This post is about my very last race in 2016 (Operation Jack, in Los Angeles on Boxing Day), which was already so long ago I have almost forgotten the details!
I hadn’t ever run a race around the holidays, as far as I can recall. So this must have been the only one I did in my 16 years of running. I must say it was different. The feeling of flying in to LAX for a race was little strange. I sensed that other flyers were flying for different reasons: to go home to their families or visit loved ones; but here my husband and I were, flying to Los Angeles to run a race on Boxing Day.
The evening we checked in was the quietest I have ever experienced in a hotel. It was so quiet, it felt like we had checked into a monastery. Taking a picture of ourselves by the Christmas tree was, well, weird.
But I did not regret making such a decision to run this race. For, had I not, I would not and could not have achieved my goal and Half Fanatic Mercury status of completing 45 half marathons within 365 days. Ah, running goals. Why sacrifices are made, even during the holidays, just to fulfill a certain number. I am pretty sure I wasn’t the only one. Somewhere out there, there are other eager runners just like me 🙂
The morning of December 26th was the bib pick up. To my utter surprise, there were more runners than I expected, but they were mostly locals from the greater L.A. area. As I was lining up to use the bathroom, I met one Marathon Maniac who was doing his 120-something marathon, while his friend was doing his first. I thought good for his friend, but I definitely wouldn’t choose Boxing Day to run my first marathon, especially when there are other things to do on this day! But I was happy for these folks.
We gathered in 2 groups being the faster group and the slower group in self-seeded corrals which were separated by about 5 minutes. I started with the slower group. The first 10K was winding, but there were no hills or incline. Then it was onto a straight-away where the path was shared with the faster runners who were coming back in the opposite direction while I was still going out to the turnaround mark.
It was a cool crisp morning, even for L.A., but warmed up quite readily towards the 10K mark. The second half of the course was a little trickier. There was tons of sand along the running path, which I guess had blown over from the night before. So it was quite difficult and uneven to run on. But the view was beautiful, as we were basically hugging the ocean the whole way. We ran nearly right to Manhattan Beach and turned back. This area was drop-dead gorgeous and many of the homes by the water were very architectural. Here was our turn-around. There was a slight uphill here, and again the sand on the path slowed me down. Also, by this point, there was a head-wind blowing at me. However, the last 10K seemed to go by real fast. Maybe because, despite the uphill, sand and winds, I was so taken aback by the beautiful waters and beaches. I was on the way home before I knew it.
Crossing the finish line, I was handed a medal that resembled a dog tag and was quite military looking in colour and design.
I found out later that the race director had lived in L.A. before, and recently moved to Philadelphia. The reason he decided to set up this race, Operation Jack, was that his son was severely autistic, so the race was to honor him and those affected by autism. Printed on the race shirt, it said “Fighting autism one mile at a time”. Very touching & meaningful. The race director told the runners that his son didn’t even know such a race existed for him. My heart just broke hearing that.
I feel so lucky to run in such a meaningful race. It reminds me never to take anything for granted. I run for those who cannot. I feel totally blessed.
I pray for those parents with autistic children to stay strong and positive and to give as much love to them as possible. We understand how difficult your lives can be, so as the Operation Jack motto goes: we will fight it, one mile at a time!
I thank the organizers for allowing me to participate in this race in support of such a great cause. I will continue to support these types of races so that we can help fight autism, and other disorders, as well as diseases and cancers out there. And lastly, without this race, I wouldn’t have completed 45 half marathons this year. For that, I am beyond thankful!