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: 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: One of Los Angeles's mega-races, just in time for Halloween. I'd heard some negative comments about RnR races in the past, and I was very impressed by how well this event was run. Everything was well organized, well staffed and well thought out.

When: October 26, 2014.

Downtown LA. The race began and ended in the LA Live/Staples Center area. .

Course access:  Easy as pie. The Pico station on the Blue/Expo lines was a two-minute walk. There were also a lot of buses in the area, since it was Downtown LA and all. 

Why: The ASPCA.

Number of Participants: by my estimate, about 30,000 spread between the half-marathon and 5K, which left at the same time.

Pre-race:  This race had one of the things I hate most; a mandatory packet pickup the day before. The PPU was at the expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center, and it ran both Friday and Saturday. There wasn't a line and it was fast and seamless. The expo had some interesting booths, and the ASPCA had a huge, and very welcome, presence.

Course: Through Downtown LA, along Figueroa toward USC and the Coliseum, and back. 

Post-Race:  Runners picked up their medals and then walked through a "sterile area" where they could get food and drink. Water, Powerade and chocolate milk were all available, as were energy bars, chips and fruit. The area was set up in such a way that only runners had access to the food, which was very welcome. After leaving the finishing area, runners could cross over to the LA Live area where there were several booths with freebies, a shop, and a stage for the concert. There was also a beer garden for those who wanted to indulge at 9am. Each runner received a ticket for a free beer with their bib. I passed on this.

Chip timing: A disposable shoe tag. There were mile markers and a finish line clock.

Shirt:  A black Brooks tech shirt with a Halloween flair. I actually think that the 5K made out better than the half-marathon here; they received the same design, but in a sickly off-white.

Swag: Rock N' Roll is known for its elaborate and city-specific medals, and this race was no different. The medal featured a spiderweb, the LA skyline, and a witch riding on a guitar/broomstick. There was also a drawstring backpack provided at packet pickup.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!

Overview: A friendly community race.

When: June 15, 2014.

Downtown Culver City, on Washington Blvd.

Course access:  The Metro 733 was running normally, and the start line was only about a block away from the stop at Venice and Bagley. The Culver City station on the Expo light rail line was also within walking distance.

Why: The Culver City Educational Fund and Train 4 Autism.

Number of Participants: 823 finishers in the 5K; 390 in the 10K.  

Pre-race:  Packet Pickup on race day was seamless; volunteers were friendly. However, a few more port-o-potties would have been nice!

Course: Through Downtown Culver City and back, past landmarks such as Sony Studios, with their giant rainbow. Very flat. Mile markers and water stops provided.

Post-Race: A few small items of food and drink. There were only a handful of tables at the expo in the small park, and I believe they all were educational services, etc. They were of interest to parents with children in elementary school, but perhaps not to the general running crowd.

Chip timing: Bib tags and timing by Gemini. Clock at finish line.

Shirt:  A simple gray t-shirt with the race logo.

Swag: A very adorable medal of a shoeprint. The race also provided free photos with the race logo. This was very welcome, since most race photos are ridiculously priced. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!


Overview: Another small, friendly race, this time with a soccer flair.

When: August 24, 2014.

The StubHub Center in Carson, on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills. 

Course access: Several Metro lines run along Avalon and Victoria near Cal State. Luckily, the 9am start time made commuting by mass transit possible!

Why: LA Galaxy's community programs.

Number of Participants: 254 participants in the 5K.

Pre-race:  Packet Pickup on race day was seamless; volunteers were friendly.

Course: The course wound around the StubHub Center, going through both parking lots and field areas. There was no running on the field, but the course did start and end in the soccer stadium. The course was well-marked and there were numerous water stops with ice-cold water, which was appreciated on a hot day.

Post-Race: LA Galaxy players cheered everyone on at the finish line and actually handed out the finishers' medals, then stuck around for autographs. Several key players were present, as was Chris Klein (who actually ran the 5K!), the Galaxy veteran and bigwig. The players were uniformly friendly and cheerful - considering they'd had to come in on a day off, that was especially nice of them. Cozmo was also on hand to take photos and interact with runners before, during and after the race.

Chip timing: Shoe tags. Clocks at start and finish line.

Shirt: A deep blue, generously cut tank top with Cozmo, the LA Galaxy's alien mascot.

Swag: WOW. Christmas in August, can we say? The medal was beautiful. The goodie bags, wisely given out at the race finish, included a full sized soccer ball, a water bottle, sunglasses, an LA Galaxy rally towel, and more. The race entry also came with tickets to both a night LA Galaxy game and the Galaxy II match that happened a few hours after the 5K . An artist was also on hand to do free sketches of participants. The generosity of LA Galaxy was amazing.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!
Overview:  A friendly, low-key event in El Segundo, which has a well-deserved reputation for being the "Mayberry" of Los Angeles. It's a slice of small-town America that happens to be in Southern California!

