This Saturday, two hours before sunrise, my boyfriend and I will purchase round trip tickets for an early morning train ride to the Hollywood/Highland station three stops away. The first train leaves the North Hollywood station at 4:31 am, and we'll be on it. Despite the weather forecast for Saturday highs around 72, Los Angeles' dry air holds no heat in the dark hours. We will arrive at our destination by 5, shivering against the pre-dawn chill. As usual, I'll have second and third thoughts about what I decided to wear when I was laying out my clothes in the warmth of our house the night before. Is it better to be too-cold early or too-hot later? This is an internal debate I will consider throughout the morning as the sun rises over my 13.1 mile race route.
In the early morning dark, the Hollywood streets will flood with lights. The normally busy intersection will be empty of tourists. In their stead will be the nervous excitement humming with over 7000 runners and their companions. Fifty minutes later, under a lightening sky still thirty minutes from sunrise, a local diva will sing the Star Spangled Banner. My boyfriend and I will kiss goodbye. He will take my jacket and water bottle while snapping a few "before" shots. A fog horn will sound at 6 am for the first corral, and then 3 or 4 minutes later for my assigned corral. As I cross the start line I will think, "Settle in. You'll be running for two hours. Enjoy it."
It's funny to think of settling in to run, but for most of us, a half marathon is not something we can rush through. This will be my third half-marathon in the past six months. Between the races and the training runs, I know that at these distances I've got to maintain a steady, sustainable endurance. The excitement at the start line makes it tempting to race off at top speed when the fog horn sounds. Even without the costume that many will wear for the Hollywood Half, I'll feel like a superhero when the crowd cheers us off, but the excitement tapers a quarter mile down the road and then there's another 12.75 miles to go. As I cross over the start line into the rest of the race I'll forget about the destination - the finish line - in favor of enjoying the slow-motion trip around the city. My only task is to run, and as daunting as the distance is, my body knows how to do it. Run, and stay positive. Until we're back on Hollywood Boulevard and the finish line comes into view, I will settle in to the waking of Tinseltown, the rising sun, and the surround-sound pitter patter of running shoes on the pavement.With the finish line 13.1 miles away, a run this long is not something to wish away. It is something to savor.
UPDATE: I finished the Hollywood Half in 1:59:59.9