One January evening, my friend Carolina Miranda and I ran 6 miles around Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park and East LA. Such long jogs were not part of the daily workout regimen. But we had signed up for the Hollywood Half Marathon and had to get our bodies used to pounding the pavement by April. Carolina, an arts writer for the LA Times, mapped the route and pointed out sites along the way: Los Angeles General Hospital where Marilyn Monroe was born in the charity ward in 1926, the tangle of train tracks crisscrossing their way to the LA River and to Piggyback Yard, a great dimly-lit local watering hole called Footsie’s. As a reward for our efforts, we ended the run at El Atacor #11 for tacos de papas and the infamous porno burrito.
Workout completed, we Lyfted it back to Carolina’s house and ate our tacos and burrito with gusto, sipping whiskey with freshly-squeezed orange and lemon juice. The run was perfect, we declared with endorphins raging. We should end every weekly training run at a restaurant “of the neighborhood” like El Atacor, all while traversing parts of LA on foot. We invited another friend to join in on this brilliant, slightly mad endeavor. Maria Fellows, a Pasadena family therapist specializing in transnational adoptions, didn’t need much persuading.
Though it’s no weight loss plan, our Hollywood Half Marathon training program has exceeded all expectations. We have logged 120 miles so far. Our routes have taken us past the edgy aluminum-glass walled home that Frank Gehry built in 1978 in Santa Monica and the witch’s house in Beverly Hills used on the “Hansel and Gretel” film set. A parade of bumping lowriders cheered us on at Mile 8 in Compton and flocks of parrots charted the way through fog on our early morning run in Pasadena. We ate smoky hand-pulled noodles in a bowling alley at China Tasty in the San Gabriel Valley, a tiger tail hot out of the fryer at Donut Man in Glendora and a sour cream-and-caviar omelette in the basement of the Beverly Hills Hotel.