When: April 26, 2014.

El Segundo, starting in front of the High School on Main Street.

Course access: Beach Cities Transit bus #109 came close to the start line. The Green Line El Segundo and Mariposa stations were also about 1.5 miles away.

Why: The race is a major fundraiser for El Segundo's public schools.

Number of Participants: 1422 finishers in the 5K; 191 finishers in the 10K.

Pre-race:  Packet Pickup was held on Thursday and Friday at a local athletic club; runners and walkers could also pick up their stuff on the morning of the race. PPU was fast, friendly and efficient.

Course: The race started and ended on Main Street in front of the High School and park. The course led runners through both residential and industrial areas in El Segundo.

The one thing that confused me about the race course was that it seemed to be closed very, very early. After only about 40 minutes in, the police were asking runners to move to the sidewalks on certain streets. Since there wasn't a pacing requirement, the course was supposed to be open for several hours and there were many, many walkers in the 5K, I'm not sure why this happened.

Post-Race: Food was offered at the large and interesting expo in the park. There were booths from local businesses in El Segundo and the South Bay, as well as local sports teams like the Kings (who practice in El Segundo) and Galaxy.

Chip timing: Yes, with chips on the bib, by Racewire. Racewire emails your results almost as soon as you cross the finish line - they really rock.

Shirt: A deep red shirt with a retro logo - really nice.

Swag: The race medal was gorgeous - it had a retro 1930s design and depicted El Segundo HS. The goodie bag included a water bottle, some snacks, and a keychain.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!
A few months ago I reviewed the Firecracker Run in Chinatown. The final assessment was that the race was great, but the shirts were sized way too small.

Apparently a lot of runners complained about the shirts - and the Firecracker Run went to the trouble of having another batch, with correct sizing, made up. They held an exchange day one Saturday. I couldn't make it to the exchange because I was out of town...and to my surprise, the race still sent me the correctly sized shirt in the mail.

So, many props to the Firecracker Run. They really didn't have to resize and remake all the shirts, but they did - that's commitment to keeping runners happy! 
Overview:  A race themed to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim major league baseball team, endorsed by the Angels.

When: March 29, 2014

In and around Angels Stadium in Anaheim.

Course access: Luckily, the Amtrak/Metrolink station for Anaheim is in the stadium parking lot. Just as luckily, Amtrak ran a 6:15 train from Union Station, and I believe there was a very early train from the San Diego direction, too.

Why: The race provides funds for the Angels Baseball Foundation, which does community outreach.

Number of Participants: 3712.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on either Friday or on Saturday morning before the race; it was well staffed and seamless.

Course: The course was flat and fast, winding through the streets around the stadium. There were some cutouts of current Angels players around the parking lot for photo ops. The big draw with this race was that the course also went into the stadium and onto the field. Runners got to go all the way around the warning track from the 3rd base line, past home plate and the dugouts, and out again through the 1st base side.

Chip timing: Yes, with chips on the bib.

Shirt: The Angels 5K had one of the nicest race shirts I've ever received. It was red tech fabric, it fit well and it had the Angels logo on one side.

Swag: A voucher for an upper deck ticket for a future Angels game and an awesome medal.

Expo: Large, with a lot of swag. As the photo above shows, items brought home from the expo include snacks, fruit, a pinata, wristbands and keychains, a reusable bag, a softball stress squeeze ball, pencils, toothbrush and paste, and more. They also had OC Slush handing out free ices - yum!

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes! It was well organized and lots of fun.
Overview:  A weekend event in Chinatown, near Union Station in Downtown LA, the Firecracker events include bike rides of varying distances on Saturday and 5K, 10K and kids' races on Sunday. Firecracker commemorates the Lunar New Year, and has been a community event for more than 30 years.

When: February 23, 2014 (road races; the bike rides were on the 22nd).

Chinatown, starting about a block and a half from the Gold Line station. The course wound up into the hills around Dodgers Stadium.

Course access: This was a great race for mass transit users, since the Gold Line train stopped about a block away from the course start and finish. It was also a short walk from Union Station with its myriad transit services.

Why: The race funds numerous community events and programs in the Chinatown area.

Number of Participants: 2725 finishers in the 5K; 2389 in the 10K.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on either Saturday or Sunday; on Saturday it came with a little box of noodles.

PPU was one of my major gripes with this race. The tables were in the start corral, which meant that they were hard to see and difficult to access. The people waiting for their packets and t-shirts had to contend with people waiting to start the race, and vice versa. When the race started, this became even more of an issue: runners would walk or jog toward the start line, only to hit walls of people waiting for their packets or simply watching the race.

Course: This is perhaps one of the most difficult 5K courses one will encounter: it's almost all hills, and steep ones, at that. Nailing this race does provide a huge sense of accomplishment! There were Taiko drummers toward the start.

