A ‘running’ comedy of errors

Dream Team-The 'Bu Times. Pictured from left: Andi Peterson, Ryan O'Quinn, Kristen Lowrey, Laura Tate and Gabriel Kaplan. The team placed last out of 10 competitors in the Jimmy Stewart Media Invitational Relay Challenge on Sunday at Griffith Park. Heather O'Quinn / TMT

A play-by-play account of how The Malibu Times lost a five-mile relay race.

By Laura Tate/Editor

The annual Jimmy Stewart Relay Marathon took place on Sunday, which raises funds for the St. John’s Health Center. The event has raised $8.2 million for the center since its inception in 1982, which serves the cities of Santa Monica and Malibu, and surrounding communities. The legendary actor Jimmy Stewart went to St. John’s for many of his health needs, and the marathon became his signature charity enabling the event to grow from its original venue in Marina Del Rey to its present day location at Griffith Park.

The marathon is run by teams of five, each running a fifth of the 26.2 miles. Other events included are a Diaper Dash, a children’s race and the Inaugural Media Invitational Relay Race. The Malibu Times joined teams from such venerated news organizations as CBS and Channel 4, including reporter Patrick Healy, and television shows such as “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Access Hollywood.” The L.A. Sport and Fitness Magazine took the first place title in the Media Relay, and the online paper, The Lookout, took second. Third place went to Channel 4 News. For the full marathon relay, Team Runners High won first place, L.A. Shadow took second, and Gardena Reebok came in third.

The Malibu Times came in last, out of 10 teams. The team, whose name was ‘Bu Times, was comprised of Kristen Lowrey, production assistant and Web editor; Gabriel Kaplan, freelance writer; Andi Peterson, intern and freelance writer; Ryan O’Quinn, freelance writer; and myself.

The ‘Bu Times became the butt of all the jokes when volunteers and other runners of the relay race learned that its members thought they were participating in a “one-mile relay,” with each member only needing to run a fifth of a mile. The team rushed off to “train” upon learning they were actually running in a five-mile relay, and had to run one mile each. (Prior to learning about their mistake, the ‘Bu Times team members were lounging around the VIP area, eating bagels, drinking coffee and discussing how late they went to bed-midnight, 2 a.m., 3 a.m.-and how “cute” their iron-on team shirts looked. They met early, 9 a.m., to practice baton handoff techniques. The confusion stems from press releases that called it a “media one-mile relay”-or so that’s the story I told everyone.)

Marathon MC Michael Burger, of the 1994 “Mike and Maty” TV show, used this information in his play-by-play of the race, announcing to the crowd gathered at the starting line The Malibu Times’ erroneous assessment of the length of the race. “The Malibu Times team trained to run for a fifth of a mile each. Imagine, it would be like running out to your car and back,” he quipped.

Actors and hosts Robert Wagner and Chris O’Donnell were on hand for the start off. Wagner also made a crack about how the ‘Bu Times trained for the race, and Burger made continuous cracks about the team throughout the event.

Nevertheless, the ‘Bu Times runners remained undaunted and convinced they would do well and, after surveying its competitors-judged to be, on average, older in age than the Times’ team members-thought maybe they would not take first, but perhaps third or fourth place.

Kaplan was chosen to lead the pack and O’Quinn to bring the team in at the finish line. Lowrey was placed as the second runner, I as the third, and Peterson, who ran track in high school and showed us the finer techniques of baton handoffs, was the fourth runner. Race volunteers reminded the teams to watch for signs indicating their route so they would not end up running five miles in the marathon relay course.

Kaplan made a strong start; however, a few runners from the other teams were much stronger (and much more serious about winning, perhaps they trained to run a mile, not a fifth). Coming to the first baton handoff in fourth place, Kaplan passed the baton to Lowrey who took off intent on keeping The Malibu Times in the running. It was quite some time before she was seen again. (Lowrey had been training for several weeks on a treadmill, but coughing and congestion hampered her athletic capabilities). When Lowrey handed the baton to me, I surprised myself by taking off at, what I consider, a fast pace. However, my momentum came to a halt, when, after coming down the hill, I heard my name called. I raised my arms in a hello at first, but then thought, perhaps I missed my turn, and whoever it was who called my name was alerting me to my error. So I turned around, and started running in the opposite direction (thinking that the people running the other way were part of the 26.2 mile relay). As I started back up the hill, I looked for the turnoff, seeing nothing but a wall of people. Then, the person who called my name poked his head out of the crowd and yelled, “Laura, it’s the other way! Turn around!” (This person was from Malibu, and I cannot recall his name, but when I see him, I’ll be certain to thank him. Profusely.)

I am not sure the extent of the pain the other team members felt when running-although their faces were not quite as smiley coming to the end of their leg of the race-but one mile can be excruciating, especially when you haven’t run in more than a year and stayed up till three in the morning the night before. (Having a headache from a glass of champagne the night before didn’t help either.)

Peterson was ready for her leg, and with confidence took off, giving us hope we would stay out of last place, at least.

“Malcolm in the Middle’s” team was the only one waiting with the ‘Bu Times for their fourth runner, and theirs came first. However, it was only a few minutes later that Peterson was seen, and we cheered her on to the handoff, and O’Quinn was off.

We went to wait near the finish line, which was at the bottom of the grassy hill where the first leg of the race began. And we waited. And waited. And waited.

Peterson inquired as to what place we were in. Upon being informed that we were last, a quizzical look came over her face. “I don’t understand. How did that happen?” she asked rhetorically several times. (She was serious.)

Meanwhile, Burger, at the mike, was still making cracks about The Malibu Times. “And we’re still waiting for Ryan O’Quinn from The Malibu Times …,” Burger announced, … “in last place is The Malibu Times, the team that trained to run a fifth of a mile …”

“The Malibu Times will be in time to come in first for next year’s race,” Burger continued.

Where could O’Quinn be? Burger pondered, as did we. He speculated that maybe a “squirrel attacked him, or a gofer got him and pulled him down a hole.”

But finally, O’Quinn was seen coming down the last stretch before the hill. As we loudly cheered him on, he turned, running down the hill, raising both hands in the air with a look that said, “I made it!”

And then … he tripped, and fell.

Right in front of us, sliding down the hill a little, in what seemed like a slow-motion end to a comedy-a comedy of errors.

Our mouths gaping, not believing that he actually was sliding face down toward the finish line, O’Quinn gamely jumped to his feet and continued the last 15 feet to last-place victory.

And we fell to our knees in hysteria.


Although The Malibu Times came in last, Burger brought the ‘Bu Times onstage between presentations of medals to the second and first place winners, to present what I recall he described as the “most losing-est team ever.” He noted afterward that we set the standard, so that anyone considering entering the race in the future would think, “Well, if they can do it, we can too.”

Upon evaluating the winners of the race, L.A. Sport and Fitness Magazine-all men, tall, long lean muscular legs-we thought, “Of course they won. They’re in the fitness biz!”

At the very least, or perhaps at the very most, the team members of the ‘Bu Times put their all into the race. Seriously.

And our T-shirts were cute.