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I’d Never Run 26.2 Miles Before. But On Sunday, I Did

A Black woman stands holding a medal, wearing a dark running shirt with a number pinned on the front. She is draped with a white foil wrapper after running the L.A. Marathon
LAists Aaricka Washington hold a medal after running the L.A. Marathon
(Chris Farias
LAist )
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  • Aaricka crossed the finish line at the L.A. Marathon after 1 p.m. on Sunday, clocking in at 6:05:24. Now she says she's "got the bug" and will do it again.

  • Check out some highlights of her run on Instagram. And catch the latest episode of How to LA, to hear Aaricka share how her involvement in different running clubs in L.A. gave her inspiration to keep going. She talked about the lessons she learned training for the marathon ahead of the race in this story, so keep reading for those.

Listen: Aaricka Washington talks about how the running community she found in L.A. motivated her every step of the way.

I’m running a marathon for the first time in my life this Sunday.


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Well, if there’s one thing about me, I love setting goals for myself and crushing them. I ran cross country and track in high school, but after tearing my left ACL my senior year, I stopped. It just got hard.

Baby steps

After a few fits and starts, I took baby steps back to running last year and ran the McCourt Foundation Big 5K held during the last marathon. I was so inspired by all the runners there — and the marathoners I knew in my own personal life — that I decided to go for it and start training.

I signed up and ran the San Diego Rock & Roll Half Marathon in June 2022 and this past January, I ran the Rose Bowl Half Marathon.

So here I am…two days away from actually running 26.2 miles for the first time in my life…through the city!

Here’s a very detailed course route in case you are interested. (Yes, it's small but you can click and zoom around.)

We also have a map of street closures.

And a bunch of other race day info should you want to know: 2023 Race Weekend General Info & Schedule.

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Am I nervous? That’s the understatement of the century. It hasn’t been easy. But I’ve learned so many lessons throughout this four-month-long journey. Hopefully, these tips can inspire you to go for it, too.

10 things I’ve learned while training for my first marathon

10. Training for a marathon is a major life sacrifice

I could feel my heart flutter as soon as I saw that $169 had left my bank account for a 26.2 mile-race that I had intentionally purchased. What in the world was I thinking? After that, there was no going back. I now had to discipline myself to say “no” to late nights and “good morning” to long runs with a run club that would hold me accountable at 6 a.m. on a Saturday. But when you do decide to run a long-distance race, you’ll feel so glad you disciplined yourself to complete something that less than 1% of the U.S. population has done.

A group of women with various skin tones runs in close range to each other on a track.
Aaricka Washington, the LAist How To LA Newsletter Associate Editor, runs with one of her run clubs, Girl Gang Crazy at Santa Monica College's Corsair Field.
(Courtesy Raymond Eugenio
Girl Gang Crazy )

9. Your training plan will change. Life will be LIFING

From November to March, I had birthday celebrations, a holiday family cruise, health scares, injuries, sick family members to visit and friends’ weddings to go to. And yes, I had bouts of simply being unmotivated. The great thing is, if you don’t go too far off your training plan, you can always jump back into the swing of things. You just have to get it up, get it done and focus on the fact that you paid $169 for a race that you can’t back out of.

8. You will be hungry all of the time

I would literally eat a full meal full of carbs and would be hungry again as if I’d never eaten anything. You will have to upgrade your diet while preparing for a marathon. I did a lot of research on what carbs, proteins and other foods I should eat throughout the day. Also I learned to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I am drinking extra water as I write this to get ready for the race.

7. Stretching and cross training are the two most important things you can do to avoid injury

Nearly one month before the marathon, I injured my knee. I had to go to physical therapy to rehabilitate. During that time my knee was healing, I rested and cross trained to take the strain off my joints.

6. Research and make a plan

Benjamin Franklin once said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” I looked up a few different marathon plans online (Hal Higdon and Nike are two that I strongly recommend; Runner’s World has good advice as well). I made an 18-week plan using my IPhone notes app and went with it every day!

5. You will lose motivation. I guarantee you. But you’ll find it again. This is likely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. One of the ways I kept up motivation for the race was reading books about running. During my journey, I delved into Alison Mariella Désir’s book Running While Black, which is about how the Harlem Run’s founder found her way to marathoning. I learned about the rich though little-known history of African Americans in long-distance running, and how some of the same struggles we faced as runners in the past still affect us today.

Connect with other runners

4. Lean on the marathon experts for the tips and be inspired

Little did I know when I started this process that I had an LAist colleague who was a pro-marathoner until I met Sharon McNary. She saw that I was training for a marathon on Twitter. She reached out to me and the rest was history. When my training fell through, she motivated me and gave me a strategy to get back on track.

My jaw dropped when Sharon told me she’s run in 159 marathons. You see, she started running in her 30s, just like me. She wanted to take better care of her health after her mom had died at 53 from diabetes and heart disease. She heard about one of the largest run clubs in L.A. called the LA Leggers. McNary trained with them.

