Overview: The former Santa Monica 5000 race has been re-branded as RunFEST, with several new events.

:October 19, 2014.

Santa Monica, ending on Ocean Blvd. close to the Santa Monica Pier.

Course access:  Downtown Santa Monica is very well connected to mass transit. The start line near Ocean Park was close to both the Big Blue Bus #1 and #3, and the finish line near the Pier was within walking distance of most Big Blue Bus lines, as well as the Metro 4, 704, 33 and 733.

Why: Harvest Home for women and babies.

Number of Participants: 985 finishers in the 5K; 568 in the 10K. There were also two untimed events for adults: a 3K "Fundemonium" race and a 5K Costume Run.

There seemed to be an effort made here to separate the "fun" runners (those who are running with friends, wearing costumes, and just trying to have a good time) from the hyper-serious ones (who really want a PR and don't want their course mucked up with lots of slower runners and walkers) by offering several different events.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race at the beach; everything went smoothy.

Course: The course started near Ocean Park and the beach path, tuned onto Main Street, and eventually went down Ocean Boulevard in the heart of Santa Monica. The finish line was on Ocean near the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.

The course was flat, fast and closed; one can't ask for more. 

Post-Race:  One thing I disliked about this race was the fact that runners had to trek down to the Santa Monica Pier proper for the post-race. Water was available at the finish line, but everything else was down at the Pier in the small expo. The expo itself was nice, though, and to be fair, it was probably much better than it would have been if it had been crammed onto Ocean Blvd.

Chip timing: Yes, by Gemini Timing. The 3K and Costume Run were not timed.

Shirt:  Nice sea green cotton t-shirt with the Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel. What was different at this event was that if you chose to pick up your bib on race day, you didn't get your shirt until after the race, down at the Pier.

Swag: This was the first year that the RunFEST offered finisher medals. They were given to those who completed any event (10K, 5K, 3K or Costume Run), and they were very lovely. Those who had opted to attend packet pickup the day before the race received a bag of swag; those of us who picked up our stuff on race day got an empty drawstring bag. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.

Overview: Generic Events' nascent Downtown Los Angeles Turkey Trot had its second outing in 2014. There's still some work to do.

: November 27, 2014 (Thanksgiving morning).

Downtown L.A., starting and finishing at Grand Park in front of City Hall.

Course access:  The start and finish line area was about a three minute walk from the Civic Center station on the Red and Purple Metro subway lines.

Why: Homeboy Industries, L.A. Regional Food Bank and Brooks and Brooks Foundation. Homeboy was on site selling pies, and there were drop bins for the food bank.

Number of Participants: 2333 in the 5K; 1393 in the 10K.

For whatever reason - perhaps the hipster angle (the race actually sold trucker hats and American Apparel clothing *eyeroll*), there were a lot of assholes at this race. I don't know why, but it was the rudest race I'd ever been to.

Compounding this: the large number of people who thought it was cute to desecrate Indigenous attire and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. Here's a hint: if you wouldn't run a race in a Marines uniform or wear a fake purple heart because you think it's disrespectful, you should not be running a race in a war bonnet, war paint, feathered headdresses or an eagle feather. Period. It's really depressing to me to think that in 2014, people still feel it's appropriate to "dress like Indians."

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on race morning, but it was chaotic. The actual packet pickup area was fine, but the t-shirt distribution area had been crammed into a small space by the stage. Everyone was packed in and pushing, and it was hard to see where the lines were. With all the space they had, this could have been thought out better.

Course:  The course wound uphill to the Music Center and the Disney Concert Hall, and then back down Spring Street for an out and back. On Facebook it was noted that the race distances had been incorrectly measured; the 5K was too long. The RD confirmed this.  

Both the 5K and 10K started late by about 30 minutes.

Post-Race:  Again: chaos. Runners had to fight through the crowds to get to the water/Gatorade table, and the only food offered was a banana. No bueno, guys. No bueno.

Chip timing: Yes, by Gemini Timing, with souvenir shoe tags that did not need to be returned.

Shirt:  Keeping in line with this year's "Turkey Strikes Back" theme, the cotton t-shirt featured the Turkey Trot's mascot stomping through Downtown LA, Godzilla-Style.

Swag: A large, generous medal.

Would I Run this Race Again: I liked it enough to give it another chance next year, but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement here.

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!


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