Post-Race: Runners were directed into a controlled area post- race for food and beverages. I really liked the way they did this: volunteers handed out the food (so there was no opportunity for people to snitch extras) as you walked down a chute, and they checked to make sure you had a bib before allowing you into the area. This apparently was in response to complaints from last year that non-runners basically pirated all the post-race food, leaving nothing for those who had actually done the race.

Chip timing: Yes, with chips on the bib, by Racewire. Racewire emails your results almost as soon as you cross the finish line - they really rock.

Shirt: A lovely white tech shirt with a design for the Lunar New Year of the Horse. However, the sizing on these shirts was way off, and what was listed as a "women's shirt" was quite literally the size of a 10 year old's garment.

Swag: A really nice backpack with an interior pocket and handles, some snacks and small samples (including Tiger Balm!), and an awesome medal with the Year of the Horse on one side and the Firecracker Run logo on the other.

Expo: Small, but had some nice booths from Maharashi Rice, Metro, and a few others.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!

Overview:  A night race through Downtown Los Angeles, the New Year's Race featured a half-marathon, a 5K, and various children's races. Presented by Jive Live, who also put on the Venice Christmas Run and the LA Marathon, this was a well designed, enjoyable event with dedicated, friendly volunteers. Participants had a rare opportunity to run through the streets of DTLA without cars.

What is also impressive about this race: last year there were complaints on Facebook about various aspects of the race...and the race directors listened. This year's event was sleeker, more organized and better! Way to go, guys!

When: January 4, 2014.

Downtown Los Angeles, starting at 7th and Grand and ending at Pico and 11th, by the L.A. Live complex and the Staples Center.

Course access: Downtown L.A. is probably the best-connected area in the city, and public transportation was a breeze. The buses were re-routed due to the street closures, but the trains, which run underground at that point, were absolutely fine. The course start was right by the 7th Street Metro Center station for the Expo and Blue line trains; the finish line was a five minute walk to the Pico station (again, Expo and Blue lines). I heard through the grapevine that traffic was a nightmare for those who chose to come by car.

Why: Officially, none, but A Place Called Home had some involvement with the race.

Number of Participants: About 1350 in the 5K; about 4500 in the half-marathon.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was at the Expo at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. The RDs extended the Expo hours from 2013 and the race also started earlier, but there were still two hours or so to kill between the close of the Expo and race time.

Course: The 5K went through Downtown LA, mostly along Broadway (near the historic cinemas). Many of the historic theaters on Broadway, including the Los Angeles, were all lit up. The 5K course this year differed in that runners stayed on Broadway for a longer stretch, instead of veering off down abandoned streets. The race finish was also closer to the Pico Metro station. I greatly preferred that, yes I did.

In response to last year's complaints there were also many, many signs advising 5K runners as to their turnaround point.

Chip timing: Yes, by Gemini, with a chronotrack tag on the bib.

Shirt: 5Kers received a nice tech shirt. I liked it a lot, except for the fact that the tech fabric, combined with the white color, make it very see-through. I preferred the black shirt in 2013. Maybe they will use alternate colors on alternate years?

Swag: A backpack. Unfortunately it wasn't as nice as last year's, since it just had a hashtag on it. Runners also received a reusable glow bracelet. Unfortunately there was nothing else in the bag; the race was using those useless and annoying "virtual gift bags." The medal was lovely, however, and had a touching tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing victims.

Expo: At the Millennium Biltmore. It was fairly small, and they did have vendors selling glow items this year. However, it was also very heavy on the timeshare/vacation club folks, and they tend to be very aggressive. I didn't enjoy the Expo.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!
Overview: The L.A. Cancer Challenge is a huge, albeit consistently friendly and fun, race.

When: October 27, 2013

Where: The Veterans Administration grounds near Westwood and Wilshire (West Side).

Course access: the VA grounds are very easy to access. The Big Blue Bus 2, 3 and 4 stop on or near the VA on Wilshire and Bonsall; so do Metro 20 and Metro Rapid 720. It's only a five minute walk or so from the bus stop to the start/finish line.

Why: LA Cancer Challenge raises money for the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was at the VA the day before the race, or on race morning. Everyone was friendly and they seemed to have the bib and T-shirt pickup stations organized well.

However, the race this year had some serious crowding issues. Some of the lawns were blocked off and there were a lot of bottlenecks. It was extremely tough to get through the throng to the start line. The course also seemed a lot more crowded, too, and remained as such all the way through.

Course: Winding loop around the VA grounds. There were some interesting old buildings; otherwise, it was leafy, cool and pleasant. The course had one stop for traffic; otherwise, it was clear all the way through. There were a few hills, a lot of curves and some stretches of flat, open road. A band played near Mile 3.

Post-Race: My gripe with the post-race is the same with the pre-race...the crowding. It was almost impossible to get through the crowds by the finish line.

Runners: About 2000 in the 5K.

Chip timing: Yes, with a chronotrack tag on the bib.

Shirt: Unisex purple cotton shirts; very pretty.