A fair-skinned white woman and a brown-skinned Black woman pose together in running clothes.
LAist Reporter Sharon McNary and How To LA's Newsletter Associate Editor Aaricka Washington pose after running with the LA Leggers run club on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2023 in Santa Monica.
( Aaricka Washington )

Sharon ran her first marathon — the L.A. Marathon — less than a year after she quit smoking in 1991. She was 32 years old. She set her personal record at 6 hours and 30 minutes.

“I did not realize at that time that I was becoming an athlete,” McNary said. “When you're in the midst of your first marathon, you're just basically grateful to get through it. It literally took me until maybe a couple months to a year after that marathon to where I realized that I was using running and the people surrounding running as a foundation for my improved physical and mental health.”

Her best piece of advice for me and anyone else who wants to run a marathon?

“I would say take more walk breaks,” McNary said. “This is your first one. I think you will have a better experience overall if you start out slower and take a one-minute walk break every five or six minutes.”

Another tip: Make friends while you’re enjoying the marathon.

“Wave at the cameras when you go past,” McNary said. “I think my favorite part is also getting to miles 16, 17, 18 and I feel like a car. That’s when I realize that I really can do this."

A a large group of mainly Black and Brown runners huddles together at an intersection at night for a group photo.
The Keep It Run Hundred run club trains in Inglewood ahead of the 2023 Los Angeles Marathon.
(Trevor Stamp

Finding community

3. It is imperative to train with the community

Building a strong social network of people is important in general for everyone. I found out about my primary run club, Keep It Run Hundred, right after my first half-marathon while scrolling through hashtags on Instagram. Imagine seeing a group of Black and Brown folks cheesing after the race? Alrick Augustine (people call him Butta) is the founder of the run club. KIRH runs every Tuesday in Culver City and Thursdays we meet at Sip and Sonder at 7 p.m. in Inglewood. Butta has an interesting story.

He wasn’t actually a runner growing up. But when he was 30 years old, he started running. His motivation? To lose the new “dad weight.”

“Running was something that I felt that I could do for free,” Augustine said. “I didn’t have to pay for anything. I could go outside and get a couple of miles in and just turn it into something I can do pretty often. It became a hobby of mine and it became a form of therapy.”

A friend told him about running the L.A. Marathon in 2018. He thought it was a wild idea.

“I would never in my life run 26.2 miles,” Augustine said. “I ran it in March and the day I ran it, I fell in love with running and I thought everyone should feel the feeling that I felt that day.”

A crowd of people with various skin tones surrounds a man with a hat that says "Keep It Run Hundred".
Keep It Run Hundred run club founder, Alrick “Butta” Augustine, center, gathers with club members following a training night in Inglewood on March 9, 2023, in advance of the Los Angeles Marathon.
(Trevor Stamp
LAist )

So KIRH was born. “I didn’t even look at it as a run club, or that it was going to turn into what it has,” Augustine said. “It was just really a space for me just to get my friends outside just to get their bodies moving.”

Ten marathons later, the 39-year-old said this has been one of the greatest journeys of his life. He said he’s pushed himself mentally and physically to a point he never thought he’d get to and he wants to share that with his community.

“Running with a community is huge because a lot of people are kind of afraid to just get out there and do a couple of miles on their own, " Augustine added. “So to come to a space especially with people who look like you, support you, motivate you, uplift you, it does a lot for you.”

2. Tell others about what you’re doing on social media and meet other runners!

Honestly, one of the ways I got inspired to run a marathon was seeing other people do it themselves. There’s been people who have helped me find the right running bras or strengthen a weak knee. Crystal Miller is a runner who I find extremely inspirational. She runs with KIRH and another group I’ve run with, Girl Gang Crazy. She started running during the pandemic because she was basically tired of being in the house and watching Netflix. She’s also running her first marathon as well on Sunday.

“Whenever people do a race, they have a saying that keeps them motivated. And so even before racing the saying 'I can do hard things' is something that always stuck and resonated with me,” Miller said. “And so I was like, why not push myself to do this hard thing that I feel is impossible?”

Runners Clubs in Los Angeles County

1. Always remember your WHY

When I first started this journey, I didn’t really process WHY I wanted to run 26.2 miles. The more I internalized this marathon and who and what inspires me, this decision to run the marathon became more meaningful. Today if you were to ask me WHY, my answer would be completely different than if I answered it last year. So why am I running this marathon?

I’m running on behalf of my grandmother who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 35. I not only make her proud, but I want to do my part to break the generational cycles in my family. I’m only one person, but I want to challenge the racial gap of health disparities that severely impact the wellbeing of Black people. I am also running for my Auntie who passed away from pancreatic cancer two years ago. She was one of my biggest inspirations. She loved running and strength training. She was an LAUSD administrator and she loved teaching.

I am running for my own health and wellness. I’ve been facing a few health concerns throughout my mid-20s and 30s, so I’m working on prioritizing my health. Also, I admit it, I want to look GOOD.

What questions do you have about Southern California?

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