And I knew what the loneliness of the long-distance runner running across country felt like. . . .
--"The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner" by Alan Sillitoe
Can a runner be lonely in Southern California, where the marathoners number in the thousands?
Many Southland runners say yes; achieving the feeling of aloneness in the busy urban environment is one of their motivations.
But quite often long-distance runners practice togetherness. At just about any top-notch running store you can find runners not only looking for shoes but also swapping stories of competitions, group training runs, clinics and clubs.
Most of the leading Southern California stores, in addition to selling merchandise, provide a range of free public services.
At these businesses you are likely to find knowledgeable staff members, almost all of them runners. Besides giving advice about gear, they can usually pass along data on racing clubs, seminars by coaches and athletes, training clinics and races, and recreational "fun runs" open to all levels of runners.
Eric Lehtonen, manager of Movin Shoes in San Diego, says of his store: "There is almost a 'general store' kind of feeling. People come in and hang around, and sit and chat about running. They often just want to be around other runners. Of course, we also want to sell them some shoes, but that pressure isn't there--people who are interested in running are welcome to come in and just ask questions."
Many stores participate in community running events such as charity fund-raisers. The institutions that benefit range from national charities to local institutions, such as libraries.
Following is a sampler of running stores that offer a variety of services.
Loeschhorn's, 1525 Mesa Verde Drive East, Costa Mesa, (714) 557-4634; 10810 Warner Ave., Fountain Valley, (714) 964-4567; 24176 Alicia Parkway, Mission Viejo, (714) 770-6052. The founder is John Loeschhorn, a nationally ranked master's runner.
All three locations hold fun runs that are open to everyone: Wednesdays at 6 p.m. at the Mission Viejo and Fountain Valley stores and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. at the Costa Mesa location.
Loeschhorn's Running Club is a recreational group that holds monthly meetings, publishes a newsletter and participates in races. Among the competitions is the Tavern Run each April, in which the runners pause to drink beer and eat pizza at several local watering holes.
For more competitive runners, there is a racing club that works out under expert coaching.
Podiatrists, chiropractors and doctors specializing in sports medicine speak at seminars organized for the club.
Loeschhorn's is a sponsor of the annual Sweatin Sweethearts 10-Mile Twosome, held in February in Irvine.
Marathom's, 1454 25th St., San Pedro, (213) 548-6865; 823 Silver Spur, Rolling Hills Estates, (213) 541-5033. Thom Lacie is the owner of Marathom's. In addition to sponsoring its own racing club, Marathom's is headquarters for the Point Fermin Flyers (the San Pedro store) and the Palos Verdes Pacers (the Rolling Hills Estates store).
Fun runs leave the San Pedro store at 6:15 p.m. Wednesdays and 7 a.m. Saturdays. There are also 6 a.m. workouts on Tuesdays on the track at San Pedro High School. The Pacers meet at the Rolling Hills Estates location for a run starting 8 a.m. Saturdays.
Marathom's is involved in a number of community races--the Palos Verdes Marathon, the Catalina Marathon, the Palos Verdes Library 10K and others.
Lacie notes that some races offer opportunity for family participation. He cites last May's Portuguese Bend Nursery School Run, a fund-raiser that featured a run for parents and children.
An interesting feature of Marathom's in San Pedro is its fitness center, a large room with a special floor used for low-impact aerobic and "cardio pump" classes.
Phidippides-Manhattan Beach, 1140 Manhattan Avenue, Manhattan Beach, (213) 546-2481; Phidippides-Marina del Rey, 4722 1/2 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey, (213) 823-6446. The Phidippides-
sponsored racing team has about 130 members.
Fun runs, open to all runners, begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays in Marina del Rey, Thursdays in Manhattan Beach.
Phidippides is a sponsor of the popular Manhattan Beach 10K, held the first weekend in October, and the Santa Monica Half and Full Marathons, held every August. The stores' attractions include nutritional clinics, body-fat testing and speakers, such as the internationally known coach Arthur Lydiard.
Owner Martin Smith says before deciding on a shoe, customers are allowed to run outside to get the feel of a particular pair.
Phidippides-Encino, 16545 Ventura Blvd., Encino, (818) 986-8686. This Phidippides store is owned by ultra-marathoner Charlie Hoover, who has competed five times in the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, placing 10th in 1983.
Fun runs leave the store at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays, usually dividing into three groups that cover distances varying from three to 14 miles.
On Sunday mornings a marathon-