Jackie Clark might consider treating every marathon as a practice run.
Clark, 55, entered the Asics Los Angeles Marathon last Sunday, March 17, without any particular goal in mind — other than using the 26.2-mile race as a tune-up for the American River 50-Mile Endurance Run on April 6, while also raising money for epilepsy.
She came away with a 20th-place finish in a field 7,774 women, and 253rd overall out of some 20,000 runners. Her time of 3 hours, 8 minutes, 35 seconds — her fastest ever — was good enough for first place in her 55-59 age group.
“Actually, it was a training run because I’m doing a 50-miler in a couple weeks. It’s my first 50-miler, so I’m kind of nervous,” said Clark, a Homewood resident and seasoned marathon runner, with about 15 marathons under her belt plus two 50-kilometer ultra marathons.
Clark was in good company in Los Angeles. She was joined by longtime running buddy Missy Sandeman, who also lives in Homewood and races competitively. Sandeman has done 23 marathons, including five Los Angeles Marathons.
Like Clark, Sandeman more than held her own among the sea of runners. She finished third in her 60-64 age group and 343rd out of all women, posting a time of 3:49:57. But she was more impressed with her friend’s performance.
“I’m so proud of Jackie,” she said. “She should be celebrated in our community.”
Sandeman and Clark have logged a few miles together. They met on the trail more than a decade ago. Shortly after their introduction, Sandeman asked Clark to join her in a long-distance relay race in Oregon.
“I met her running one day, and she asked me if I wanted to do the Hood to Coast Relay. So we did that together, and I was the slowest one on the team,” Clark recalled. “So after that I thought, ‘Huh, I think I need to get faster.’ That’s how our friendship really started, is running.”
Clark did get faster. She’s since qualified for the Boston Marathon (although she’s never raced it) as one of the elite female marathon runners in her age group, evidenced by her finish in the Los Angeles Marathon.
Multiple factors played into her favor in the Southern California race. The day dawned foggy and cool — “perfect running weather,” Clark said — while she felt at ease with her “training run” mentality. Racing on what Clark deemed a fast course, starting at Dodger Stadium and ending at the Santa Monica pier, also helped, as the final two or three miles sloped downhill, she said.
And finally, Clark was motivated by her daughter who has epilepsy. Both Clark and Sandeman raised about $1,000 for the seizure disorder.
“I run for epilepsy. The last three marathons I’ve run I’ve raised money. So it’s a purposeful running, and I think that helps,” Clark said. “I figure if she has to suffer her whole life, I can suffer for three hours.”
Kenyan Erick Mose, 26, took the overall win in the Los Angeles Marathon, recording a time of 2:09:43, while 27-year-old Aleksandra Duliba of Belarus was the top woman in 2:26:07. Deena Kastor, 40, of Mammoth Lakes was third, in 2:32:39. In Clark’s 55-59 division, meanwhile, HongyunJin Jin of Venice was the next-highest finisher, posting a time of 3:11:01.