Swag: Reusable bags filled with goodies; a finisher medal with a smiling pumpkin. Very cute.

Expo: Small, but had some great booths, including Coca-Cola and Yelp.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.
There's been a lot said online about women's shirts for conventions and races. I'd like to chime in on that.

Not every woman likes to wear, work out in, or walk in form-fitting clothes. I personally like things that are on the loose side, and I will happily wear unisex shirts. I personally cringe whenever I hear that a race will be offering "women's cut" shirts, because I know it's probably going to mean that I'm going to be making a trip to the T-Shirt Exchange booth. I just don't fit them.

One of the issues with "women's cut" shirts is that they aren't actually cut to fit, well, a lot of women. I am not going to get into the "real women have curves" cliche because "real women" come in all shapes and sizes, but the point remains that many of us have passed puberty and do have breasts, hips and buttocks. A lot of women's cut shirts are way too small to allow them. They typically cling to the bust area, cut into the arms because they're too tight across the chest, ride up around the hips, and generally look ghastly and unflattering. It's not about weight as much as it's about the way the t-shirt is cut, and the fact that the garment isn't made to accommodate the chest or hip areas. It's like trying to put on a pair of jeans that aren't designed for humans with butts, or shoes that aren't made for people with toes. I suppose the logic is that women are naturally shorter and weigh less than men. Well, yes, statistically, but they also usually have larger chest and hip measurements than men, and their clothes need to reflect that.

Sizing is all over the place, too, so when you see one of these "women's cut" shirts at a race you have no idea what you're in for. What usually is clear, though, is that if it's for the ladies it will be smaller than the men's stuff.

Both of these shirts (2012 LA Big 5K unisex and 2012 Rose Bowl 5K) are marked "Large."

These two are marked XL (2013 LA Marathon official merch and Firefly Run 2013).

So are these (LA Cancer Challenge Ladies' shirt 2012; LACC unisex shirt 2013).

Here's the XL LACC shirt next to the L Rose Bowl shirt. Both are "women's cut." The Rose Bowl shirt is supposedly one size smaller, but is larger.

Confused yet?

What you can see pretty clearly in these photos is that the "women's shirts" are far smaller than the men's or unisex shirts in their respective sizes. This isn't uncommon. One article about this gave an example of how women's cut shirts do not actually accommodate larger chest measurements.

ThinkGeek's sizing info as an example: men's tshirts are sized from 36" chest measurement (size S) to 56" chest measurement (size XXXL). Women's tshirts are sized from 32" (S) to 42" (2X). The largest available women's size has a chest measurement between men's M (40") and L (44"). A woman whose bust measurement (including her breasts, which obviously protrude to an extent not seen on cis men) is equivalent to a men's XL (48") will find that a woman's 2X is 6" too small for her.

In case you're curious, the average bra size in the United States is now a 34DD - which aint' gonna fit into a shirt that only accommodates a 42" chest size.

The only company I've ever found that makes "women's cut" shirts that actually accommodate breasts and hips is Old Navy. Old Navy's shirts actually fit over the chest and hip area and are flattering. Here's an Old Navy XL shirt next to the XL LACC 2012 shirt. That orange shirt is not at all baggy, mind you. It simply fits well, it's neither too tight nor too loose, and it provides ample room in the bust and hip departments.

This is a dilemma that isn't going to go away. Every race and event orders their shirts from different vendors, and there are many variables involved there - distance, price, ability of the vendor to meet the race's needs. However, I'd put in a desperate plea for race directors to truly look at the sizing when they order "women's cut" shirts, to allow female runners and walkers to choose whether they want a women's cut or  unisex shirt and to respect that their racers come in all shapes and sizes.

Overview: Kickin' Cancer is a smaller-scale community 5K run/walk benefiting the Lynne Cohen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research.

When: September 29, 2013.

Where: San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, adjacent to the West LA Veterans complex, near Santa Monica.

Course Access: Since San Vicente was closed off for the race, the nearest access to public transportation, from what I saw, was on nearby Wilshire Boulevard. The Big Blue Bus #1 and #3 stopped there, as did Metro #20 and #720. From there it was about a 15 minute walk to the course.

Pre-Race: Packet pickup was available on Saturday the 28th at the nearby Frontrunners store, but was also available on race day. There were no issues. The Expo was already in full swing before the race and many took advantage of it.

Course: Out and back on San Vicente. The course was totally flat and very nice; the scenery wasn't much (just the local houses and businesses). The course included two water stops - three, counting the nice folks from Brentwood Whole Foods who handed out bottles of water and snacks to runners and walkers! :)

Post-Race: My one beef with this race: it was billed as a "walk/run" and there were tons and tons of walkers. When I finished there were hundreds of people behind me. Why, then, was all the post-race food and drink already picked (nearly) clean? Before the race we saw that there was a huge spread with Gatorade, energy bars, and more. After the race only a few things were left. Either they didn't have enough, or they allowed the early finishers to take more than one of each item. Either way, it resulted in a lot of runners and walkers sadly walking around the concessions table trying to find the bottles of water left in the ice buckets and the few food items left.

