Running in the Los Angeles Marathon
By Bahar Mirhosseini
March 25, 2004
As a healthy 24-year-old, I was humbled by the
26.2 miles of the Los Angeles Marathon. It was not the stretch
of concrete or the uncensored heat which humbled me. I was humbled
by the racers old enough to be my grandmother, running past me
as my limbs felt like they would fall off the rest of my body.
My father also humbled me, because he is legally
a Senior Citizen, so while his age gets him discounted dinners
and cheaper bus fares,
he slowed his entire stride to stick with me. Afraid that I would
not finish or that I would be sitting alone on some corner in L.A.
while everyone else packed up and went home, my fit father coached
me along all 26.2 marathon miles. Thank you.
At mile 15, I was not wearing a watch, but I looked
down at my wrist, at the wooden beaded bracelet I bought from the
Iran last summer. While some people ran with signs that read "for
Jesus", I remembered the movie "Children of Heaven" about
the two siblings who have lost a shoe, and the brother is running
in a race, with the hopes of winning a pair of shoes for his little
The first place in the film wins a pair of shoes;
the first place in the L.A. marathon wins a new car and $50,000.
through South Central L.A., the tiny hands of beautiful little
kids reached out waving hello and giving high-fives, families with
plastic buckets of orange wedges, strangers with strong smiles
that push you through the next mile, these are the ways I was humbled
on that Sunday. Thank you L.A.
Seventy dollars is a high price to pay just to run
on the public streets of L.A.
What if 25,000 people -- old, young, couples, teams, schools, elite athletes,
amateurs -- all ran into L.A. City Hall demanding better schools, health-care,
clean air, drinkable water? Clearly, 25,000 sneaker-clad endorphin
elated runners, walkers, cyclists, and wheelchair racers armed with the vision
of a more just world can make world news.
As 25,000 people burst from the downtown
business district through South Central, Hollywood, and Korea Town, the
race expressed a kind of unity in L.A. I saw all colors, ages, and shapes of
people in the race but I also know that people who struggle to buy a loaf of
bread cannot easily dish out $70.00 to run. When my dad was 24, he certainly
could not pay the fee for a race; his real concern was paying rent and finding
enough cash to buy a bag of potatoes.
For me, finishing the marathon is like going to
college, it is the least that is expected given that I have been
privileged with all kinds of resources.
The true heroes -- at graduation and the marathon finish line -- are the
single mothers, the kids who grew up in public school poverty,
and the terminally
patients who do not give up.
At age 64, Soraya Maadi is a true hero of the marathon
and the greater Los Angeles community. With a two hour bus commute
between a modest Santa Monica
and work everyday, she still manages to train for the race. Soraya and
her son Mammad came to the United States 15 years ago, when her
son was diagnosed
cancer. The mother and son team spent an entire decade nonstop in and out
of hospitals during the cancer treatments.
For Mammad who is undergoing
hormone therapy, exercise and physical activity are critical in
his health and healing. Soraya participated in the Los
Angeles Marathon to inspire her son to do it; she wants to show him that
if at age
64 she can finish the marathon, he too can do it.
race, Soraya fundraised $1,600 for patients of Leukemia-Lymphoma blood
cancers. After finishing all gruelingly hot 26.2 miles of last
Sunday's race, Soraya
countless others -- have returned to the daily challenges of the lives
are transforming. In the end, in doing the marathon, Soraya says "I believe
I am alive."
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