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.
April 7, 2012Where:
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 linePre-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.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.