Jan. 4th, 2015

Overview: One of Los Angeles's oldest and most beloved races, the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run celebrated its 37th year in 2014.

: December 6, 2014.

As the race name would suggest, Santa Monica and Venice, mostly on and around the boardwalk. 

Course access:  The start/finish area was a short walk from the Big Blue Bus #1 on Main St. and a longer, but doable, walk from the #3 on Lincoln Boulevard.

Why: Harvest Home for women and babies.

Number of Participants: 1964 finishers in the 5K; 2600 in the 10K.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race; everything was fast and painless.

Course: The course started in Santa Monica by the beach, veered onto Main Street, went toward Venice, and then went onto the Venice Boardwalk. Runners stayed on the Boardwalk all the way back to Santa Monica, veered onto another side street and finally ended back up where they'd started.

One thing I absolutely disliked about this course: the section on the Venice Boardwalk was not closed. This meant that runners had to dodge street vendors, vagrants, tourists, skateboarders and cyclists as they were trying to complete the race. I know it's unrealistic to expect the Boardwalk to be closed, but the opposite isn't fair, either. If a runner had been at the back of the pack, they would have been totally confused about where to go, since nothing was closed or marked off.

Post-Race:  One more objection here: they really didn't feed the runners. We were offered water and a piece of (admittedly very good) fruit.

Chip timing: Shoe tags by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  The SMVCR prides itself on giving what it calls the best shirt in racing, and they really were on the mark with that. Runners received truly lovely, warm, long-sleeved black tech tees with green accents. 

Swag: This was the first year the SMVCR gave finishers' medals, and they really were cute. They featured the artwork from the t-shirt. A cute Santa hat was also given out at packet pickup. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.

Overview: Los Angeles's January night race returns for its third year.

: January 3, 2015.

Downtown LA.

Course access:  DTLA is very well hooked up to mass transit. The race start was close to the 7th St/Metro Center stop on the Red, Purple, Blue and Expo subway lines. The finish line was close to the Civic Center stop on the Red and Purple lines.

Why: A Place Called Home.

Number of Participants: 1218 finishers in the 5K; 997 in the 10K; 2979 in the Half-Marathon.

Pre-race: Once again at the Milennium Biltmore Hotel. They still haven't figured out the expo; it was small, too cramped to even consider navigating, and didn't have any really appealing exhibitors.

Worse, the packet pickup once again closed at 4pm, so runners had to arrive at least two and a half hours before the race to get their bibs and t-shirts. This seemed to be unclear on the instructions and apparently some runners arrived after 4pm, were denied their bibs, and were understandably very upset.

Another issue: some of the volunteers working the corrals were completely rude. The assignments were bizarre, with walkers in the first five corrals. In addition, the way the corrals were enclosed made it impossible for some runners to even access them.

Course: The 5K course differed from the map that was posted online. The turnaround did not seem to be clearly marked, either.

The highlights of last year's race were running down Broadway, where all the theatre marquees were turned on, and then finishing at L.A. Live. This year, the course was boring. Instead of Broadway, runners went up Hill Street, went through the 2nd Street Tunnel, and ended by looping around a bunch of courthouses and municipal buildings, a freeway exit and a truly sad homeless encampment. The only recognizable landmarks on the course were Angels Flight and City Hall.

The race finished at Grand Park. I know this is fast becoming the hangout du jour for all types of events, but LA Live was better.

Post-Race:  Water, Nuun electrolytes, bananas, apples, Clif bites and moonpies were offered. Mylar blankets were also provided.

Chip timing: Shoe tags by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  For the 5/10K: a black tech shirt. This was a vast improvement over last year's see-through white one.

Swag: Finisher medals with a baseball theme and drawstring backpacks (the same one from last year). Legacy runners also received special clip medals. The medals were very different, and not as nice, as the ones advertised on the race's Facebook page.

Would I Run this Race Again: I guess. The only reasons I'm hanging on with this race after my 2015 experience
are because of the Legacy status and because I can't find another race I'd like to do in January. They have a lot of work to do.

Overview: Generic Events' nascent Downtown Los Angeles Turkey Trot had its second outing in 2014. There's still some work to do.

: November 27, 2014 (Thanksgiving morning).

Downtown L.A., starting and finishing at Grand Park in front of City Hall.

Course access:  The start and finish line area was about a three minute walk from the Civic Center station on the Red and Purple Metro subway lines.

Why: Homeboy Industries, L.A. Regional Food Bank and Brooks and Brooks Foundation. Homeboy was on site selling pies, and there were drop bins for the food bank.

Number of Participants: 2333 in the 5K; 1393 in the 10K.

For whatever reason - perhaps the hipster angle (the race actually sold trucker hats and American Apparel clothing *eyeroll*), there were a lot of assholes at this race. I don't know why, but it was the rudest race I'd ever been to.

Compounding this: the large number of people who thought it was cute to desecrate Indigenous attire and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Here's a hint: if you wouldn't run a race in a Marines uniform or wear a fake purple heart because you think it's disrespectful, you should not be running a race in a war bonnet, war paint, feathered headdresses or an eagle feather. Period. It's really depressing to me to think that in 2014, people still feel it's appropriate to "dress like Indians."

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on race morning, but it was chaotic. The actual packet pickup area was fine, but the t-shirt distribution area had been crammed into a small space by the stage. Everyone was packed in and pushing, and it was hard to see where the lines were. With all the space they had, this could have been thought out better.

Course:  The course wound uphill to the Music Center and the Disney Concert Hall, and then back down Spring Street for an out and back. On Facebook it was noted that the race distances had been incorrectly measured; the 5K was too long. The RD confirmed this.  

Both the 5K and 10K started late by about 30 minutes.

Post-Race:  Again: chaos. Runners had to fight through the crowds to get to the water/Gatorade table, and the only food offered was a banana. No bueno, guys. No bueno.

Chip timing: Yes, by Gemini Timing, with souvenir shoe tags that did not need to be returned.

Shirt:  Keeping in line with this year's "Turkey Strikes Back" theme, the cotton t-shirt featured the Turkey Trot's mascot stomping through Downtown LA, Godzilla-Style.

Swag: A large, generous medal.

Would I Run this Race Again: I liked it enough to give it another chance next year, but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement here.


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