Also, the folks at the photo station were kind of rude- and never sent me my photo. Boo.

Chip Timing: None. There were overall awards for men and women (three deep), based on the gun time. There were mile markers and a clock at the finish line.

Shirt: A lovely teal shirt.

Swag: None. The race used one of those miserable, totally useless "virtual gift bags." Honestly, folks, just don't offer a gift bag. These virtual bags are nothing but crap and nobody likes them.

Expo: The expo made up for the lack of goodie bags: there were lots of freebies from L.A. Galaxy, Ralph's, USC, and others.

Would I Run This Race Again: Sure. It didn't' knock my socks off but it was a nice course and pleasant experience.

Overview: The Disneyland 5K is the kick-off event for Disneyland Half-Marathon Weekend. This year's race was themed to Alice in Wonderland.

If you're curious about Disney races, you want to try a 5K for the first time or you simply love Disneyland, there isn't a better option than the Disneyland 5K. It's billed as a "fun run," is untimed, and is very low-key.

When: August 31, 2013. The race started at 5:30 am.

Where: The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Orange County.

Why: Well...I didn't see any beneficiaries listed on the RunDisney website for this race.

Course Access: There's a lot of mass transit to Disneyland (the OCTA bus 43, Metro 460, etc.) but unfortunately none of it is going to get you to Disneyland at 5:30 am (and runners were asked to be in the corral by 5). The only way to work this was to drive or to come in the night before and stay over.
Pre-Race: The packet pickup was at the Expo at the Disneyland hotel. Unfortunately, you had to do this on Friday, since there was no day-of packet pickup.

The Expo was a bit of a diaster this year. About 10,000 runners from the 5K , 10K and Kids' Races needed to pick up their bibs and t-shirts on Friday, and by some reports, lines were as long as three hours. In addition, there was disappointment when race-related Disney merchandise sold out by the end of the day on Friday - only to appear promptly on eBay. It appears that many eBayers and other secondary market sellers hit up the Expo and got to the merch before the runners did.

The pre-race festivities on race morning included a DJ and commentary from the White Rabbit. It was a very hot day and Disney ensured that water was available before the run.

Course: The course began near the Mickey and Friends parking structure, went backstge and then onstage at Disney California Adventure, crossed the esplanade, went down Main Street and near the Castle in Disneyland, wove through Disneyland and Downtown Disney, and made its way to the Disneyland Hotel.

The course itself was almost entirely flat, but had a lot of corners and winding paths. There were announcements made over the PA to warn runners any time the course changed directions or narrowed.

What made the course special this year were the spectators at Downtown Disney (including the famous and beloved Peggy, who shows up to every race on both coasts to cheer on the runners!), the cast members who lined the course to cheer the runners on, and the large number of character photo ops.

Runners: At a Disney 5K you will find runners who run the gamut from serious athletes (some use the 5K as a warmup for the half-marathon) to first-time participants. Some wore costumes; some didn't. The course was so crowded that it was more of a power walk than a race, but almost everyone was polite. After the serious runners broke away at the beginning of the first wave, most people just meandered along.

Chip Timing: None. This was strictly a fun run.Technically, a 16-minute mile pace was required, whether you were running or walking. However, given the huge numbers of people at the race, given that the pace requirement didn't start until the last runner had crossed the start line, and given that the last wave started almost a half hour after the first, I think that one would have needed to fall way, way behind to get swept. I wouldn't have pushed it, though...getting swept from a race at the Happiest Place on Earth would have been a bummer, to say the very least.

Shirt: A lovely baby-blue t-shirt with an Alice in Wonderland theme.

Swag: Everyone received a gorgeous finisher medal: a full color vinyl medallion made to look like a pocket watch on a blue satin ribbon with the race name and date. Some people complained because the Disney 5K races get these vinyl "medallions" instead of medals made out of metal, but I was not in that camp. I thought the medallion was beautiful, well crafted and a wonderful finishing prize.

Disney unfortunately uses those useless "virtual gift bags" so the only thing in the gear check sack was a Clif bar.

Post-Race: The post-race process was very organized - I wouldn't expect less from Disney. Runners were given water, Powerade, bananas and a cardboard lunch box filled with a variety of snacks. Some people kvetched about the boxes; I personally liked them.

Would I Do This Race Again: YES!

OC Fair 5K

Aug. 28th, 2013 10:56 pm
Overview: The OC Fair 5K is a fun run through the fairgrounds.

When: August 4, 2013.

Where: The O.C. Fair, located in Costa Mesa, Orange County.

Why:  I don't think this race benefitted anyone but the O.C. Fair or the O.C. Marathon. I could be wrong, though.

