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.
Overview: The Yuletide 5K would have been fun...if they'd actually kept their word about the race features.

When: December 15, 2012.

Manhattan Beach Pier.

Course access: Since this started right by the Pier, it was only a block or so away from the Beach Cities Transit bus stop. BCT buses don't run that often, but they have the nicest drivers in the greater Los Angeles area.

Why: I don't think this race was a fundraiser for anything.

Number of Participants: About 750. This honestly seemed like a very cold, cliquish sort of race.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was either on Friday at the Village Runner in Manhattan Beach or before the race. It was fine.

Course: Out and back from the Pier, heading toward El Segundo.

This was billed as a "race by candlelight." The website said:
Run, walk, or baby jog along the sea by candlelight! Celebrate the holidays and the Winter Solstice at the most unusual running event in LA. The entire course will be lit by real LUMINARIAS under the stars to guide you. Bring the whole family, then stay and play at the many fine bars and restaurants in downtown Manhattan Beach. You won't find anything else like it!

The reality:
There wasn't a single light on the course. Not one. No luminarias, no lamps, no candlelight, nothing at all. Aside from the glow necklaces and the lights from the homes on the beach, it was extremely dark. They had volunteers shining flashlights on the mile markers. It wasn't pitch black, but it was pretty close. Where this became an issue was when runners started reaching the turnaround: you had people running straight at you, and you didn't really have a lot of ability to see them. Also, there were runners who had chosen to go barefoot (and the mb5k website encouraged that) and there really wasn't any way for them to see or avoid shells, crabs or debris on the beach.

I love night races, I really do. It's easier to race when you're not dealing with the heat of the sun, and the world is magical after dark. Night races can also be easier for those of us who take mass transit, since we're not faced with the prospect of catching a bus at 5am to make it to the course on time. However, night races do present one challenge that isn't there when the sun is up: you have to figure out how to illuminate the course. That's key. If it was too windy to put up the luminarias they should have had a contingency plan.

I enter races for one of two reasons: they support causes I like, and/or they offer experiences I can't have on my own. This did neither. Frankly, I could walk on the beach in complete darkness any night without paying a race entry fee.

Also, there wasn't any water station on the course. Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink, for real.

The only positive aspects of the course were the awesome volunteers at the halfway point who were giving everyone high-fives and trying to be super supportive.

Chip timing: Yes, with a chronotrack tag on the bib. The timing company was pretty amazing, I have to say: before I'd even arrived home after the race I had an email in my inbox with my time, pace and overall rank.

Shirt: A nice black t-shirt with an icy blue footprint.

Swag: A single-use glow necklace.

Expo: None.

Would I Run this Race Again: No.

Overview: The L.A. Cancer Challenge is a huge, albeit consistently friendly and fun, race.

When: October 28, 2012

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.

Number of Participants: 2259 in the 5K; 486 in the 10K.

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.

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.

Runners ran the gamut from serious runners to families with children who did a leisurely stroll through the course. Since the race was held just before Halloween, there were a lot of participants--both adults and children--who came in costume, but there were also a lot of folks dressed in regular running garb. In addition, there were also a lot of fundraising/memorial teams with banners who participated. Everyone was fairly laid back, and despite the huge crowds, politeness was the order of the day.

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

Shirt: Thin cotton men and women's cut t-shirts in a glorious shade of purple.
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Swag: Reusable bags filled with goodies; a finisher medal with a smiling pumpkin. Very cute.

Expo: Lots of freebies and fun activities from companies ranging from Coca-Cola to the LA Kings. The Expo seemed scaled down from last year, and it also seemed that a lot of booths packed up and finished before the end of the 5/10K. This year they offered free massages, which made up for some of that. :)

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes, hands-down.

When: September 23, 2012

Where: Near Sepulveda Boulevard and La Tijera Boulevard, a stone's throw from LAX.

Why: Alive & Running raises money for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, which runs a leading Suicide Prevention Center and hotline.

Course access: The start/finish area was close to Sepulveda and Manchester Avenue, where several major bus lines were represented. Big Blue Bus 3, Culver CityBus 6 and Metro locals 102 and 115 all stopped on the corner.
Number of Participants: 1400

Pre-race: Fast check-in, and the volunteers -- from schools in the area-- were much nicer and far more helpful than the ones from last year. They had several special memorials for victims of suicide, including a little rock/rose petal garden where you could write the names of loved ones.

