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L.A. Marathon muddle

The city's decision to move the L.A. Marathon from a Sunday in March because of objections from the religious community was a bad one -- it should be reversed.

July 21, 2009

Oh, for Heaven's sake, it's one Sunday a year. One Sunday in March when runners from all over the world gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the discipline, the pain and ultimately the joy of running. One Sunday on Los Angeles streets, through Los Angeles neighborhoods, saluting Los Angeles and its people and making this city part of a worldwide marathon circuit.

But not this year, when the Los Angeles Marathon was moved to a hot Monday in May because of a campaign by several church leaders and promises by city officials eager to avoid the condemnation of the religious community. The pastors, priests and preachers thought they'd make a point about the interference the route was causing their congregants, and discovered they could get the City Council of the nation's second-largest city to evict the annual run from the Christian Sabbath.

At least a few on the council soon realized the foolishness of their decision. Runners were training and planning for March, when the Southern California climate is friendlier to daylong physical exertion. Fans, spectators and sponsors were geared up for a Sunday, which is marathon day in most major cities, including, for nearly a quarter of a century, this one.

Church and marathon leaders were still trying to reach a deal in advance of today's council vote to reinstate the Sunday-in-March schedule. But alternatives such as Presidents Day offer their own inconveniences, like regular workday traffic (just because city officials get to take the day off, that doesn't mean the rest of L.A. can). Why not just run the race at 1 a.m.? Or in another city? Why not just say no to ever doing anything in Los Angeles if it requires anyone to change their daily routine, no matter how much it might expose participants to new friends and neighbors and Los Angeles to a new civic spirit?

Despite the apparent wishes of some, this is a very big city with a lot going on. Living, working, shopping and worshiping here are laced with occasional irritations. Streets are sometimes closed -- for church-sponsored block parties, for example, or for the marathon.

We Angelenos can be a cranky bunch, but we're also creative. We can figure out a different route to services, or schedule a later Mass, or get with the spirit of the day and worship among new congregants in another part of town, instead of preserving Sunday as the week's most segregated, closed-hearted day. Just once a year.

Enough with L.A.'s incessantly downturned thumb. The council should vote today to reject the chorus of say-no-to-everything by designating a Sunday in March, permanently, as Los Angeles Marathon day.

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