Course access: It's Orange County, and mass transit isn't really their bag. The transit that is provided for the fair doesn't run in the mornings, either. While a few OCTA buses run through the area, for the most part, if you didn't have a car, have a friend with a car or stay in the area, you were SOL with this one.

Number of Participants: 1676 recorded finishers.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on race morning, and was quick and painless. More bathrooms for the runners would have been nice - not all of the bathrooms were unlocked.

Runners: More serious runners than I anticipated, but a lot of folks who were truly there for a fun run.

Course: The course started in the parking lot, but most of the race took place inside the OC Fair. It's a very different experience to see the fair when it's completely deserted. The highlights of the race were several "Detours to Fun." Runners could play two midway games, go on the giant EuroSlide and take a photo onstage at the Pacific Amphitheater - all for free.

There was a 1:30 time limit on the course, which seems like a lot - but when you're stopping for 15 - 30 minutes for each detour (there wasn't any line for the EuroSlide; there was a VERY long one for the Pacific Amphitheater)  that adds up. Late runners discovered that there wasn't any water for them at the finish line.

Chip Timing: Yes, with a shoe tag that was yours to keep.

Shirt: A very soft, distressed blue t-shirt without any advertising logos. I didn't like the cartoon on the back that slammed overweight people, which will mean that this otherwise lovely shirt will be relegated to the pajama drawer unless I can find a way to doctor it out. No, it's not about being "politically correct." It's about having respect for ALL people, including those who are heavy.

Swag: A very nice, very heavy medal on a beautiful satin ribbon. The goodie bag contained a free ticket to the O.C. Fair, some samples of sports gels and Advil, and a lot of snacks. I was very excited that several of the snacks were soy-free, so I could actually eat them.

Expo: Small, but included some nice stuff, like free Hubert's Lemonade.

Would I Run this Race Again?

Children and 5Ks: are they a good match?

As far as I am concerned, the answer is yes - as long as they are ready to play in the big people's race. Physical activity is good for kids. Learning to be persistent, follow through and finish the race can be powerful lessons for children. There's always that sense of accomplishment when they cross the finish line, and if they're doing a race that hands out finisher medals, it's likely that they will treasure theirs.

However, unfortunately, all too many parents let their kids into 5 and 10Ks without ensuring that they're ready and able to handle it. Doing an organized race isn't the same as taking a walk through your neighborhood or running on your own. You're co-existing with a lot of other runners, and it's important to understand how to do that. 

Kids who are poorly behaved at races can really ruin the experience. There's one race in particular I am thinking of - Race for Success- that I will absolutely never do again, because the kids on the course made it almost impossible to run.

1. If they can't mind their manners, keep them in the kids' race.

I can't count the number of times I've seen kids behaving completely rudely on race courses: weaving in and out of the other runners; pushing and shoving other people; trying to cut right in front of other runners; et al. These are generally kids old enough to know better, too.

These things are more than rude: they're dangerous to both your child and other runners. I can't count the number of times I've seen kids get stepped on or involved in collisions at races. You can't blame the runners; if a kid darts in front of them quickly and the course is crowded, they may or may not have the time or ability to stop or veer to the side. If they are, they might be risking injury. Nobody deserves an ACL tear because they had to quickly pivot to avoid your kid.

The bottom line is that if your kids can't understand basic manners, they don't belong in the adult race. There's no shame at all in letting your kid do the children's race instead.

2. You are responsible for your child. Not me. Keep them close to you and supervise them. You, as a parent or guardian, have full responsibility for your child. I, as a random stranger, do not, and should not. It's not my job to watch your kid. If you must take your 3 or 5 year old to an adult race, for God's sake, keep them under your control and don't let them wander alone through the throngs of runners. This will also help you with point #1.

3. Teach your kid how the race works. A lot of kids at races seem to think they have to get in front of everyone. They don't get that times are recorded individually, and they're not even in the same age category as the people they are trying to cut off. Letting your kid know that they are just competing against other children for their times and placement might help with points #1 and #2.

4. Know your kid and don't overwork him/her. Not every 5 or 7 year old is going to be up to doing a 5 or 10K race. That's exactly why they have the shorter distances at the kids' events.

5. Keep your kid away from the front-of-the-pack runners. No, I'm not one myself. However, in talking to friends, they have told me that it's very frustrating - and again, dangerous for all involved - when they're starting a race and trying to get themselves into a good pace, and they end up dodging all the kids who ignored the pacing signs and insisted on being at the very front of the line.

6. Your stroller is not a battering ram. Your stroller is there to transport your child. It is not there as a weapon to ram into other people's feet and shins. Don't tailgate other runners and you won't have to worry about this one. Also, when you're coming through a crowd in a stroller, it's polite to say "excuse me" instead of barging through the crowd, using your stroller to clear the way for you. The fact that you are a mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandparent doesn't mean that you can't be an asshole.