Runners: Lots of families; lots of memorial teams; a nice mix of runners and walkers. This was a very walker-friendly race. The kids on the course seemed to have manners this year, which was nice.

Course: A flat, fast, out and back run parallel to LAX. Since the airport was literally right next door, there were up close and personal views of landing planes, but there weren't a lot of other things to see. Trees along the road offered welcome shade in some areas.

Chip timing: Yes, with shoe tags. There were clocks at the turnaround and finish.

Shirt: A baby blue t-shirt. I loved the color and the logo; I hated that a random person's photo was on the shirt. At first I thought it was Didi Hirsch herself, but no, it wasn't.
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Swag: Alive & Running bracelets.

Expo: Very small, but included free snow cones. One of the frustrating things was that many of the expo vendors had either packed up or run out of stuff by the time most people crossed the finish line.

Would I Do This Race Again? Maybe. It was nothing special; it was nothing awful. I was ambivalent about doing this race in 2012. It's a pretty run of the mill neighborhood race, but it does support a good cause and it's a nice course.

Overview: A shining example of how to run a large race. VfV is a fun, friendly and really well organized event!

On a personal note, it was really heartwarming to me to witness the turnout and supportive nature of the participants. Sexual abuse and rape are horrific experiences, there's a lot of victim-blaming out there, and it can all isolate a survivor. Seeing the community come together to not only acknowledge abuse but to actively support survivors, acknowledge their trauma and raise funds to help them, was inspiring and wonderful.

When: April 15, 2012.

Where: Lake Balboa Park in Encino in the San Fernando Valley.

Why: The event raises money for CATS, or the Center for Assault Treatment Services at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. It is the Valley and Santa Clarita's only 24/7 program for sexual abuse victims. CATS provides supportive services ranging from offering victim advocates at forensic examinations to counseling and other outreach activities.

Course Access: The race was a five-minute walk--if that--from the Woodley station on Metro's Orange Line Busway. Extra points: CATS mentioned this on their website's "directions" page! :)
Number of Participants: 1786 in total. There were 1225 participants in the 5K and 561 in the 10K. The announcer mentioned that the 2012 event broke previous attendance records.

Pre-race: VfV had a lot of tables set up for packet pickup. Here, again, were really good examples of how to troubleshoot and manage a huge race. The check-in was next to the help desk was next to the goodie bag/shirt pickup was next to the bag check. You could float from one table to the next in order, instead of wandering around, trying to find each thing you needed.

For some reason my bib was not there. No problem. They had me fill out a bubble scan sheet, they handed me a new bib and chip, and by the end of the race, they'd matched it up to my existing registration information and verified me. Smooth, painless and stress-free. A representative from Prime Time was waiting by the Finish Line to verify information. That, my friends, is how the pros handle problems...bravo CATS and Prime Time.

Another nice thing was that the Expo and the food tent were open before the race. This made it possible for us early risers and long commuters to get some nourishment before setting off on our run.

Runners: The runners and walkers were very diverse. Men, women, children; people with dogs (boooo. I am not in favor of dogs on race courses for various reasons), women with jogging strollers, hardcore runners, leisurely walkers. A fair majority of people were walking.

Course: This was perhaps one of the most picturesque courses I'd ever run. It wound around bucolic Lake Balboa park, so the scenery included the lake, waterfalls, a stream, ducks, and beautiful park.

My only issue with the course was that in a lot of places, it was way too narrow. There was at least one point where there was a significant bottleneck, and runners who were trying to do a competitive race ended up actually running in the mud to get around the walkers. Any time you needed to pass someone, you had to do that. This might be remedied in the future by making sure runners and fast walkers are in corrals at the front.

Chip Timing: Yes, with a standard shoe tag. At the end of the race they even had buckets you could stand on so a volunteer could cut your tag off for you. Mile markers were present; split times were not. There was a clock at the finish.

Shirt: A white shirt with the CATS logo and purple ribbon. A little cluttered, but cute. The CATS' logo is a child's drawing of a cat. For this event, they give the cat some red running shoes. Adorable.
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Swag: I was somewhat stunned--in a good way--by the amount of truly useful stuff I brought home from this race. There were two goody bags which included things ranging from a band-aid holder (still in my purse, and very handy) to a can of healthy cream soda a really high quality pair of gloves.

