Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Santa Monica Classic race report

Submitted by Leah Gutierrez @Leahmari11 & Sean Astin @SeanAstin

Leah: When I chose the Santa Monica Classic for my first race as a Team #Run3rd captain, there were a few key considerations: (1) my husband had done this race a few years ago when he started running and said the course was a good one, plus it offered the option of doing either a 5K or 10K (great starter race); (2) It is significance for Sean Astin because it was in his birth city, plus the same organizers of this race were the ones who did the LA Marathon; and (3) timeliness—we had a whole month to get the word out about the race, invite racers to participate and get some #Run3rd dedications going.

Heal the Bay is the benefiting organization of this race. Anyone who enjoys going to the beach or uses water in some capacity in Los Angeles County benefits greatly from the work this organization does.

I thought it would be fun to give a dual perspective of how race day went, so below you'll read it from both Sean and Leah's points of view.


Sean: I want to say something funny, but I was freaked out because I left my house 15 minutes later than I wanted to. No matter, traffic flew. I couldn't find my racing belt, so that mean I wouldn't be able to bring my phone w/ camera onto the course...waaaahh! I parked 1/4 mile south of the start mark in a random beach lot. Then everything went in the right direction. Got my bib and found Captain Leah!!! The labels she made were awesome! I hope every Captain does that. Inexpensive and unobtrusive—Best Idea Ever. So, now together with family, friends and Captain #run3rd members all, let the race begin…

Leah, Sean, Jackie and Sylvia
show off their #Run3rd bib labels.
Leah: On race day we had planned to meet up around 6:30am since everyone still needed to pickup their race bibs, but Sean was the only prompt one that morning. Eventually we were all able to gather before the race and the team members had a chance to meet each other and take a few photos together. Since everyone didn't have #Run3rd shirts, I decided to make some labels and put them on everyone's race bib. Lots of fun "getting to know you" conversation led to Janie and I discovering we had a mutual friend, and Sean reminiscing his elementary school days because Jackie mentioned that she currently works at his alma mater.  Jackie and Sylvia went to the starting line first since the 5K started at 7:30am. The rest of us (Sean, Janie, John, Andrea, Lily and me) ran the 10K which started at 8:00am.


Sean: It was a great race for me. I was so sore and achy from my NFL Flag football game Friday afternoon, I didn't know what would happen. Also, that nagging little achilles issue on my right leg was present. Happily, neither was a factor. Leah and I started out together and put 2 miles in at a comfortable pace. When she developed pain in her shins it was clear she would have to slow way down for a bit. I encouraged her to step to the side and massage it. There is no point risking injury or suffering too much when you can spend a few moments rebooting. For the rest of the race, I wondered how she was faring. It is a strange thing in running, when someone you know or any fellow runner "goes down". The first consideration, of course, is are they going to get swift attention. In most of these kinds of races, there are plenty of folks around to help. So, then comes the moral dilemma, do I stay and wait with the person, or push on. In almost every case, unless the injury is incredibly severe, the runners ethos is to continue, and in so doing, edify everyone's experience.  In this case it was clear that Captain Leah was okay in the greater sense, but that her race was in jeopardy. For me, around the 3 mile mark or close to it, I passed the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier, otherwise known as the LA Marathon Finish Line. Well, the last two times I was there, I was so wiped out from the previous 26 miles, I could barely cross with strength and confidence. Not today. I ran up to San Vicente, passing the very streets I used to train on in High School when I ran on the Cross Country team. I think I may have even seen my old coach, a front runner vying for 3rd. That is one of the great moments in any race, when the course doubles back and the front runners come blistering by. I always cheer them on and it gives me a shot of adrenaline going forward. I picked the pace up in miles 4 and 5. Because I started out comfortably (should always and rarely do) I had plenty of energy and was consistently passing runners whose pace was constant. That phenomenon, accelerating through runners late in the race, gives me a feeling of (imagined) dominance that spurs speed and endurance. Anyhow, with a finishing time of 56:30 I was thrilled that I overpowered the pain in my body and had a good showing. I was expecting much slower.

