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Born to Run

Activities leading up to Sunday's L.A. Marathon begin today with the Quality of Life Expo.

March 01, 2001|LAURIE K. SCHENDEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Baltin family isn't really extreme. OK, so Aaron was already a fixture on the back of his mother's bike when he was 6 months old. But Carrie and Brent Baltin had cycled, hiked and skied through their first 12 years of marriage and didn't want to give it up once they started having kids. So they packed up Aaron and, later, his younger sister Dara and took them along.

Aaron, now 12, will join his parents for the first time this weekend as a participant in festivities surrounding the 16th L.A. Marathon.

While Carrie, 47, is limbering up to run her fourth L.A. Marathon on Sunday, Aaron will join his dad at 6 a.m. on the Acura Bike Tour through the streets of Los Angeles. Dara, 9, will band together with neighbors to cheer on her mom along the race route.

"As soon as they play Randy Newman's 'I Love L.A.,' you just wouldn't believe the feeling, the pride of being an Angeleno," says Carrie. "I've lived here my whole life, but when I'm [at the marathon], it really makes it my city."

The family will also venture from their Calabasas home this weekend to take part in activities leading up to the marathon, including the free Quality of Life Expo, which begins today and runs through Saturday at the L.A. Convention Center.

"It's really fun," says Carrie. "You get to see all the vendors selling running clothing, biking gear--it's very high energy."

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Besides more than 400 exhibitors, there are hands-on activities for all ages, including a basketball hoop, climbing wall and spinning bikes for kids to try. The Vons Healthy Family Campaign will feature tastes of low-fat and high-energy foods.

"People just grab an empty bag at the door and fill it up with free samples," says Laurence Cohen, spokesperson for the event.

Cyclists can also sign up for the Acura Bike Tour at the expo. The noncompetitive ride is open to anyone who can navigate the 25-mile route in roughly 2 1/2 hours or less (the time limit is imposed because they need to make way for the marathon runners). Even if you don't have that kind of endurance, there are "bail-out" points along the way. Registration is $30 and includes a T-shirt and goody bag.

The best part for cyclists, Cohen says, is that the route is dedicated to them: They can run red lights and not have to worry about dodging automobiles. The course begins and ends at the Coliseum on Exposition Boulevard, and follows parts of the marathon route.

After Brent and Aaron Baltin finish up the bike tour, they'll catch the Metro Rail and stake out a position along the marathon route to cheer Carrie along, which Brent has done in years past.

"You can't talk, you can't take any real time," says Carrie, "but just to see somebody who loves you along the route is absolutely amazing."

The marathon route takes in Staples Center, the Coliseum, Koreatown, Hancock Park and Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood, returning to the start/finish line near Central Library in downtown Los Angeles. There, a Finish Line Festival caps off the weekend with entertainment, food and vendors.

Another marathon weekend tradition, the sixth annual Downtown Pancake Run for kids, gets under way at 8 a.m. Saturday. The Biltmore hotel and Ketchum-Downtown YMCA will host the event at Pershing Square Park. Family activities and a pancake breakfast are free to kids who pre-register; otherwise it's $5 for adults and children the day of the event. For information: ((213) 639-7437.

* Quality of Life Expo, L.A. Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St., downtown L.A. Today, noon-8 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Admission is free.

* City of Los Angeles Marathon begins Sunday with the Bike Tour at 6 a.m. The marathon wheelchair divisions begin at 8:20 a.m. Pre-registration required.

* Finish Line Festival, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday at Central Library, 630 W. 5th St., downtown L.A. Admission is free.

* For more information on City of Los Angeles Marathon events, call (310) 444-5544 or visit www.lamarathon.com.

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