'Stadium to The Sea': The 33rd Annual L.A. Marathon

Hours before the 6:30 a.m. starting time of the Los Angeles Marathon, with the sky still dark and the air cold, busloads of people began arriving at Dodger Stadium this Sunday to compete in the marathon known as the "stadium to the sea." Photographers in yellow vests took photos of the runners as they made their way towards the starting area at the stadium. Live music from a cover band performing Depeche Mode's "Just Can't Get Enough" and Duran Duran's "Hungry like the Wolf" filled the air, but they were quickly drowned out by the conversations of hundreds of people.

Inside Dodger Stadium, the hallways were crowded with people lined up to use the restroom, as well as those stretching, sleeping, or sitting against the walls. Some runners slept in the bleachers, while others got as close as they could to take pictures of the dark, empty baseball field.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Dodgers’ star third baseman and this year's honorary race starter, Justin Turner, cheered on participants from a small tower overlooking the starting line.

The runners were divided into groups; those competing in wheelchairs, those using handcycles and then the elite runners, participants who compete professionally. The first group up were those in wheelchairs who started at 6:30 a.m., followed by the handcycle group about a dozen minutes later. The elite women were then summoned to the starting line, followed by the elite men about 10 minutes later. By the time everyone began running down Vin Scully Avenue towards Santa Monica, the sun had started to rise.

The marathon helped form some instant friendships. Waiting for their turn to run, two men held American flags representing Team RWB, a veteran’s organization that helps veterans by “connecting them to their community through physical and social activity," according to its website. The two men, Larry Gonzales, an army veteran running in his fifth marathon, and Amador Nunez, a veteran of the Marine Corps. running in his 38th marathon, had just met for the first time.

Giovanni Policarpo, a 20-year-old SMC student, ran in his third straight L.A. Marathon. “It was really tough this year,” Policarpo said, who completed the marathon in 4 hours, 51 minutes, and 46 seconds. “I kept pushing and pushing. I believed I could finish even though I was tired.”

Kathy Welch, 60, who has run 13 marathons, ran this year in honor of her son, David Sliff, a former SMC student who died on December 30, 2017 of suicide.

“It was very spiritual,” Welch said of her experience running the marathon. “I prayed a lot while I was running, and asked David to help me out.”

Unlike last year's marathon, which was cloudy and cool, the sun shone brightly in Santa Monica as the first competitors crossed the finish line, first the wheelchair competitors, then the elite runners. As the marathon progressed, more and more runners crossed the finish line. Some let out a triumphant yell or threw their arms in the air upon finishing, while others struggled to walk and were swiftly helped by the marathon volunteers awaiting on the sidelines.

In the finish area, runners hugged each other and laid on the ground to recover. Among those was Stefan Leroy, a 26-year-old retired United States Army Sergeant, who competed in the men's wheelchair division as a hand cycler with other members of the Gary Sinise Foundation's R.I.S.E. program, which empowers wounded veterans. Leroy lost both his legs in an explosion while serving in Afghanistan in 2012. After completing the marathon in 1 hour, 56 minutes, and 1 second, he recovered with his service dog, Knoxville, who did not run the race with him.

Two hours, 11 minutes and 47 seconds after beginning the marathon, Kenya's Weldon Kirui won the marathon in the men's division, while Sule Gedo from Ethiopia came in at 2 hours, 33 minutes and 49 seconds with an exciting finish, winning the women's competition by mere seconds. Oddly enough, both of last year's winners came in third place this year. 

19,536 of the estimated 24,000 runners completed this year's race, according to the marathon's official website.