The Griffith Park Trail 1/2 marathon should be on the list for trail runner who wants to experience Los Angeles in a non scripted, non hollywood sort of way. Griffith Park Trail Runs and Race Director Keria Henninger make the run memorable and thoughtless. The aid stations are well stocked and despite three out and backs the course was clearly marked and easy to follow.
This was my wife’s first half marathon. I know… who the hell chooses a trail with a few thousand feet of gain and heat as their first 1/2, but whatever. We chatted about it and decided to run the whole thing together. Trail races are generally smaller fields and we figured that keeping each other company would be best. I wanted to make sure that she had the best possible experience but that she stayed within herself and ran a smart race, aka that she could still walk to the car afterwards.
The real gem for me this race was that I got to “SHHH” my wife and she could not argue !!!! On the uphills I would tell her to not talk so she could really focus on her breath and I did most of the talking. I am sure a few times she probably wanted to slap me in the face, especially towards the end; but I really wanted her to run well and really give her best effort especially since this were her first time tackling this distance.
I tried to help her cut corners, save her quads on the first few downhills and take in enough nutrition. We have been training with Tailwind Nutrition and it helped us through the day with no stomach problems and no need for anything else. Admittedly I grabbed some chips at an aid station…just wanted that salt and the texture.
I used to live in Hollywood and thought I knew how challenging the park could be, but the combination and linking of trails Keira came up with gave a me totally different feel. The race started at 7 am and the sun was barely warming up Los Angeles. The first challenge was 570 ft in the first mile which will blow anyone up who is pushing beyond their limits. We ran a few flats but most of the time we power hiked it. The 2nd mile felt like a trick to the unprepared. Mile 2 gave back 250 ft gained many of those who were hiking with us crushed themselves downhill and we inevitably saw a few during the second half of the race.
Miles 5 – 8 were the crucible and the hardest part of the race. The first four miles were chilly since the course led us from the Greek Theatre out to the Batcave which are the northern park of the park which stays shady until the late morning. The chill soon turned to heat and dust as we left the Cave and began our charge towards the Observatory.
Miles 5- 6 we descended 540 ft only to have to earn it right back miles 7-8 where we climbed for 640 ft. Remember, this give and take occurs on the south side of Griffith which allows views of the dusty hot hill the whole time. There were no breaks or turns that would hide it. You knew the hill was there and that right after you went down you had to turn around and go straight back up.
The sun, held at bay in the morning, was on full display as we climbed. We struggled to maintain motivation and the legs moving especially on the few flat sections. Energy levels were good, but sometimes getting out of the mental headspace and back to basics, i.e. one foot in front of the other, can be the most challenging part of the race.
As the runners soaked in the rays and the dust clinging to our sweaty worn out calfs we got the occasional, “why are you wearing numbers?” “Why are you running?” from the tourists. Naturally, in the heat we were all asking ourselves the same question. Except we had an answer. We were running because we could. We were part of that lucky group of trail runners who enjoy the struggle that gives amazing outside views as well as the beautiful inside ones. (Course Link)
We finally got to the decent and this is where a lot of the emotions were getting the better of us. At one point C asked me if it was ok to cry. I said, hell yeah, you are putting out an honest effort and its emotional. I think she kept it together because we knew somewhere there was a photographer lurking
She finished her first half marathon. At first this race as a first 1/2 marathon seemed a poor one because its hilly, difficult and lets just add the fact its on a trail for funnies. Yet, reflecting on her choice I think she choose the race that suited the challenge she wanted. She wanted a race worth running, the one that reflected the difficulty and beauty of trail running and I am thankful that she let me share this first race with me.