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.
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?
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:  A 5/10K race through downtown Santa Monica, parallel to the ocean. This was the first West Coast run for Live Ultimate, who are developing a series of races after successful events in Florida.

The race was well designed, well executed and for the most part, a fun event.

When:  February 10, 2013.

Where: Santa Monica. The race began on Barnard Way right near the beach at Ocean Park and ended next to the Santa Monica Pier.

Course access: Santa Monica is very well connected. The race start was a short walk from several Big Blue Bus lines, including the 3. The finish line and festival were right in the heart of Santa Monica and near numerous buses, including most of the Big Blue Bus lines and several key Metro buses to Downtown LA and the Pacific Palisades, including the 534, 704 and 733.

Why: The race benefited the No Kid Hungry initiative to end child hunger.

Number of Participants: About 1800, pretty evenly split between the 5K and 10K.

Course: A flat run through Main Street and Ocean. The streets were totally cleared for the runners, and it was a rare treat to experience Santa Monica's main thoroughfares without cars and buses. The turnaround for the 5K was very well marked, and a volunteer was giving instructions next to the large sign that told the runners which way to go.

Chip timing:
Yes, by Gemini, with shoe tags. No split times were given but there was a clock at the finish line.

Shirt: A gray cotton t-shirt. They had both women's and men's cut shirts. The RD boasted that the shirts were very soft, and that wasn't an exaggeration. My only gripe with the shirts is that the women's cut had a pink logo. *eyeroll* Not all women love pink and not all women's items have to have pink, okay? I took a men's shirt in protest.

Swag: They used one of those useless "virtual gift bags" *eyeroll* but the race medal was very unique and fun.

Expo: On the boardwalk at the Santa Monica Pier. It was a five-minute hike from the finish line. The race directors claimed breakfast would be served but it wasn't; there were just a lot of vendors offering freebies. Many 10K runners found that bagels, oranges, water, etc. was gone by the time they finished.

Also, Live Ultimate did not offer runners even small samples of their drinks - they sold them. I'm sorry, that is crass.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes. It didn't knock my socks off but it was a perfectly nice race.
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: the race directors have followed up on feedback left on Facebook and have promised specific improvements for next year's event. No excuses, no explanations - just promises to do better. It's refreshing! 

When: January 5, 2013.

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. This was one of my few complaints about this race. While the Biltmore setup was fine, packet pickup closed at 5pm on Saturday. Race time wasn't until 9. That meant that if you wanted to pick up your packet on race day, you had to kill four hours. It would have been nicer to have the expo time extended to, say, 7 or 8pm. This is one of the things the RDs have promised to try to fix for 2014.

Course: The 5K went through Downtown LA, mostly along Broadway (near the historic cinemas) and 11th Street (past Santee Alley). Many of the historic theaters on Broadway, including the Los Angeles, were all lit up. Some of the other areas, such as 11th Street, were totally deserted, which made for an eerie run. There was sizable police presence along the route, so it never felt unsafe.

After the race, there were a number of complaints on the NYR Facebook page. A few Downtown residents were angered by the race and the street closures. However, again, most, if not all, of the race course went down commercial streets that were closed for the night, so I am not sure where the residents are coming from with this. Also, another DTLA resident pointed out that Jive Live had sent notices about street closures and detours to all of the residential buildings well in advance of the race, so nobody should have been ambushed by the course.

Another complaint: some 5Kers claimed they didn't see signage, got lost and ended up on the half-marathon course. Others said that they ran an extra mile.

I'm sorry, I have zero sympathy for that. I have absolutely no trouble roasting race directors when I feel they've dropped the ball - my  blog pulls no punches there - but in this case the race directors did everything short of assigning each runner a personal guide to lead them by the hand. They had SO much detailed information out there before the race, they had the course totally marked off and cordoned off, and they had cops and race volunteers on just about every corner.

When there was a split in the course, and the 5K and half-marathon runners had to go in different directions, they had huge, well-illuminated signs. There was also a guy with a megaphone standing at the fork in the road, and there were volunteers repeatedly telling people which side to take for the 5K, just in case you didn't understand the signs with arrows. I was in one of the last corrals so I can vouch for the fact that there were still people on the course giving directions to the stragglers and slow runners/walkers.

Also, they had the race course online for months before the race. If these runners had taken five seconds to look at it - and the course is always online specifically so you can study it - they'd have known in an instant they were off-course. It showed where all of the turnaround points were. Another thing: why didn't they check their watches? You usually know how long it takes you to do each mile, more or less. Now, a first time 5Ker might not know about personal timekeeping, but the people complaining were claiming that they were experienced runners...um, no, honey.

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

Shirt: A black tech t-shirt with the race logo. Really nice.

Swag: A backpack with a few freebies, including Clif bars and magnets. The race medal was also lovely. The 5K and the half-marathon medals had the same basic design, but different ribbons and sizes.

Expo: At the Millennium Biltmore. It was fairly small and light on the freebies but overall, it was fine. I was disappointed that there weren't any vendors selling glow sticks/other night accessories.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!


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