For 57-year-old Liz Schulz, completing the Los Angeles Marathon was unfinished business.
Schulz set out to run the race in 2020 with her now-23-year-old son, John. He made it, but Schulz ended up in the medical tent after seven miles.
But she was determined to try again. Schulz changed her running shoes and committed to an intense regimen of cross and strength training. She also had the help and encouragement of her own personal pep squad: friends Sanger Lee, 67, who ran in Sunday’s race, and Jenn Aronson, 60, who didn’t.
“My mission this time was to see her finish,” said Lee, who has run in dozens of marathons.
Schulz was among an estimated 13,000 amateur athletes from 50 nations who participated in the 36th Los Angeles Marathon, which was twice delayed this year because of the pandemic. The 2020 race took place 10 days before California responded to the spread of COVID-19 with a statewide shelter-in-place order.
Most participants had been expected to take three to five hours to complete the 26.2-mile route from downtown to the finish line in Century City. But many of the elite runners — including some of the fastest in the world — finished the race in just over two hours.
John Korir of Kenya emerged as the champion, winning the race in 2 hours, 12 minutes and 47 seconds. Natasha Cockram of Wales is the new women’s champion, finishing in 2 hours, 33 minutes and 17 seconds. David Rodarte of Whittier won the Athletes with Disabilities Division in 2 hours, 1 minute and 17 seconds.
Those in wheelchairs began the race at 6:30 a.m. at Dodger Stadium, followed by elite women runners 15 minutes later and elite men and the full field at 6:55 a.m.
The marathon forced the closure of large stretches of Sunset, Santa Monica, San Vicente and Wilshire boulevards, Rodeo Drive, Sepulveda Boulevard, Doheny Drive and dozens of side streets.
Beneath low clouds and a blanket of fog, hundreds of passionate fans, family and friends lined the marathon route Sunday, cheering and waving signs and handing off bottled water to the runners. This was the first time the race, traditionally held in March, was delayed until the fall.
Mariano Gonzales III, 6, stood at the famous intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street and counted the number of runners who bounded up to high-five the sign he was carrying. It directed runners to “Power Up,” and featured a cartoon mushroom from the popular Mario video game series. An outline of a hand directed runners where to tap.
“149 … 150!” Mariano exclaimed as another runner hit the sign.
This marked the third year his 31-year-old father, also named Mariano Gonzales, has run in the marathon. The family — including aunts, uncles, his three children and girlfriend Angelica Alvarado — had traveled from Colton to cheer him on.
Alvarado, 31, said her boyfriend is always trying to push his body to the limit.
“It’s like you have a superpower — you can run the L.A. Marathon,” she said, adding that she and her partner love how the race is grounded in community, with “everybody coming out here to support one another.”
As runners pushed past Hollywood and Vine, they eyed a woman on the corner dressed up as a large pizza.
Samantha Celera, 34, said she has worn her costume to the marathon for the last three years to boost runners’ morale — and perhaps inspire a post-marathon meal.
“I like them to see me at multiple stops,” said Celera, who planned to hop locations along the course as the race dragged on. “They get pumped to see a pizza.”
Victor Yee, 32, visiting from Oakland, recognized some friends who swooshed by as he watched the race’s first leg through downtown Los Angeles.
Yee, a veteran runner with more than two dozen marathons under his belt, had contemplated competing this year. It’s a “bucket-list race” for him, and he’ll almost certainly don the runner’s bib next year, he said. He’s drawn to running, in part, because of its ability to unify an eclectic community.
“It’s just so amazing,” Yee said. “Everyone here can be so different, but they’re all sharing the same passion.”
Artoun Nazareth, 27, woke up at 3 a.m. Sunday, tossing and turning, eventually rousing his fiancee, Christina Moore. They were out the door an hour and a half later.
Moore, 28, of North Hollywood, stood across the street from City Hall with two friends, couple Emma Wold, 26, and Tyler Beardsley, 27. They unraveled homemade rally signs reading, “Crush it, Artoun” and “Jazzy Nazzy Is Speedy Weedy,” a nod to Nazareth’s last name.
The group of friends love to rib one another, Beardsley said. Some of the gang joked that Nazareth would never run a marathon.
“And he’s like, ‘Well, I’ll show you,’” Beardsley said. “He’s very much like, ‘You tell me I can’t do it. I’ll make sure it gets done.’”
About six months ago, when Nazareth started training for the marathon — his first — he couldn’t run 10 minutes without resting, Moore said.
“Now he can run the whole thing without stopping — it’s crazy,” she said. “I can’t do that.” Nazareth hoped to complete the race in under five hours.
As Nazareth ran by in his gray shirt and red shorts, he beamed at his cheering squad, patted his behind and sprinted off.
For Héritier Lumumba, 34, crossing the finish line meant more than just this race. He pushed himself to train for 20 weeks, even on days when he had no motivation. Describing it as “a journey,” he said he cultivated character traits that will benefit him even after the marathon.
“Some days you don’t feel like doing it, and you have to overcome that,” said Lumumba, of South L.A., near the finish line. “And every time you overcome that, you gain a bit extra resilience, which you can use for other areas of your life.”
When all was said and done, Lumumba estimated a finish time of 4 hours and 16 minutes.
Along the Avenue of the Stars in Century City shortly before noon, dozens of camera-ready supporters gathered with bouquets of flowers as loved ones crossed the finish line.
Liz Schulz ran the last eight miles with her son John. They finished together around 11:20 a.m.
“I finally got it done!” Schulz said in triumph.
Her son, standing by her side, beamed.
“I’m so proud,” he said.