Dec. 27th, 2016

Overview: One of Los Angeles's oldest and most beloved races, the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run celebrated its 39th year - and its second with its revamped course.

When
: December 10, 2016.

Where: 
As the race name would suggest, Santa Monica and Venice. 

Course access:  The start line was accessible from the Big Blue Bus #1 down Main Street or the BBB #3 to Pico and 4th. The finish line at Windward Circle was close to the BB #1 again.

Why: Harvest Home for women and babies.
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Number of Participants: 1957 finishers in the 5K; 2184 in the 10K. Both events were sold out before race morning.

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

Course: This was the second year for the new course route. Both the 5K and 10K started at Barnard Way in Santa Monica, adjacent to the beach. However, instead of being an out-and-back, the course wound through local streets, went on the Venice Boardwalk for a bit, and then went back through Venice before finishing at the Venice Pavilion/Windward Circle.

I think the race may have started earlier in the morning this year, because the boardwalk was almost entirely deserted. This fortunately meant that many of the problems associated with the non-closed course on the boardwalk (ie, trying to navigate around vendors and tourists) were alleviated this year.

The 10K and 5K start times were spaced out well.

Post-Race:  Water and bananas. Several vendors were on hand to give out additional goodies, such as chocolate milk.

Chip timing: Tags on the bib by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  Once again, the SMVCR had the best shirt in racing: a long-sleeved red tech shirt. This year's design featured Santa being pulled in his sleigh by athletic bipedal reindeer. From what I understand, the design was inspired by costumes worn by participants in a past race.

Swag: A medal with the same artwork as the shirt, on a satin ribbon.

One thing I really, really did NOT like about this race was its "free photos." In 2015, participants were required to enable a Facebook app and post on social media to obtain the photos for free. This year, participants had to turn over their email address to a beer company and agree to receive marketing from them to even see their photos.

Yeah, I'm just not okay with that. Either offer the photos for free or don't, but don't tell participants they're free and then neglect to tell them that they will be forced to surrender their email addresses or social media for marketing and apps. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!

Overview:  A friendly, fun and uniquely Los Angeles race.

The fun twist to We Run the City is that you raise money for either Team UCLA or Team USC. For those who don't live in Los Angeles, these two colleges have a bit of a rivalry, to put it very, very mildly. When you sign up, you're given an opportunity to choose which school you'd like to represent. It's not necessary to be an alumn or student; you just pick a side. Whichever school raises the most money for the Special Olympics gets to keep a trophy for the year.

Both schools' colors are represented on the bibs, logos and medals. The race switches campuses every year. In 2016 it was UCLA's turn to host.

When: November 20, 2016

Where:
The UCLA campus in Westwood (West LA).

Course access: Many bus lines go past UCLA or use the campus as a terminus, including Big Blue Bus 1, Metro 20 and 720 (which stop down on Wilshire) and 2, and Culver City 6. 

Why: The race raises money for Special Olympics Southern California. Runners are able to fundraise above their race registration fee, if they wish. In 2016 the race raised over 200K - and UCLA won the school fundraising challenge.

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Number of Participants:  My best guess would be 2000 - 2500.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race. Packet pickup on race morning was fast and stress-free, however. There were enough volunteers to handle everyone. 

Course: Totally within UCLA's lovely, leafy campus. It was hilly at points but not overwhelmingly so. There were some cheerleaders and volunteers cheering runners on at a few points. 

Chip timing: Yes, on the bib.

Post-course food:  Water and bananas were provided to the runners, and several vendors gave out samples, such as Hubert's Lemonade and Coca-Cola.

Shirt: The shirt you receive at this race depends on whether you've aligned yourself with Team UCLA or Team USC. This year's shirts are among the nicest I've ever seen at a race. The tech shirts feature the school colors - blue for UCLA and red for USC - with yellow side panels. The center of the shirt featured USC/UCLA mascots.



Swag: Once again, the medal featured a cut-out design that incorporated both UCLA and USC's colors and mascots. The Special Olympics' motto and event date were engraved on the back.

Expo:  More booths than there were at USC last year. Sponsor Coca-Cola was back, as were some local businesses, such as University Credit Union (also a major race sponsor). The coolest thing at the expo was a display with three real Olympic torches from the last three games held in America: Los Angeles (Summer Games, 1984), Atlanta (Summer Games, 1996) and Salt Lake City (Winter Games, 2002). Their owner was very gracious and even allowed visitors to hold the torches. 

Grade: A!

Would I Run this Race Again: Absolutely! I'm looking forward to it, in fact.

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