Annenberg Radio

After 19-months, the LA Marathon Returns

Athletes from around the world gathered at Dodger Stadium this weekend to complete the world famous 26.2 race.

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After a nearly yearlong wait, the L.A. Marathon made its big return this weekend. With a brand new finish line in Century City more than 13,000 runners from around the country hit the pavement for a historic run.

Runners of all experience levels participated in last weekend’s 36th annual LA Marathon. Many newcomers set up behind the start line for the first time and many regulars added the event to their long lists of races.

Maribel Hernandez was one of the many runners this past weekend. She has completed more races and marathons than she can remember.

Maribel Hernandez: Anytime I have a stressful day, I just, you know, get home and I tell my husband, I need to go for a run.

For runners like Maribel, the sport is more than just exercise. During the pandemic, people flocked to running to find peace of mind during stressful times. Maribel has been using running as a therapeutic tool since long before coronavirus inspired a new generation of athletes to hit the pavement.

Maribel Hernandez: My daughters always push me, they were athletes, they play soccer, so they go out with me for a block or two to run and stuff like that, so basically that’s what started, made me start running - just to kind of start focus on my mental health.

Maribel’s Instagram feed is littered with images of her showing off hard-earned medals. But for her and many other athletes, the pandemic took away their chances to earn those. After a nearly year-and-a-half long wait, the LA marathon returned to give those runners another shot. Athletes weren’t the only ones eager for marathons to return though, organizers like Dan Cruz were also excited to finally get the event back up and running.

Dan Cruz: We just couldn’t be more excited to get back to normality, to get back to running, to put on this event that helps bring so many people together and has been such a date that those look forward to on the calendar.

The LA Marathon is not just a race. Every year, the event raises money for charity through entry fees and donations. Over the course of its 36-year history, the LA Marathon has been able to raise over 60 million dollars for various charities. Dan emphasized just how important fundraising is to the LA Marathon.

Dan Cruz: Our entire vision revolves around building a healthier world. We want to be the number one marathon in the world that gives back.

The huge amount of money raised has gone toward amazing causes like cancer foundations and clean drinking-water funds, but charities aren’t the only ones benefitting from the annual race. In addition to a colorful medal, runners like Maribel walk away with a sense of accomplishment that fuels their love for running and keeps them coming back year after year.

Maribel Hernandez: When you can commit to a full marathon, and complete it, even if its crawling at the end, the self-reward is amazing.

For LA runners that kept pace through the pandemic, the 26.2-mile course offered a grueling yet rewarding return to normalcy.