For over three decades, Malibu Realtor Rick Wallace has spent one day each year traversing through Los Angeles—one foot in front of the other, continuously—for miles and miles.
The 62-year-old will do it again this Sunday when he runs in the Los Angeles Marathon for the 35th consecutive year. Wallace, a contributor to The Malibu Times, has participated in the event each year since its inception in 1986. He is looking forward to running and doing a small stretch of walking in this year’s spectacle just as much as when he laced up his sneakers and put foot to pavement in the inaugural cross-city trek.
“I really enjoy the entire experience,” Wallace said. “From the training—when I tell someone I ran 16 miles that morning, I’m proud of it. It’s been great for me. The actual marathon itself is just super fun. It’s exciting.”
The 26.219-mile footrace features more than 25,000 participants from across the globe running the streets of LA from Dodger Stadium in Elysian Park to steps away from the Santa Monica Pier each year.
Wallace’s 18-mile run last weekend bookended six months of preparation for the marathon, Los Angeles’ premier long-distance footrace. The Realtor began training in August by going on three-mile runs a few times. He slowly increased his running output, so he went on eight-mile dashes in October and then 13-mile runs around the beginning of the year. Wallace increased his training distances to between 16 and 18 miles in January and February.
“I go through the same training process every year and it always seems to work,” Wallace said.
Overall, the Malibu resident does 45 to 60 long-distance runs in preparation for the endurance run.
“It’s like anything in life—you have to build up to it,” Wallace said. “It’s a goal.”
Few things are certain in life, but Wallace’s participation in the LA Marathon, one of the largest running events in the U.S., annually, is something you could place a hefty bet on. He has never won the race or finished in the top tier but those aren’t Wallace’s goals. Neither is adding to the litany of medals he has due to his presence on the popular race’s starting line.
What drives Wallace, one of the marathon’s 131 Legacy Runners (individuals who have competed in every LA Marathon since its inception), is continuing to be one of the runners who have partaken in every race.
“I’ve been amazed for two decades now that so many of us keep going every year without dropping out,” he said. “It gets harder and harder. A lot of other Legacy Runners have faced difficult health problems but have still done it. My goal is to last ‘til there are less than 100 people.”
The city-wide scamper features numerous elite runners and a bevy of amateur runners from all walks of life. The event was inspired by the success of the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. Wallace said the advertisements for the first race mentioned the finish line being in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the same place the Olympics’ marathon races ended. That drew him to sign up for the race as a 28-year-old who had never done an endurance competition before.
“I thought that would be so cool,” Wallace said. “I thought I should run the whole thing, but I just couldn’t. I got to mile 23 and just had to walk a little while. I went as hard as I could.”
Wallace finished the race in 4 hours and 38 minutes. He was hooked to the running showcase.
“I didn’t have a reason not to do it,” he said.
Wallace finished the race in under four hours once and has also tied his initial running time once. Additionally, he has duplicated finishing times multiple times. The Malibuite has finished the marathon in around 5 hours and 25 minutes each of the last three years. Wallace’s running speed has slowed down over the years, so he doesn’t set a finishing time goal because he knows he will complete the race in a time he won’t be happy with.
“Now, there is no way I can break five hours without really putting in hours of training,” Wallace said. “So, I have my pace and just live with it.”
He has also seen the popular running showcase transform its course from a loop that took participants from Exposition Park to the coliseum to a route that began and finished in Downtown Los Angeles to its current “Stadium to Sea” course that directs runners past numerous Los Angeles landmarks.
Wallace knows the marathon like the back of his hand or, more appropriately, the bottom of his running shoes. He said reaching the halfway point of the race in Hollywood is mentally refreshing but called running through Century City and Hollywood a grind. “That’s maybe the hardest because that is when I’m really getting tired,” he said. The runner said the last portion of the race, which includes Ocean Boulevard, isn’t bad because his body gets used to all the running.
“I just will myself a 10th of a mile at time,” Wallace said.
Over the years, the Realtor has participated in five other marathons including three in 2006 and two others in 2009. To celebrate his 60th birthday, Wallace did a 53-mile run from Ojai to Malibu. The LA Marathon is his favorite long-distance run, though. Despite his annual travels across LA by foot, Wallace doesn’t consider himself an elite runner.
“I’m not particularly fast or slow,” Wallace said. “I just plod along. I end up in the middle of the pack for my age group. I just do what I do.”
He added, “I’ve never been a runner and actually don’t like to run. I like it when there is a purpose and a specific goal.”