The race also offered a very cute finishers' medal with a border of bronze stars and a center with the sneakered CATS cat on a purple background. The purple medal ribbon can be detached from the medal for use as a lanyard, if desired.

Expo: The Expo was especially interesting because it included a lot of businesses and groups that were local to the Valley. Some had to do with counseling and other health services; some were food companies I'd never seen at any other race. Everest College, in Reseda, sent out an entire team of massage therapists to offer free table massages. And let me tell you, those MTs were good at what they did; in less than five minutes they'd worked out the kinks in my legs. In less than 15 I was feeling much more relaxed and pain free. There were tons and tons of freebies ranging from bracelets to orange juice. Panera, El Toro and Ben & Jerry's, among others, were on hand to give out free snacks.

Would I Run this Race Again? Yes, in a hot second. This was a fantastic event for a worthwhile cause. I am already looking forward to the 2013 race.
Overview: This race is a perfect example of how a wonderful idea can be marred by imperfect execution.

The 5K and 10K were the little sisters of the main event, the Hollywood Half Marathon. Both races started and ended at the same place; the 5K simply had an earlier turnaround point than the 10K.

The races were all billed as red-carpet events and opportunities to "run with the stars." The website even included a page of "etiquette for running with celebrities." I think anyone from L.A. probably saw this for what it was: a tongue-in-cheek, deliberately over the top stereotypical "Hollywood event." Would people from outside of L.A. see it the same way? Well, I don't know, but I would hope so. Then again, a lot of out of towners think this is what we do all the time, so who knows.

Unfortunately, the race suffered from that quintessential Hollywood ethos: all flash and no substance. Several things promised on the website/registration didn't pan out. For instance, the website stated:

travel in comfort to the post-race awards ceremony in a limo party bus shuttle with your fellow runners. Walk down a movie-premiere style red carpet and photo backdrop and celebrate your victory in style when receiving your beautiful Hollywood Star Medal.

The race instructions for the half-marathon said:

Star Medals will be handed out at the finish line. Age Division Awards and Prizes will be presented on the 5 Towers Stage at CityWalk.

and for the 5K/10K:

All participants will be given their medals at the finish line. There are no age specific or overall awards. Shuttles will not transport 5k / 10k runners to Universal Studios for breakfast. We recommend taking the Metro Red Line to Universal Studios.

Hmmmm. I also received word that the shuttles for the half-marathon shut down well before the race ended, leaving many runners with no option to get to the finish area, save to trek up a steep hill.

Even given the fact that it was an inaugural race, it seemed to be very poorly planned out. What's more, the race director seemed to ignore the numerous complaints and concerns that were posted to the event's very active Facebook page.
When: April 7, 2012

Where: Hollywood Boulevard, right by Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Why: The race benefited two charities for homeless youth: Los Angeles Youth Network and Covenant House. Additional beneficiaries iwere the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Gateway to a Cancer Cure and the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation.

Course access: The start/finish area was a stone's throw from the Metro Red Line subway's Hollywood & Highland station.
Number of Participants: 1136 in the 5K; 1302 in the 10K starting at the same time from the same start line

Pre-race: Packet-pickup was spectacularly inconvenient. There wasn't any race day pickup, so everyone had to go to the Expo, which was held at a hotel at Universal Studios in North Hollywood. The Expo ended at 7pm, too.

7pm? Really? In LA where a lot of people get out of work at 6, traffic can be bad, and Universal isn't exactly on the beaten path for many? Did the race directors expect people to take off work just to pick up their packets? In addition, there was the insane suggestion of dressing in Hollywood formal wear for the Expo. Dude, look. It's an Expo. Looking at kiosks for energy bars and racing apparel is fun, but it's not exactly a glamor-packed activity. People want to get their packets, get their samples and freebies, and take off. They're not there for cocktail hour. Fortunately, everyone at the Expo completely ignored this suggestion.

In addition, um, remember that Friday after work timing? Exactly. Not to mention, as someone pointed out on Facebook, that the packet pickup happened to be on both the first night of Passover and Good Friday. The Expo/packet pickup wasn't really thought out well, and it did sour me on the race before I even started.

