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At 6:00 AM on March 28, 1998 the fourth LA Marathon Bike Tour took place. This year over 15,000 cyclists participated, up from 12,000 last year.
In keeping with Los Angeles' tradition of change, the course was modified for the fourth time in as many years. The tour now starts at the Coliseum and runs clockwise around the city essentially covering much the same ground as the LA Marathon. The tour ends back at the Coliseum after a brief, if perplexing, ride through the USC campus.
In retrospect I think this year's re-routing was a good idea. Last year the tour started at Universal Studios. As those who did that ride will attest, the beginning was prefaced by a dicey half-mile downhill free-for-all to the starting line in semi-darkness. I assume that the organizers didn't want to tempt fate a second time by starting again at Universal. Another advantage of this year's course was the proximity of the bike finish to the starting line of the 5K run. This made it easy for those so inclined to participate in both of the sanctioned events accompanying the marathon.
This year the bike tour and marathon took place about a month later than last year. Rain was predicted but didn't materialize and in contrast to earlier years, the sun was up when the ride began. It was clear and the temperature was somewhat on the cool side - excellent riding weather. As in prior years the LA Wheelmen and Mayor Reordan led off the pack. Rabbits and Tortoises quickly differentiated themselves. What with an ever increasing turnout, it's better to arrive early and stay towards the front of the pack during the ride if you can.
If it weren't for the bike tour, you would never get the chance to ride through the streets of LA at over 20 mph with no cars to watch out for and in fond disregard for all traffic lights and signage. Under other circumstances this would be anarchy - under these conditions it's pure pleasure.
But the direction of the LA Marathon and its accompanying events may be changing. In the past, the Los Angeles Marathon has always been a people's marathon. Sure there always were the elite runners but the event was (and still is) a celebration of LA's diversity. It's one big, high energy, twenty-six mile block party. Well, over the last year the marathon organizers have been trying to upgrade the LA Marathon to the status of a Boston or a New York. Prize money has been increased with bonuses proffered for exceptional times. Clearly, big purses attract the elite runners who have to judicially choose their races to allow for recovery. Projection of a more "serious" image apparently was a consideration too, so this year the in-line skaters were eliminated; and the bike tour was renamed the 'LA Acura Bike Tour IV.' - not the '... LA Marathon Bike Tour ..' as in past years. I'm sure that if certain camps had their druthers, the bike tour wouldn't have been renamed - it would have been eliminated. But, let's see .... at $22.50 to ride in the bike tour, the LA Marathon organization collected at least $340,000 from the cyclists - and that's not small change! So I guess the LA Marathon is stuck with the Bike Tour. And I for one feel it's a good thing. Only I wish it would be renamed the LA Marathon Bike Tour like it was in the past.
In a city concerned with fitness and athleticism I think the LA Marathon should continue to address diversity of participation rather than move toward a concept of participation by qualification. We are not Boston. We are Los Angeles. There is no contradiction in having a serious LA Marathon with a preponderance of non-world class runners, walkers and wheelchair racers; nor do I see a reduction of "seriousness" by including a bike tour and skate as associated and accompanying events. Let the LA Marathon continue to be more than just another marathon.
©1998 Gary Fisher
The 1996 Los Angeles Marathon Bike Tour II (with reference to 1995 Tour I)
The 1997 Los Angeles Marathon Bike Tour III
The 1999 Los Angeles Marathon Bike Tour V
The 2000 Los Angeles Marathon Bike Tour VI
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