept foil anti-hypothermia blankets.

Once we were within the vicinity, the four of us—John, Erin, Lauren, and I—made our way to the actual finish line.  More security demanded our press identification as we climbed up less-than-sturdy metal stairs to a perch looming over the runners as they took their final strides.

So many runners threw their arms up as they crossed the threshold from the battalion of runners into the civilian support mob.  Some raised their hands above their head with open palms, as if surrendering at last to their exhaustion.  But others raised clenched fists, as if to claim victory over the road that had over the last 6 or 7 hours tried to defeat them.

I never imagined my overtime work would have me gazing from a platform above a set of digital clocks presenting finishing times— literally, working over time.

The slick canvas banner doubled over itself by the wind over its single steel-bar skeleton, its incessant whipbang against the frame supporting clocks beneath.  As another banner spread over the platform’s front started to pick up more and more wind, two men in matching solid-colored polo shirts rushed up the metal stairs to the platform so they could take down the would-be sail.

Finally, when Gini, John’s wife, crossed the finish line, we started to pack up our gear and head out.  Somehow, I made it home, collapsed on my bed, and slept until nightfall. I felt like I had run the marathon myself.  Next year, maybe I actually will.


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