With close to 10,000 people all going to Universal for their packet pickup--and most arriving after work--the traffic for the packet pickup snaked all the way down to Lankershim Avenue. Many reported waiting as long as 40 minutes to park. Additionally, since the parking at the Universal lots isn't cheap, many ended up paying $8 or more simply to pick up their packets. There was a table near the front where you could stamp a ticket for parking validation but it was not clearly marked or mentioned.

In addition, problems at the Expo were numerous. A number of people reported on Facebook that they had received the wrong chips. One man's bib was inadvertently given away to someone else; and they ran out of bibs. Since the registration for all events was capped, there was no excuse to run out of bibs.

Not only that, but the information about start times and locations was not clear. Instead of sending an email with the details written out, participants received a message saying "peep the link" (WTF?) with an URL to the website.

The race website crashed the night before the race. People had heard vague announcements about times/time changes at the Expo, and they were confused. The Facebook page was bombarded with questions. The RD's main response was to direct people to the existing link on the race website, despite the fact that numerous runners reported that the website had been down for at least seven hours. The RD wasn't answering questions so random runners were posting the information and maps they had. Perhaps they should have been paid as race directors too, because they were the only ones providing useful information.

Runners: A decent mix of serious runners and fun ones; with a heavy Gen-X and Y contingent. There were some young people in the race, but most of them seemed to be over at the kids' events being held elsewhere.

Course: A flat, fast, out and back run on Hollywood Boulevard. The race started directly in front of El Capitan Theater and the Hollywood & Highland Center; the turnaround was at Gramercy.

The course was marred by, you guessed it, problems. Most notably? They didn't have fluids for the runners. Why? They ran out of cups. Right. It was a perfect Southern California day, which meant that it was unbelievably sunny and hot. The runners needed water. Some desperate runners were drinking directly from the giant jugs that had been left out and unattended, which of course rendered them unusable for anyone else. Clif handed out drinks for a little while, but they were gone before most of the 10K and 5K runners reached them.

The lanes for runners/walkers were poorly indicated. After the turnaround, my friends and I had the unfortunate experience of being shouted at by a volunteer when we were in the wrong lane. There was nothing marking any lane, so we had no idea where we were or why we shouldn't have been there.

There was a notable absence of staff and volunteers on the course. The only one who was pleasant was the announcer at the end, who was doing his very best to be supportive of all the runners.

Chip timing: Yes, with shoe tags. Runners were allowed to keep their chips, in a departure from usual race procedure. There weren't any mile markers or split times for 5K or 10K runners. There was, however, a clock at the finish line.

Shirt: A white t-shirt with a red and yellow star/red carpet logo. It wasn't that impressive. Runners were offered the chance to upgrade to technical shirts for a $20 fee, but I later heard that the shirts were being give out for free. I wish I'd known that; I would have liked a technical one. The techs still had the homely logo, but they also had nice red or yellow sleeves and detailing.
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Swag: A goodie bag was promised: we got the bags, which were cheap drawstring backpacks in either black or white--but there weren't any goodies in them. The timing chip was yours to keep, as mentioned above. The race director did email everyone a link to a "virtual race bag," but it was mostly a collection of the same coupons you could find in any tourist magazine. The only exception was a free ticket to Madame Tussauds. That was a nice surprise.

The medal was billed as the big ticket item, and it lived up to the hype. It was a gorgeous, heavy replica of the pink stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on a black ribbon. The medal was the one thing this race did 100% right.

Expo: Small, crowded, and without a lot of freebies.

Would I Do This Race Again? No. Absolutely not. There were simply too many problems. The race director did apologize for some of the mistakes, but others were totally ignored and overlooked. It wasn't well planned and it wasn't well organized.

In addition, the excuses that were made for the failures were pretty flimsy. It was the first year's event? Why yes, it was. There are a lot of other huge races in Los Angeles, including some that go through the same route. Just by observing these and asking questions, one could learn a lot about how to operate a Hollywood race. The race director and his wife were having a baby? Well, you know, a lot of people do that. If it was such a big deal, perhaps the date of the race should have been changed.