Leah: Sean and I ran the first two miles at a good pace and then I started experiencing pain in my right shin. Off to the sidelines I went to massage my leg while Sean continued on. Unfortunately, the shin splints persisted throughout the race, requiring me to stop and walk intermittently for the next 4+ miles. I don’t wear a GPS watch when I run, so rely on the timers along the course to get an idea of what kind of pace I’m keeping. It was a bit discouraging seeing the time at each mile marker indicating a progressively slower pace. And this is the part of running where you have to dig deep and keep going because the goal is no longer a PR [personal record], but just to finish. Somewhere between mile 5 and 6 I got a second wind, and then when the finish line was in sight, I felt really good and just went for it. About 1/8 of a mile to the finish line, I saw Sean waiting on the side. He jumped onto the course to tell me how proud he was and ran with me again before entering the finish line area. Then I saw my family behind the railing at the finish line, and I could hear my little one was chanting “Go Mommy! Go!”  All that encouragement at the end really made the difference and nothing compares to that feeling of crossing the finish line. My official time was 1:10:27.7 / pace 11:21...respectable.


Sean: Well, as I crossed the finished line I was handed a pair of sunglasses. (They ran out shortly after with 2/3rd's of the field still out. A fun momento, but these days, I like the wee medals (I made a wind chime out of the others and more is better right? Kidding!)) I reunited with family; hugs with cousins are a special treat—we live too far apart. But, I was really preoccupied with finding Leah. I didn't see her family anywhere and I was nervous that she might not have finished the race. I went back to the finish line and waited. It was strange, because usually people are waiting for me and as soon as I cross, there's no looking back (kinda selfish really). But as I stood there looking for her, I was able to cheer for and encourage a couple hundred runners. The look of pain, determination, joy, pride, etc., on their faces was enough to have me want to start the race over and run it again. After awhile I was bummed because I thought I'd missed her. I started moving further down the course. Now, at this point, the pain in my muscles from the football and the achilles thing had returned and I was hobbling like an elderly person. I was also a little spacey—hadn't eaten yet that morning (mistake runners, mistake)—so as I was meandering, I hear "Sean!" Leah was passing by me, six inches from my face—YIKES! I'm blind! I was thrilled beyond measure that she had persevered. She said something about being in real pain, but it didn't match the huge smile on her face. It was a thrill to see her, our Team #Run3rd Captain, cross the finish line. The rest of the time was family and friend gathering and sharing. Afterward, I hobbled a mile back to the car... ugh! :-)
Team #Run3rd Captains Leah and Sean with future #Run3rd members

Leah: Upon exiting the finish chute there were no finisher glasses to be found. Well, where do we get our finisher's shirt? That required a walk to the pier to visit the expo. Once we reunited with family members, we walked over as a big group and recounted our race experiences along the way. After everyone got their shirts, we were able to take a complete Team #Run3rd picture. Another post-race moment was Andrea Barber getting the nomination and confirmation as our newest Team #Run3rd captain. My favorite part of all this was the fellowship we shared that day. At the heart of #Run3rd is the heartfelt dedications we run for on behalf of others but I also think that the connections and relationships that stem from gathering as a team is equally as meaningful.

Thanks to all the family and friends who came out to support and of course, our dedicated Team #Run3rd members for a great showing at the Santa Monica Classic! Also, special thanks to my husband for being our official photographer and juggling everyone's cell phones to get those pictures, too!

John, Jackie, Janie, Leah, Sean, Andrea, Sylvia and Lily
show off their finishers tee shirts.


  1. What a fun idea to post back and forth comments about your experiences. I just started exercising faithfully back at the end of January and ran my first official run a week ago. It was a thrilling experience and reading this took me back and has encouraged me for the various 5K's I've signed up to complete this summer. I had heard for years of the pleasures of running but never thought it would be me experiencing them. Now that I am, even in my very "amateur, newbie" status, I feel a part of a greater community.

    Great job all, and thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Congrats on your first official run! Hope there are many more!

      Are you on Twitter? You should consider becoming a #run3rd Team Member, and who knows, maybe even a Team Captain! :-)

  2. Thanks! I hope there are many more as well. I'm signed up for 2 more local 5K's here in the next two weeks, one is a night run that I'm very excited about.

    I am on twitter: @SteelDroppings