Whittiers marathon man set to hit the road again

first_imgThen he says he “got hooked” and decided to give the L.A. Marathon a shot. One of his fondest recollections of that initial marathon was seeing his wife, Lucy – who at the time was pregnant with the couple’s third son Matthew – and his sons, David and Ralph, cheering him on in person as he ran by. “My wife was so worried that I wasn’t going to make it that she kept pace with me for two blocks,” Garay said. “I told her, `You’re pregnant, you shouldn’t be running.”‘ The support he’s received while running the 26.2-mile course has been a great motivation for Garay to keep going. “My family has been at each one of the marathons to see me run. That’s special,” he said. “As I reflect back on all the marathons, I think about all the people along the route cheering us on. It’s so pleasurable to see all those people come out and show their support. It’s like a big block party.” Garay, a Los Angeles High School and Cal State Los Angeles graduate who also served in the United States Army, ran the 2006 marathon in 5:31:12. His best time was four hours and 30 minutes, accomplished back in the early 1990s. While many of the runners have participated in other marathons, Garay has run only in the L.A. Marathon. Because of his status as a legacy runner, he has earned a permanent bib number. “They’ve always treated us legacy runners as something special,” Garay said. “After 10 years, they gave us a nice luncheon. There was something like 600 of us then. “It’s those little incentives that give me that push,” said Garay, who trains on what he says is a “scenic route” through the streets of Whittier. His yearly marathon training begins each autumn. “Every year it’s harder and harder and more challenging, but I just push myself. It’s such a good event,” he said. “What I get out of it is a sense of accomplishment. When you cross that finish line and you’re handed a medal, you feel like a real athlete. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be doing it this long, but now I’m committed. I can’t miss it.” [email protected] (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2239 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WHITTIER – Rafael Garay vividly remembers how he felt after running the inaugural Los Angeles Marathon in 1986. “It was grueling,” he said. “I was sitting there hurting, very sore, and said, `Never again will I do this.”‘ But one year later, he did run it again – and he’s kept on running it ever since. In fact, now the 57-year-old grandfather from Whittier finds himself in a very exclusive club heading into Sunday’s race. Garay is one of the “Legacy Runners” – those who have participated in and finished all 21 L.A. Marathons. It’s a group that dwindles each year, having numbered 270 following the 2006 event. “I feel great to be part of this club. You can’t join the club. It’s very elite. Membership is closed forever,” said Garay, a biomedical engineer at Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital. “I’ve made it through all of them, whether it’s jogging it, crawling, whatever it takes to get past the finish line. I have to finish or I lose my legacy.” Garay’s running career began when he made a New Year’s resolution in 1985 to get in shape and lose weight. He started running at the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area. “I’d run four or five laps around the lake,” he said. “I thought I was hot stuff.” last_img
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