Some things, such as the lack of water and the chip mix-ups, were inexcusable. That's basic racing 101. In the case of the water, it wasn't just an inconvenience; it is extremely dangerous for runners to become dehydrated.

Could I do better, if I were planning a race? Well, on those two points, I think I could.

I have the feeling that the RD bit off more than he could chew with this event. Instead of doing a full out, four-race extravaganza, maybe he should have tested the waters with a 5/10 first.

And here's the issue with "trial and error" at races: you end up putting the runners' health at risk. Really. You risk having runners with heat stroke, dehydration, and other issues. That's not okay.

At any rate, the race left me feeling frustrated. I'm not in any hurry to do it again, and that's a shame, because it could have been brilliant.

Overview: The Never Land 5K, a night race through the theme park, was the first event in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland, operated by RunDisney. It was an exciting, whimsical event, with typical Disney "magical moments."

The one major drawback to this race was the price: at $100, the Never Land 5K was more expensive than many half-marathons. It was also double the price of the Disneyland Family 5K, held in September. The reason for this was likely to be the "Twilight Ticket" that was included with the registration, which allowed admission to one Disney theme park after 4pm during the Half-Marathon weekend. I'd seen complaints about this online: for Annual Passport holders, the Twilight Ticket was a bit of a waste. I also have an AP, so in 2013, I'd appreciate it if the Twilight Ticket was optional.

When: January 27, 2012. This was a night race, and the first wave started at 10:30 pm.

Where: The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Orange County.

Why: Disneyland's races benefit the Anaheim Community Foundation, which helps families, seniors, children and and adults with many issues; and the City of Anaheim. I really liked that the beneficiaries of the 5K were local residents.

Course access: The race was held at Disneyland, so it was accessible by Metro bus 460, the Disneyland Express from LAX, OCTA bus 43, various shuttles and more. After the race, transportation was a problem. The last 460 bus of the evening went back to Downtown LA at about 12:20, but some of the connecting buses and trains shut down before then. The Disneyland Express stopped running at 10:30. During the other events of the Half-Marathon weekend, Disney offered free shuttles to and from various pickup points at hotels around Anaheim.
Pre-race: The packet pickup was at the Expo at the Disneyland hotel. Fortunately, one could go to the Expo on the same night as the race, so two separate trips to Disneyland were not required.

Disney's pre-race festivities included an appearance by Tinker Bell, who flew over the Castle. Fireworks were also on the schedule, but had to be cancelled due to high winds.

There were several corrals/waves, which were self-assigned. Each wave was treated royally, with confetti canons and a special sendoff from the Emcee.

Course: The course started in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle, wound through most of Disneyland, crossed over to California Adventure, and ended at Paradise Pier. There were several forays backstage, through areas that are normally verboten to visitors. There were also photo ops with Disney characters, floats from the Soundsational parade, and whimsical mile markers. It would have been very tempting to just meander through the course and spend a few hours taking pictures! At the end of the race, Paradise Pier was awash in color.

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.

Runners: The Tinker Bell races were geared toward female runners, and women of all ages, shapes and sizes were well represented. There were also men of both serious and casual running styles, families, and older people. Many runners of both genders opted to wear costumes. It went without saying that there were numerous runners dressed as Tinker Bell or Peter Pan. There were also many who chose to wear costume pieces, such as glittery wings and tutus. Many children participated, but not as many as I expected. I'm guessing that this was due to the late hour, the price, and the fact that Disney also held a full contingent of (much less expensive!) Kids' Races later that weekend.

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. RunDisney did give split times, however, so you could check your own pace. 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: White short-sleeved T-shirt with the Never Land 5K logo in vibrant color.
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Swag: Everyone received a gorgeous finisher medal: a full color vinyl medallion on a midnight-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.

I also want to mention the bib, which was a work of art in itself: the same midnight blue with stars and personalization. For the goody bags: there wasn't much, in all honesty. There was a big race program, but the GEAR bag only included an energy bar. About two weeks before the race Disney sent a link to an "online i-gift bag" with promotional offers; this would seem to be the wave of the future.
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Expo: Lots of vendors offered running gear, from shoes to iPod holders, and reasonable prices. There were also free lectures throughout the weekend with RunDisney experts, including Olympian Jeff Galloway.

Would I Do this Race Again: Yes. Without question.

