For Playa del Rey resident Alan Culver, marathon running offers an escape from everyday life.
Marathons are not a one-time goal for Culver, 62, who has been running the 26-mile races since 1991.
He will enter his 25th mara-thon Sunday, March 19th, in the Los Angeles Marathon, which Culver has run annually since 1992.
But while running the grueling race is a passion for Culver, he said it also has a positive impact on his outlook on life.
“It’s a way that I can focus on something very positive,” said Culver, a lifelong resident of the Los Angeles area who has lived in Playa del Rey for 20 years.
“It gives me a very positive feeling in dealing with life.
“I feel complete when I finish that task.”
Culver retired in November after 23 years as a director of real estate to help care for his wife of 32 years, Janice.
An insulin-dependant diabetic who is legally blind, she requires constant medical assistance, but her attitude remains “very positive,” Culver said.
The couple has three grown children, Nancy, Ann and Kevin, who each help their father take care of their mother.
While Culver’s dedication to running requires him to spend time away from his wife, he said Janice is the one who pushes him to run because of the many benefits it provides.
“She encourages me to run, and the kids also, because it gets rid of stress and allows me to focus on other things,” Culver said.
His wife said she and her children encourage her husband to compete in marathons because “it’s really good for him.” He has been so active in the races that they have become part of the yearly schedule, she said.
“He’s been doing them for so long that it’s just what’s expected this time of the year,” she said. “We expect him to do really well in the (LA Marathon) race.”
Culver tries to schedule the bulk of his training runs early in the morning when his wife is sleeping, so he can concentrate on the serious work that must be done to prepare for the long run.
His marathon training consists of 20-mile runs that begin in Venice, continue north through Santa Monica and return south to Playa del Rey.
Not only does Culver train on his own to get ready for the marathon, but he also trains about 100 people each year who all desire to finish the 26-mile race.
As a senior pace leader for the LA Roadrunners — the official training group for the Los Angeles Marathon — Culver helps push marathon disciples to accomplish their goal.
Culver said the role of senior pace leader is “like a professor teaching a class,” because after he trains the runners, it is his job to run with them in the marathon and see their hard work pay off.
Based on Culver’s contributions with the LA Roadrunners and his dedication as an active marathon runner, Saucony, Inc. — a subsidiary of the Stride Rite, Corp., a supplier of athletic footwear and apparel — has selected him as one of the Saucony 26 at this year’s Los Angeles Marathon.
Saucony officials selected 26 people from communities in the Los Angeles area, based on their merits and contributions as individuals to the running community and to society.
“We wanted to recognize the passion for running and individualized sense of competition that is demonstrated by local participants in the LA Marathon, from the suburban jogger to the weekend athlete to the elite runner, as well as celebrate their different and intense motivations for running in this year’s race,” said Kevin Tordoff, senior director of marketing communications for Saucony.
The members of the Saucony 26 will each receive a cash bonus for every mile of the race they complete and a number of team members will donate their Saucony checks to charitable causes.
Culver said it is a “great honor” to be selected as a member of the Saucony 26, which includes a “cross section” of runners from the Los Angeles area.
Besides representing the Saucony 26 at the LA Marathon this month, Culver is also running on behalf of the Center for the Partially Sighted and to raise money for diabetes research.
Although Culver is accustomed to the LA Marathon after running in the race since 1992, he said the LA race, which is downhill for the first 13 miles and uphill the last 13 miles, is a definite challenge.
“LA is a very difficult marathon geographically,” he said.
One thing Culver said he has learned through his marathon experiences is that the race is primarily a mental challenge for runners.
“Most people think that a marathon is physical, but as you train, you find that it’s mental,” he said.
Culver has ran his fastest times in his most recent marathon races, including the new Las Vegas Marathon in December, when he finished in four hours, 29 minutes, and the St. George, Utah Marathon in October, when he earned in his personal best time of four hours, 22 minutes.
But when he runs with 75 people from his LA Roadrunners group at the LA Marathon this month, Culver said he will be happy crossing the finish line in about four hours, 45 minutes.
“I’m going to be elated,” said Culver, referring to the moment when he completes the LA Marathon. “I’m always excited when I finish the race.”
Once Culver wraps up the LA Marathon, he won’t stop there, as he is scheduled to run in the Salt Lake City Marathon Sunday, June 4th.
Culver plans to continue keeping up with his passion for running but, more importantly, he will focus on staying healthy and spending time with his family.