Sylmar resident Jim Davis, shown here from a previous LA Marathon race, said he completed the 2019 event while battling dehydration.

It was a beautiful day for a marathon. Plenty of sunshine but not too much heat. A large crowd along the 26.2 mile course was joined by bands and celebrities to cheer and encourage those in the race. Nearly 25,000 people — including Sylmar resident Jim Davis, a legacy runner who has appeared in every race since the event began in 1986 — spent Sunday, March 24, going from Dodger Stadium to the Santa Monica pier by foot or wheelchair.

And it was a beautiful result for 16 San Fernando High School students who, as part of the Student Run LA program, entered and ran in the 34th edition of the Skechers Performance LA Marathon. Best of all, every student finished in enough time to earn a competition medal, which they proudly wore to school on Monday, March 25.

But as Davis and several students would tell you, a beautiful day and a beautiful event don’t always mean a beautiful race.

A marathon by its very name suggests a test of will and perseverance. Even the most fit and conditioned person can experience pain, or be presented some other inherent reason to stop and quit.

Davis said he started out well but became dehydrated, and had slowed considerably by Mile 16. He struggled at times with his balance the rest of the way and was just happy to finish, taking more than seven hours to complete the race.

“I was lucky,” Davis said. “There were some Run LA students who helped me. They grabbed my fanny pack and kept me from falling. I lost 10 pounds of body weight.” 

Several of the San Fernando High students also faced some challenging situations.

David Montes, 14, a freshman, was running the marathon for a second time. He had trained hard, was in good shape, and was aiming to finish in four to four-and-a-half hours.

Then Fate stepped in the way.

“I was at Mile 8, and doing pretty good. But then I felt a bone in my knee…I thought I heard it crack and it started hurting a lot,” Montes said. “I ran all the way to Mile 13 and couldn’t run anymore. I wanted to quit. But then I saw [friends] come by, and they reminded me this is what I’d been training for. I also called (one of his team’s coaches) who told me to try and finish. I did. But I ended up having to walk the rest of the marathon.”

Montes wasn’t the only one who experienced physical trauma. Natalie Vargas, 18, a senior, also started having knee pain at the eighth mile.

“I started feeling this weird pain in my knee” which has not occurred during of her training runs, Vargas said. “From Mile 8 until I finished I had that pain. It came out of nowhere. Otherwise I felt great.”

Then there was Jasmine Harr, who was running the race for the very first time.

“Up to Mile 4 it was a little difficult because I was getting used to the rhythm of running,” said Harr, 17, a junior. “Then up to Mile 19 I was just coasting by. Mile 20 is when I almost gave up; I hit ‘the wall.’”

She kept going. By Mile 24, Harr said, another competitor came by and ran alongside her to the finish line.

“It was everything I thought it would be and more,” Harr said about the marathon. “And I think crossing the finish line reminded me of why I wanted to do it. Every once of pain was totally worth it. I’d do it again. I will come back to do a second marathon.”

Elideth Presuel, 18, a senior, was another runner doing her first marathon. While pretty much describing the experience in glowing terms — “I really liked it. Everyone was so supportive; they were cheering for you and you felt good. I honestly did better than I thought I would” — she admitted that by Mile 18, “I just wanted to finish so I kept running. I was hurting, but nothing too bad.”

“You learn a lot about yourself in those 26 miles,” added Presuel.

Estefani Navarro may have had one of the better days among the students. About the only thing that didn’t happen for Navarro was meeting the goal she’d set for her finishing time.

“My goal was to do it in 4:30 to 4:59. I wanted to beat five hours,” said Navarro, 16, a sophomore. “I ended up doing 5:09, which wasn’t too bad. It was fun.

“There were a lot of people out there and it motivated me, especially seeing the signs. Some were funny — ‘Touch Here for Power.’”

 It was a day to remember, they said. And they might have discovered something else about themselves.

“The marathon is not about how fast you finish,” Montes said. “The marathon is about completion, how you competed and if you didn’t give up. The point is to finish.”