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 17, 2012

Where: Dodger Stadium

Why: The L.A. Marathon's official charities in 2012 were ThinkCure! which fosters innovative cancer research, and Students Run L.A., an empowerment and running program for at-risk middle and high school students in Los Angeles. The Marathon also had many official charities, ranging from Girls on the Run to the American Cancer Society to Kitten Rescue. Runners were allowed to join these charities' official teams to fundraise for them.

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. They did not have good signs directing people to the packet pickup or expo, and a number of us ended up wandering around the stadium for considerable periods of time, trying to figure out where to go.
Number of Participants: 2650

Pre-race: Packet pickup was at Dodger Stadium--not the most convenient place to access--so I opted to collect my bib and chip on the morning of the race. Lines were long, but seemed to be moving. Food and drinks were available both before and after the race, so runners could grab some water or a banana before they started.

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. Since it was raining there wasn't much to see, but on a sunny day, I'd guess that this would be a lovely course with nice views.

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 on 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.

Everyone was fairly polite and easygoing, with a few exceptions. For instance, at the start line, I was standing near a woman with a dog. Since I'm allergic to dogs, I moved. She moved next to me again. I moved again. So did she. I finally ended up walking all the way to the other side of the path to get away from her (I got further toward the front, so perhaps I should have thanked her).

Chip timing: Yes, via chronotrack chip attached to the bib. They did have split times, but due to the rain, the clocks at miles 2 and 3 were covered up when I passed them. The one at the finish line was running.

Shirt: Grey short-sleeved T-shirt. Very thin fabric, but nicely designed.
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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 weren't any goody bags, but I picked up an LA Marathon bracelet from Big 5 Sports at the Expo.

Expo: The Marathon expo was fairly extensive, with vendors, photo op stations, food trucks and freebie distributors. Due to the rain, it was fairly empty. I loved the table which offered free gourmet cupcakes. 5K runners could go into the packet pickup area for the Marathon and take pictures with the Marathon photo ops, pick up a Marathon program, buy gear and escape the rain.

Would I Do this Race Again? Yes. I just hope it's not raining next time.
Oveview: The Rose Bowl 5K would have been lovely, but it was overshadowed by a lot of logistical and organizational issues. Hopefully they can clean these up in future years.

When: January 22, 2012

Where: the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena.

Course access: They run shuttles to the Rose Bowl for games...but not for races, apparently. Pasadena Transit doesn't run in the mornings, either. The closest bus was the 267 on Lincoln and Orange Grove. To get to the race I ended up taking the Gold Line to Memorial Park and then grabbing a taxi for about $12.
Number of Participants: 309 in the 5K; 330 in the 10K; 716 in the half-marathon (all sharing the same facilities)

Pre-race: NO NO NO. They had the most disorganized, inefficient setup I'd ever seen at a race. Packet pickup took close to an hour. The volunteers who were working in the booth seemed to be a bit clueless--some weren't handing out goody bags; some neglected to tell the racers where they'd stashed the timing chips; some were mumbling and contradicting themselves.

There was a kerfluffle with the T-shirts, too: they ran out of certain sizes, and then the shirts altogether, in the booth. All they could offer me was a small, and with my Dolly Parton build, that wasn't going to work. I asked if they had men's shirts. They didn't. They offered to send me a shirt later, but given the gross incompetency I'd seen, I wasn't sure I trusted them to actually do it. I took the small shirt, figured I could give it away, and moved on.

Just to the left of the booth was a table with a stack of shirts, both men's and women's, in various sizes. Why exactly didn't they have these shirts in the booth? It will forever be a mystery. At any rate, I was able to exchange my small shirt for a larger size on the spot.

Course: Around the Rose Bowl, in a loop. Flat and fast, for the most part. However, the race organizers did absolutely nothing to keep the course clear of non-registered runners. As a result, runners had to dodge joggers with dogs, random people dipping in and out of the course, and at one point, an asshat running backward.

The race did not have a gun start or any sort of countdown: when people started moving across the start line, a lot of runners were bewildered and taken off-guard.

