Antoinette Hill, mother of eight, likens running a marathon to pregnancy. "So much of it is keeping a healthy attitude through the length of it. You keep telling yourself you can do it," Hill said.
Hill, 64, takes her position at the starting line May 5 for the 10th year running as the Long Beach Marathon celebrates its decennial. What began 10 years ago as a modest race for a few running enthusiasts has evolved into one of the nation's best marathons, with more than 4,000 participants and 50,000 spectators expected.
Top-ranked marathon runners from various Pacific Rim nations and the Soviet Union, China and Mexico will compete with runners from around the United States for more than $100,000 in prizes. The world-class runners in the Pacific Rim Marathon Championship get special invitations, transportation and lodging for the event, and are the most likely entrants to finish on the list of winners. In fact, the course records for men and women are held by two Pacific Rim athletes. You can tell these top-seeded runners by their low bib numbers, which allow them to start at the front of the pack.
For the less ambitious, the Long Beach Marathon sponsors an 8-K race (eight kilometers, or five miles) Saturday morning.
Children, too, have a chance to emulate the fleet-footedness of Pheidippides, who ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to report Greece's defeat of Persia in 490 BC. Thousands of Long Beach elementary schoolchildren will run a 2.62-kilometer mini-marathon, the culmination of a special physical fitness program.
Long Beach native Hill and her husband, Anthony, were among the original runners in the first Long Beach Marathon.
Anthony Hill stopped running marathons two years ago, he said, "when I realized I was going downhill and my wife was getting better." Stamina and mental toughness make winners, "which I don't have but my wife does in spades."
A typical conversation Antoinette Hill says she has with herself during a race goes something like this:
"Feet bleeding? NO!
"Looking great? YES!
"Gonna do it? YES!
Her husband, on the other hand, says he tells himself:
"You're really hurtin' fella! What are you doing this for? You're not getting paid for it. You're just trying to prove something."
Consequently, Antoinette Hill's personal best is 3 hours and 54 minutes, 23 seconds better than her husband's best. She almost always places in her age division, which she hopes to do again next Sunday.
Local hero Jim Knaub will race in the men's wheelchair division, hoping to take first place as he has done several times before. He came home to Long Beach after recently winning the wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon, missing the world record by 50 seconds.
His hope for the Long Beach Marathon? "Win money," he said. "That's the bottom line."
Other events of the marathon weekend:
On Friday, a running and fitness exposition, featuring the latest trends in fitness equipment, clothing and services, will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Seaview Room of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, 200 S. Pine Ave., Long Beach. The expo continues from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday featuring a running clinic.
Also at the Hyatt Regency on Friday, the traditional "carbo load" party--to bulk up on carbohydrates for the race--takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. The meal includes meat or meatless spaghetti, bread and salad. The cost is $10. Reservations are a must.
On Saturday morning, the Pacific Rim festival begins, celebrating the art, music and cuisine of the Pacific Rim, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Greater Los Angeles World Trade Center, 1 World Trade Center Drive, Long Beach.
Also on Saturday, the 8-K race will get the starting gun at 8 a.m. at 5th Street and Long Beach Boulevard, beside the Long Beach Plaza shopping center. The certified course loops through picturesque Shoreline Aquatic Park and the downtown marina.
The main event next Sunday begins with race walkers at 7 a.m. Wheelchair competitors push off at 7:25 a.m.; runners start at 7:30 a.m.; children at 7:55 a.m.
For spectators, here is how to tell the players by their numbers. Pacific Rim entrants get yellow bibs 1 through 50; bibs 51 through 100 are red for The Athletic Congress (TAC) Women's Marathon Championship entrants; 101 through 150 are orange for other top-seeded athletes; 151 through 225 are purple for 10-year veterans of this event; 226 through 350 are blue for race walkers; and the rest are white. The event is limited to 4,500.
The awards ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Long Beach Convention Center's Terrace Plaza, 300 E. Ocean Blvd. Registration on the day of the race (if space permits) costs $35. For more information, call 494-2664.
RECORD OF WINNERS