Malibuites Dash in LA Marathon

Alberto “Barefoot” Perusset at the finish line of the LA Marathon 

A decade ago, Ani Dermenjian ran the Los Angeles Marathon for the first time, just six months after the birth of her second son Alexander. 

As a breast-feeding mom in her early 40s, Dermenjian wanted to set an example for Alexander and elder brother Christopher, who is 18 months older than Alexander, that anything is possible if you work toward it.

“I wanted to show them that mom is young at heart and mom actually finished a marathon the year you were born,” the 54-year-old reflected. “It’s a story for them to hold onto.”

The race was tough and emotional for Dermenjian but she hasn’t looked back since.

“Now, a decade later, I am hooked on it,” the Realtor said. 

On Nov. 7, Dermenjian completed her 10th consecutive L.A. Marathon. She ran the 26.2-mile route from downtown Los Angeles to Century City in 6 hours, 10 minutes and 37 seconds—two minutes faster than her 2020 time. She completed the endurance spectacle while wearing a brace on her left knee due to a fall the night before the marathon. Dermenjian said she was glad she ran despite her injury.

“I knew that good feeling at the end of the race is what I am going to live with, and not, ‘Oh, I missed my number 10 because I tripped,’” she said. “I couldn’t live with myself with that.”

Dermenjian was one of 10 Malibuites among the estimated 13,000 amateur athletes from 50 nations who dashed in the 36th Los Angeles Marathon. Alberto “Barefoot” Perusset finished the event in 6:59:35, sans any shoes, of course. In an email to The Malibu Times, Perusset noted that he has now run in 18 consecutive L.A. Marathons.

“This was my 253rd overall marathon and my 214th barefoot, which is a world record,” the 63-year-old wrote. 

Rick Wallace, a Realtor and contributor to The Malibu Times, has run in every L.A. Marathon since the event’s inception in 1984. He completed this year’s version of the event in 5:52:51.

“I was much stronger than I expected,” he said. “I finished one minute faster than last year.” 

Other participants from Malibu were Mary Hawkins, 77; Mikela de la Flor Panizo, 21; Nicole Pritikin, 48; Patrica Gabel, 34; Rose Nadali, 38; Steve Carcano, 58; and Tyson Park, 80. 

John Korir of Kenya won the marathon with a time of 2:12:47, and Natasha Cockram of Wales was the women’s champion with a time of 2:33:17. Whittier’s David Rodarte’s 2:1:17 finishing time won him the title in the Athletes with Disabilities Division. 

The marathon was twice delayed this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2020 race took place just a few days ahead of the Golden State’s shelter-in-place order in response to the global health emergency. Malibu’s Emily Gallin was the fastest finishing American woman in that race.

The delays caused a hiccup to Wallace’s usual training schedule. 

“It ended up being 16 months of training for me,” he said, noting that he stopped training for two months when he caught COVID-19 and then the marathon was postponed. 

“I started training all over again,” Wallace said. “It was a lot of starts and stops.” 

Dermenjian never quit training for the marathon, despite its postponements. She runs with a group called Road Runners LA, covering up to 20 miles per week in anticipation of a race. She is happy that runners could actually run in the L.A. Marathon as opposed participating virtually, which many endurance showcases were forced to do over the past year. 

“It’s super empowering,” Dermenjian said. “It was wonderful. If you’re a runner and you are used to doing marathons, it doesn’t compare to a virtual marathon at all. You have to understand: It’s the energy, the people, that make the marathon addictive.” 

The night before the marathon, Dermenjian said she went to the hospital because she tripped over her dogs and hurt her knee. The doctor told her she had bruised it and suggested she run the marathon with a cart—no walking or running. The knee injury wasn’t going to stop Dermenjian. 

“I took tons of Tylenol … I kept going,” she said.    

She wanted to inspire her sons.

“I waited for this moment,” Dermenjian said. “I trained for this moment. You just have to let mind take over body. I didn’t want to let them down … at the end of the day, I just want to be an example. Even with this condition, I finished and I am profoundly grateful for their support and encouragement.”

Even though Wallace did better than he expected in the marathon, the 64-year-old admitted he felt older this time. 

“I’m really feeling the age,” he said. “It gets harder.” 

Heading into the marathon, Wallace told himself it would be all right for him to quit running at times and walk bits of the course (up to four-and-a-half miles). But at times he was ready to walk, he pushed himself to run, so he ended up only walking two-and-a-half miles.

Wallace, an L.A. Marathon Legacy Runner—one of the handful of people that have run all 36 of the races—is already preparing for the 2022 L.A. Marathon, which will be on March 20.

“As long as I am able, I am going to keeping going,” he said. “I’ve been incredible lucky to be able to start all those marathons.” 

Dermenjian is also registered for next spring’s LA Marathon.

“I am not only the happiest person while I’m running, but even afterwards,” she said. “It’s like you are a free bird soaring in the air. It’s a beautiful feeling.”