The saving graces of the Rose Bowl 5K were the finish, which took runners right into the stadium and onto the football field; and the other participants. The 5K, 10K and Half-Marathon shared the same finish line, and the announcer did a great job of congratulating everyone as they came in. There was a lot of support: as runners went through the chute at the end of the race, those who had already finished shouted encouraging words and cheered for them. I was buoyed up by a man who yelled "FINISH STRONG!" Runners were allowed to sit in the Rose Bowl seats, walk across the field and take photos, all of which were really cool.

Runners: A very diverse cross-section of adults and youth. There was a lot of camaraderie and there were also a lot of runners who stood around complaining and commiserating with each other. They cheered for random strangers at the finish line!

Shirt: The shirt was just gorgeous. It was the prettiest one I've ever received at a race: a shiny, technical short sleeved shirt in a women's cut in a very dark maroon color. Additionally, the back had the Rose Bowl and Pacific Sports emblems, and that was it. It was nice to get a shirt that did not have a zillion and one advertising logos plastered across the back. I know they're necessary to fund the races, but it was still nice to get a respite from them. Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Swag: A gift bag with some coupons and energy bars. They had a very pretty Half-Marathon medal but nothing for the 5K. *shrug* They didn't advertise a medal, so no worries there.

Expo: Very, very small.

Would I Run This Race Again? No...not for a little while, anyway. The disorganization at the start, plus the issues on the course, really detracted from the race. However, I'm hopefully going to check in with this event again in a few years to see if things have improved. Once everything is in order, the Rose Bowl 5K is going to rock.

Note: my review of the Rose Bowl 5K was also posted on Race Grader in an edited form.

Karhu 5K

Mar. 25th, 2012 08:34 pm
Overview: The Karhu 5K was the sister race to the 13.1 Los Angeles half-marathon. It seemed that the race organizers treated the 5K as an afterthought, and it showed.

One of my major issues with this race was the lack of transparency and the inaccurate information. Changing the location to another zip code, and moving it from a busy municipal area to the hinterlands, really is a big deal. Runners often choose the race based on what they know about the course and their ability to get to the start line, after all.

My registration from showed that the race was happening in Venice, going from the boardwalk to Windward Cicle. It wasn't. They showed really flashy medals on their website, but the 5Ks didn't get them. They didn't even have a chip mat at the start line. The indifference was apparent from start to finish.

When: January 15, 2012

Where: Dockweiler Beach, Playa del Rey

Course access: HA HA HA. Sorry, that was funny. The race was originally billed as being in Venice, which would have been easy to access. It was actually at Dockweiler Beach in El Segundo/Playa del Rey. There are exactly 0 buses that go to Dockweiler or anywhere within walking distance. I ended up taking a cab to the entrance and then walking a mile and a half to the start. There weren't any signs directing participants from either the path or the parking lot; I walked uneasily in the dark and looked for a crowd.

The race ended near Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey. The Metro 115 ran there, but it was detoured significantly due to the race.
Number of Participants: 331

Pre-race: Packet pick-up was at an Equinox gym in Marina del Rey. Everything ran smoothly.

Course: Parallel to the ocean, from Dockweiler State Beach to Playa del Rey. The course looped by a sewage treatment plant at one point...ugh! Other than that, it was flat, fast and had gorgeous views of the Pacific.

Runners seemed to be mostly adults, but there was a diversity of ages, shapes and colors. Everyone seemed fairly subdued, and I had to wonder if they were annoyed about the race conditions too.

Chip timing: Yes, with a Chrono-track chip that was attached to the bib. However they did not have chip mats at the start line, which meant that finish times were by the clock, and therefore inaccurate. In addition, they had neither split times nor a clock at the end for 5K finishers.

Shirt: Yuck. It was a standard white T-shirt with an aqua "move and groove" logo. I never saw anything with the logo or slogan anywhere else on the course or website, so it seemed to be something they'd thrown in at the last minute.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Swag: None, except for a coupon for a free beer. After a race like that, a drink wasn't a bad idea. Despite advertising a very cool medal all over their website, nothing was given to 5K finishers.

Expo: So-so. The one shining asset was the kiosk where they were giving out free massages. There were a few interesting exhibitors, but there wasn't a huge variety. There were a few food trucks, and there was also a special private tent for runners who had trained with a specific charity team.

Would I Run this Race Again: Not in a million years.

Note: my review of the Karhu 5K was also posted on Race Grader in an edited form.


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