Linked together arm and arm, more than 20 members, friends and family members represented the 163d Attack Wing at the starting line and in front of the Los Angeles Marathon’s general field of nearly 20,000 runners March 19 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
Leading the marathon as a human chain is annual tradition for the 163d, and the team is responsible for holding the general field of runners back until the starting gun fires.
While the race is an annual tradition for the 163d, it was a first-time event for many of this year’s team members.
“It was on my bucket list,” said Jannine Chavez, who had never run a marathon before.
“It was one of those things I wanted to do at least once,” said Nathan Brown, who trained for a marathon once before, but was sidelined by an injury before the race.
The 26.2-mile course wound through Los Angeles, past Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Staples Center, and ended at the Santa Monica Pier.
“We were so caught up in the scenery that we didn’t even realize how far we’d gone,” said first-time runner Katelin Spencer. “By the time we looked up it was already mile five.”
The scenery and energy from spectators kept the runners going mile after mile, but eventually each hit a wall.
“I hit a wall about the eight-mile mark,” Brown said. “I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other for a while, but once I got through that hurdle it was good.”
The wall came later for Homer Lee, who was running his second marathon, but his first in 25 years.
“At mile 16 I was doing pretty good,” Lee said. “And then suddenly I had an instant cramp on my calve.”
Another runner in the crowd noticed Lee in pain and told him to lay down. The stranger then helped to stretch out Lee’s cramp and got him back on his feet, but no longer at full speed. Lee finished “at half step” from mile 17 to 26.2, but says he “never thought about quitting.”
Spencer’s wall came at mile 23, she said. “My whole body was aching, but I had to just push through it and go,” she said. “The longest mile was definitely the last one, it felt like it took forever.”
Ryan Barrett logged the team’s fastest finish, recording an official net time of 4 hours 14 minutes and 43 seconds.