Undeterred by cloudy skies and cool temperatures, more than 20,000 participants took to the streets early Sunday as part of the 38th annual Los Angeles Marathon.

The marathon kicked off at Dodger Stadium, with wheelchair participants starting at 6:30 a.m., followed by elite female runners at 6:45 a.m., elite men at 6:55 a.m. and the full field at 7 a.m.

“This is so exciting,” said Mayor Karen Bass, who was on hand for the kickoff of the marathon. “This is an international event. Everybody coming together to celebrate Los Angeles.”

The 26.2-mile course spans some of the city’s most iconic neighborhoods, including Chinatown, Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Century City. The majority of the route includes large sections of Sunset, Hollywood and Santa Monica boulevards.

Most participants in the marathon — which draws people from around the world — were expected to take three to five hours to complete the course. But the elite runners typically finish the race in a little more than two hours.

About 7:30 a.m., dozens gathered in front of Walt Disney Concert Hall along First Street in downtown Los Angeles to cheer on the throngs of runners as the sun peeked behind the clouds.

It was a festive scene with a group of about 20 people beating taiko drums on the sidewalks to cheer on the runners. Some rang cowbells, while others waved signs of support: “Let’s go mom!,” “Angelle, now you can have fun, enjoy life!” “We believe in you!”

Lauren Moussavy, who came with her 3-year-old golden poodle Rocco, was anxiously checking her phone to find the location of her three friends’ running in the marathon. But finding them was not easy, as hundreds of participants ran passed every minute.

But Moussavy, who held a pole with a large American flag, could not be missed. She jumped with joy and hugged her friends as they passed by. The three stopped to take a selfie with her in front of the concert hall.

“Ain’t nobody fresher than my clique – Cyn, Cin, Val,” Moussavy’s pink sign read. Two of her friends, Cynthia and Valerie, were among her bridesmaids, she said.

Moussavy said she and her friends often hike together, and that they all are very active, with Valerie doing a 400-mile bike ride last July. Moussavy said she plans to run the L.A. Marathon herself next year.

“I get so much excitement, energy and motivation from it,” she said. Running “pushes you to the limit which I love. It’s never easy and I love it.”

Roxana Fuentes, a 35-year old certified medical assistant from Boyle Heights, held up a sign of encouragement for her 13-year-old son: “Go Miguel.” Fuenter wore a purple T-shirt with her and Miguel together at the 30-kilometer Friendship Run in Hansen Dam.

This is Miguel’s first full-marathon, Fuentes said. For the last few months, he has been going to Whittier Narrows Park every Sunday to run ten miles or so, as part of his Student Run LA group. He runs 22 miles a week, Fuentes said.

“He says running makes him feel so great, so free,” she said. “I had a lot of anxiety but I have always been a big supporter momma. I never tell my kids not to do it. Let’s just do it!”

Mariam Smith, who lives near Annapolis, Maryland, said she flew across the country Friday to see her 25-year-old son, Ronan O’Shae, run his first L.A. Marathon.

Although this is O’Shae’s fourth marathon, he is expecting to run at the pace of two hours and 20 minutes, Smith said. Smith said she had travelled to support O’Shae when he ran marathons in Sacramento and Chicago.

Smith, who doesn’t run, said she thought O’Shae was crazy when he first talked about running in a marathon, although his dad was an elite sprinter in Ireland. O’Shae runs 18 miles a day to train, Smith said.

But she said she quickly fell in love with seeing her son run marathons.

“I gotta do my mom cheering now,” Smith said, pumping her fists as O’Shae came up the hill. “I shout his name as loudly as I can.”

In Hollywood, Maria Bell, 60, held up a three-foot cardboard cutout of her daughter, Sabrina Bell, who was running in the marathon with a friend. She also brought her daughter’s two barking dogs – a 5-month-old Bernedoodle named Boogie and 5-year-old Foodle named Benson – to cheer her along.

“I’m nervous and excited, but mostly I just want her to know her family is cheering for her along the way,” Maria Bell said.

She was a bit nervous. Her daughter texted her from the course, saying that pain in her left foot was starting to intensify.

The goal for Sabrina, 24, was to top her previous best time of 4 hours 43 seconds set at her inaugural marathon of 2021. “I think the goal has changed to just finishing,” her mother said.

She said her daughter, a graduate student, has been running for the last four years and has always been in shape. Sabrina’s running prowess makes her a family outlier, her mother quipped.

“She doesn’t get her running from me,” she said. “I could never compete in a marathon, let alone finish one.”

Sabrina initially had planned to reach her mother’s position by 8:30 a.m., before injuries and wear slowed her down. Maria Bell waited with anxiously but had faith that her daughter would reach her.

Sabrina initially planned to take an ice bath after finishing, but there may be a change this year, her mother said, concerned about her daughter’s foot.

“I think she needs a mimosa after this,” she said.

In Beverly Hills, Kim Desautel said she was the first spectator to arrive to cheer on the runners at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Drive in Beverly Hills. This is the second year she has come out to show her support.

“It’s really inspiring,” said the corporate travel executive, who lives nearby.

Desautel is a runner herself, but has never run a marathon. She hopes to change that next year and trains every week.

So far, she’s up to 20 miles.

As she waited for the elite runners to cross the roughly 17 mile mark, participating wheelchair cyclists raced past.

“Wooh!!! Looking good!” Desautel yelled at one in encouragement.

Kathryn Young tries to make it to the marathon every year. She said she came out to support the runners because she understands what they’re going through.

Young, a 58-year old Beverly Hills resident, has run the marathon six times. The last time was more than 10 years ago, but she hasn’t since because of back and knees problems.

She is grateful for the times she did. She said it showed her parts of Los Angeles she never ventured into before and made her feel part of larger community.

It also taught her grit. She said that after multiple back surgeries following a car accident, she even powered through and ran the marathon again.

“My husband thought I was insane, but I said, ‘Trust me the body has muscle memory.’ So he dropped me off and I ran it.”

“I am almost 59 – you go through a lot,” she said. “It (running marathons) taught me one step at a time, just one step at a time.”

As runners streamed through the intersection of Crescent Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard just before 9 am, Young stood on the corner clapping and hooting them on.

“Woo! Come on!” she yelled, before turning to a reporter. “I am getting chills.”

The day will be mostly cloudy, with a high of 65 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. The race will be televised by KTLA-TV Channel 5 and streamed live on the L.A. Marathon’s Facebook page.

The trek toward the coast will mean dozens of street closures along the way. Much of downtown and Century City will be effectively closed off to vehicles for the race. In addition, several freeway ramps on the northbound lanes of the 110, the 101 and the southbound 405 freeways will be closed.

Streets will be reopened as runners stream through the area toward the finish line. For example, streets around downtown should be reopened by 10 a.m. and in Hollywood, by noon. Near the finish line in Century City, portions of Santa Monica Boulevard, Century Park East and Avenue of the Stars will remain closed until 8 p.m.

Started in 1986, the Los Angeles Marathon had been a race from downtown to the coast in Santa Monica, but in 2021 organizers unveiled a new “Stadium to the Stars” course, with runners turning around before reaching Santa Monica and heading back toward Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City instead.

A cash price of $6,000 is offered to the winner of the men‘s and women’s races. A prize of $2,500 is also given to the winner of the wheelchair division.

Last year, John Korir of Kenya won the men’s division in 2:09:07. Devline Meringor of Kenya won the women’s division in 2:25:03.

Jeong Park, Andrew J. Campa, Andrew Khouri

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