7. Consider getting your child involved with a running group. There are many on both the local and national levels. these clubs will give your child valuable race training, teach her/him the rules and etiquette they are expected to follow on the course, and get him/her involved in special races. Girls on the Run is a good one and is open to everyone; Students Run LA is another, and is geared toward at-risk kids. A lot of Ys and community centers also have road running or track clubs open to kids. 


Overview: The Firefly is a night race, with a "glow in the dark" sort of theme. It's one of a growing number of themed night races. Firefly wasn't just a gimmick, though: beyond the neon and day-glo, this was an organized, well done event.

When: May 31, 2013.

Where: The Home Depot Center in Carson, on the campus of Cal State - Dominguez Hills.

Why:  The race benefitted the American Red Cross.

Course access: A few Metro and Torrance Transit lines went to or near the Home Depot Center, and it was relatively close to the Artesia Transit Hub. However, by the time the race ended there wasn't very much transit available.

Number of Participants: About 5,000.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was on the day of the race. The one bummer was that pickup officially ended at 7:30 and the race did not begin until 8:30, so there was a lot of time to kill. There were food trucks, but they were expensive.

Another peeve would be that the kiosks were not clearly labeled - the t-shirt and bib pickup areas were separate, but there was nothing on the booths to indicate that.

Runners: Lots of serious runners; lots of non-serious runners; lots of walkers; lots of college kids just having fun. There were two waves, so the more serious runners had a chance to get ahead of the pack. Most people were dressed for the occasion: even if they didn't wear a costume, they'd decked themselves out in neon and glow accessories.

Course: Around the Home Depot Center and the campus. Runners went through the soccer stadium, which was illuminated, around the tennis stadium, and on the practice track/soccer field. There was great music, and many areas had innovative lighting. However, there was also an entire section that went along a very narrow dirt path with sprinklers. This area was a huge bottleneck.

Chip Timing: Optional. Prime Time handled chip timing, but it was $5 extra with registration, so many opted not to do it.

Shirt: A gray tech tee. I really liked the shirt a lot. For one thing, it wasn't splattered with advertising logos! In fact there weren't any sponsor logos on the shirt at all. :) 

Swag: Two bracelets with LED lights. The batteries on these are replaceable, and they will come in handy for anyone who walks or runs at night. Runners were also promised a glow in the dark finishers' bracelet, and these did not materialize - uncool, there.

Expo: None really to speak of.

Would I Run this Race Again?


Overview: One of the largest walks for women's cancer research and awareness, this event, held in both New York and Los Angeles, draws crowds in the 40,000 range. Despite the hordes of people, it's reasonably smoothly run, friendly, and enjoyable.

When: May 11, 2013.

Where: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, venue for the 1932 and 1984 Olympics.

Why: The walk raises money for the Entertainment Industry Foundation. The EIF is nearly 70 years old and funds major initiatives for cancer and diabetes treatment, awareness and research, among other projects. The Revlon Walk in particular supports initiatives for breast and ovarian cancer.

Course access: The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is served by numerous Metro bus lines, but a lot of them were on detour for the walk. The best way to access the course via mass transit was the Metro Expo line train, which ran without interruption.
Number of Participants: About 40,000. Yes, you read that correctly.

Pre-race: This year, the EIF sent out bibs about a month ahead of time to everyone who had pre-registered. There were several opportunities to pick up t-shirts and goody bags in advance, as well. I thought that this really simplified things. The registration and t-shirt pickup lines at the race were a zoo.

Runners: Women of all ages, shapes and sizes were well represented, as were cancer survivors. Men, families and older individuals and friends were also present. There were large contingents of fundraising and company groups, tribute groups, etc. While there are a handful of serious runners, this is really an event for walkers.

The course was very crowded and everyone moved at a leisurely pace. It was a day to have fun, not to try to beat the clock. This was sometimes problematic. There were bottlenecks at various areas, and the crowd came to a dead standstill upon entering the Olympic Stadium.

If you're thinking of running or racewalking this event, well, forget about it. If you're thinking of walking with a friend or relative who is not sure they can handle a 5K this is perfect, since there's no pressure to finish quickly and it's very non-intimidating.

Chip Timing: None. This was really a fun run/walk, with the majority of participants choosing to do the latter.

Shirt: A white shirt with red EIF/Revlon logo and lettering. The shirts for this race are always kind of bland but this year's was an improvement.

Swag: A goody bag with some coupons, an energy bar, a pink bracelet and a Revlon nail polish. Every finisher got a gold medal on a red ribbon. Now, being in the Olympic stadium and getting a gold medal...one could enjoy that. :) There were also special gifts for cancer survivors, including colorful hats at the start line, roses at the finish, and a photo tent.

Expo: Some health awareness companies, hospitals and cancer foundations came to the Revlon Walk, as well as some other fun and interesting vendors. What bothered me about the expo was that some companies were already packing it in by 8:30, before the race had even started.

Would I Run this Race Again?

