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Los Angeles Marathon

March 11, 1994

* Sitting back after the ninth Los Angeles Marathon nursing sore legs and blisters the size of golf balls, I realize that there are quite a few people that I must thank for the seemingly incongruous smile on my face.

First, thanks to the planners behind the race who designed a course that took the runners through the best examples of the cultural diversity that makes us a great city. Thanks to the seemingly endless supply of volunteers who woke up early on a Sunday morning to hand out water and Gatorade to 19,000 sweaty runners. Thanks to all the musicians who provided the soundtrack to our self-inflicted agony. Thanks to the guy I nearly knocked over at Mile 2 who just smiled and said, "No problem."

Thanks to the deity of your choice who came through with perfect weather for the race. Thanks to my friends and family who braved closed roads and crowds to come watch me stumble across the finish line. Thanks to the crowds who made it seem like running 26.2 miles is something worth doing. Thanks to the woman at Mile 24 who saw my face and urged me to keep going. Thanks to the guy at the parking lot who found just one more space so that I could make it to the start line on time.

Thanks to all those kids lining the race with outstretched hands whose smiles and good wishes made it seem so ignoble to quit, even though my legs were asking for asylum. Thanks to all the people of Los Angeles who came together for the day to show that Los Angeles is more than just a CNN disaster dateline. If there are any of you who gave any of us a kind smile or an encouraging word, thanks to you too. It really helps.

ANDREW M. SIEGEL

Van Nuys

* I ran my first marathon March 6, and besides the sore muscles and finisher's medal, I walked away with the strongest sense of community I'd felt since moving here 2 1/2 years ago with my wife and daughter.

Maybe it was the bands playing everything from rock 'n' roll to Japanese drums. Or the people of various sizes, ages and colors handing us water, cheering us on, urging us to take one more step regardless of who we were. Or the little kids giving everyone who'd take the time a high five. For once this city that seemed so divided along ethnic and economic lines felt like a place where even if you didn't know everyone, you wanted to.

In one event people from every conceivable ethnic and racial mix were standing together, walking together, running together in fun instead of in reaction to some major catastrophe. Now all L.A. has to do is figure a way to have that kind of fun, that kind of feeling, the rest of the year.

AARON D. HEINRICH

Arcadia

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