Overview:If you've ever wanted to partake in the excitement of the Los Angeles Marathon--without actually doing those 26 miles--the LA Big 5K might be for you. This race, considered a warm-up for the Marathon, is run by the same organizers and uses the same start line. It is a shining example of how to piggyback a 5K on a larger event and make everyone happy. The organizers clearly did their best to make sure that the Big 5K was a singular, special race, rather than something that was just tacked on to the Marathon. For instance, the 5K had its own special logo and design scheme.

When: March 16, 2013

Where: Dodger Stadium

Why: I'm honestly not sure who the main charity was this year.  There were many official causes with whom runners could align themselves, ranging from Girls on the Run to the American Cancer Society to Kitten Rescue.

Course access: The Metro 2 and 4 buses stopped at Sunset and Innes, and from there it was about a 10 minute walk to the stadium. Like last year, they didn't have good signs directing people entering the stadium parking lots!
Number of Participants: 3602

Pre-race: Packet pickup was at the expo at the L.A. Convention Center. Runners were allowed to either pick up their packet on Friday at the Expo or on Saturday morning before the race. There were drink and food stations available before the race, as well.

Course: A loop around Elysian Park and back to Dodgers Stadium. There were a few challenging hills, a really beautiful lane lined with palm trees and a lot of wide open roads. The 5K used the same start line as the LA Marathon (just a day earlier!).

Runners: A very diverse group with lots of serious runners, families, young children, and novices. Some folks were there with fundraising teams and wore matching shirts. A lot of runners were using the 5K as a warmup for the Los Angeles Marathon the next day, so they were all business. Since the race was held the day before St. Patrick's Day, there were many people in green, including some who went whole hog with costumes, shamrock socks, leprechaun hats and bright wigs.

There were less dogs on the course this year, and I was grateful for that.

Chip timing: Yes, via chronotrack chip attached to the bib. They had mile markers but the only clock was at the finish line.

Shirt: Blue short-sleeved T-shirt with the race logo.

Swag: Finishers received a square medal on a blue ribbon. The medal was specifically designed for the 5K and had the LA Marathon logo on the bottom, indicated the latter's involvement with the former. There was also a swag bag at the finish line - this was  departure from last year, and a nice surprise. The bag included a baseball cap, a towel, some water, a special LA Big 5K bracelet, and a bottle of water.

Expo: The Marathon expo was fairly extensive, with vendors, photo op stations, food trucks and freebie distributors. However, some of the vendors could learn to be respectful to all guests. I attended the expo with a friend who was overweight - and totally "fit and fat" and a runner herself - and I was amazed by the way vendors treated her vs. the way they treated me. Some examples: 

a. The Long Beach marathon guy who not only ignored her but spoke over her head to the crowd.
b. The Smartfood vendors who happily gave me several bags of chips but gave her only one - with a scowl.
c. The numerous race reps who didn't even look up from their phones when she approached them.

Everyone deserves to have respect. Everyone, thin or fat, can be a runner. Being nasty to the heavy people does one thing: it makes you lose a customer. My friend was actually interested in the Long Beach marathon, but after being dissed by their rep, she decided to sign up for Rock N' Roll instead.
Would I Run This Race Again: Sure. Now that I've done the race twice I don't think I have an interest in repeating it, but it's a perfectly good course and a lot of fun.

Overview: Run for Her is a mega-event that supports ovarian cancer awareness and treatment. Unlike the EIF Revlon Walk or Komen, Run for Her is a homegrown Los Angeles affair that raises money specifically for a major LA hospital, Cedars Sinai. This endears me to Run for Her in a major way. It is efficiently organized, has a very friendly, laid-back vibe, and is extremely enjoyable.

When: November 11, 2012

Where: Pan Pacific Park, near the Grove.

Why: Run for Her raises money for Cedars-Sinai Women's Cancer Program at The Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute--specifically for ovarian cancer research, awareness and treatment.

Course Access: Metro buses that ran along or stopped near Fairfax and Beverly included the local 14, 217 and 218, the Rapid 780 and the DASH Fairfax. The DASH and the Metro local 16/316 also ran along 3rd St. at the bottom of Pan Pacific Park. The bottom line was that even with the street closures in place for the race, there was some accessible mass transit both before and after the event.

This honestly was exactly the same as last years' run - pleasant, overall. They had the Cedars-Sinai blood mobile and free flu shots available this year, as well as free massages and blood pressure screenings at the expo. Everyone got teal shirts - smart of them to eliminate the white ones that nobody really wanted.

The one thing that detracted from this year's run: the large amount of donation solicitations I began to receive from Cedars-Sinai. Look, I get it, you need donors. You figure that since I signed up for the race I am interested in helping your cause. Yes, it's true, but it doesn't mean I am ready or able to donate anything else to you other than the race fee/fundraising done for the race. Sending me letters every few weeks pleading with me to keep donating really doesn't inspire me to do so. I'd be reluctant to participate in this race again without an opt-out of marketing.


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