Overview: One of Los Angeles's oldest and most beloved races, the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run celebrated its 38th year in 2015, with a new course.

: December 5, 2015.

As the race name would suggest, Santa Monica and Venice. 

Course access:  The start line was accessible from the Big Blue Bus #1 down Main Street or the BBB #3 to Pico and 4th. The finish line at Windward Circle was close to the BB #1 again.

Why: Harvest Home for women and babies.

Number of Participants: 1977 finishers in the 5K; 2363 in the 10K.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race; everything was fast and painless.

Course: The 2015 race had a brand-new course. As before, both the 5K and 10K started at Barnard Way in Santa Monica, adjacent to the beach. However, instead of being an out-and-back, the course wound through local streets, went on the Venice Boardwalk for a bit, and then went back through Venice before finishing at the Venice Pavilion/Windward Circle.

My pet peeve from 2014 remained the same: 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.

However, thankfully, there was less boardwalk in 2015, and we seemed to hit it earlier in the day.

Post-Race:  Water and fruit; better than last year.

Chip timing: Shoe tags by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  Once again, the SMVCR had the best shirt in racing: a long-sleeved red tech shirt with Santa Claus running under the famous VENICE sign.

Swag: A lovely, glittery medal that was shaped like a snow globe, with the same "Santa in Venice" art as the shirt.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!!

Overview: One of Los Angeles's mega-races returned for another Halloween event. Sadly, while Rock N' Roll is doing another half-marathon in 2016, as of right now, the 5K appears to be gone. I'm disappointed by that, but I'm glad I had a chance to participate in the 5K in 2014 and 2015.

When: October 25, 2015.

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: 1561 finishers in the 5K; 7797 in the half-marathon.

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.

2015's cute freebie was a little custom-printed 45 record with your name on it.

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

Shirt:  5K participants got a green Brooks tech shirt with Frankenstein's monster, bats, a vampire and some other ghoulish figures. The half-marathon version was black. 

Swag: A cute 'lil jack-o'lantern with "LA " cutouts for his eyes. The half-marathon medal was the same design, but was larger and had a green ribbon. There were all sorts of complaints online about this medal; I don't understand why because I thought it was adorable.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!

Overview:  A race themed to Dia de los Muertos in Downtown Los Angeles.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a huge tradition in Mexico as well as many parts of the Southwestern USA, including Los Angeles. It's a time to remember and pay respect to one's deceased loved ones with altars that not only pay tribute, but share life stories, among other traditions. In Los Angeles, people of all ethnic backgrounds and religions honor Dia de los Muertos in one way or another or attend events.

When: October 31, 2015

Olvera Street, El Pueblo de Los Angeles National Monument, and numerous museums and historic sites and many Mexican shops and restaurants. Olvera Street hosts Mexican cultural events throughout the year, such as altars for Dia de los Muertos, multi-night processions for Dia de Los Muertos and Christmas, and Aztec dancers. 

Course access: Olvera Street is across Alameda St. from Union Station. One can't ask for it to be any easier than this. The Metro Rail Gold, Red and Purple lines stop at Union Station; so do Metrolink and Amtrak trains; BoltBus and Megabus, the Silver Line, and numerous bus lines from Metro, BIg Blue Bus and other carriers. Major lines that stop at Union Station include the Silver Line, Metro Rapid 704 and 733; Big Blue Bus's Rapid 10 (during the week only) and Foothill Transit's Silver Streak.

Why: Proceeds to the Olvera Street Merchants Association Foundation.

Number of Participants: Unclear, but roughly 4000. Chip timing was optional, so there wasn't any final count of participants.

Pre-race: Aztec dancers performed before the race began. There was also a runners' altar, and participants were invited to bring items for it.

Packet pickup was available for several days at a festival, but was also open on race morning. It was fast and painless.

Course: An out and back course down Main Street into Chinatown, and then over one of the bridges. Along the way there were Mexican dancers and mariachi bands performing.

Chip timing: Totally optional, and available with an extra charge.

Post-course food:  Yes, water and food were provided to the runners.They had animal crackers in cups, which was ridiculously fun. I was hoping for some Dia de Los Muertos food...something with sugar skulls, perhaps; or Pan de los Muertos, but alas, no. I suppose it's not totally necessary; Olvera Street is right there and they have fantastic Mexican restaurants and bakeries. 

Shirt: Blue cotton Day of the Dead-themed shirt with calacas (skeletons) running down Olvera Street. NO ads!! :D 

Swag: GORGEOUS finishers' medal with a calavera with gems. 

Expo:  Not really. There were a handful of booths in the square, but not a lot.

Grade: A!

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes! 

Overview:  A friendly, fun and uniquely Los Angeles race.

The cool twist to We Run the City is that you raise money for either Team UCLA or Team USC. For those who don't live in Los Angeles, these two colleges have a bit of a rivalry, to put it very, very mildly. When you sign up, you're given an opportunity to choose which school you'd like to represent. It's not necessary to be an alumn or student; you just pick a side.Whichever school raises the most money for the Special Olympics gets to keep a trophy for the year.

Both schools' colors are represented on the bibs, logos and medals. The race switches campuses every year; in 2015 it was hosted by USC so 2016 will be UCLA's turn.

When: November 22, 2015

Exposition Park, right across the street from the USC campus.

Course access: Among other lines, Metro's Rapid 754 runs on Vermont Avenue and the local Metro 102 runs along Exposition.  There's also a DASH line alone Exposition. However, the easiest course access for most is the Expo Line Metro train, which has stops at Expo Park/USC and Expo/Vermont, both of which are right across the street from Exposition Park.

Why:The race raises money for Special Olympics Southern California. Runners are able to fundraise above their race registration fee, if they wish.


Number of Participants: A lot! USC won the prize for the most registrants. _

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available for two days before the race at Sport Chalet locations. Packet pickup on race morning was fast and stress-free, however. There were enough volunteers to handle everyone. 

Course: Totally contained within Exposition Park, which had to be a relief for local drivers and bus routes. Participants took a winding path through Expo Park, going past all the museums and venues therein. It was flat and fast, with several water stops and on-course entertainment from cheerleaders. 

Chip timing: Yes, on the bib.

Post-course food:  Yes, water and food were provided to the runners.

Shirt: The shirt you received depended on whether you signed on` with Team UCLA or Team USC. The design was identical for both, but shirts were in their respective schools' colors: crimson and gold for USC; light blue and gold for UCLA. Many people came to the race showing their school pride with shirts, hats, signs, and even Bruin and Tommy Trojan gear.

Note: Yes, I chose Team USC. When I run this race again I intend to choose UCLA. I'm Switzerland over here; totally neutral.

Swag: A lovely cut-out medal which again incorporated both schools' logos and colors.

Expo: Small, but with some interesting booths. Most awesome: Coca-Cola, who was not only giving out free soda, but was also giving participants leftover swag from the Special Olympics World Games, which took place in LA in summer 2015. Runners could spin the wheel and walk away with a World Games pin, backpack or other goodies.

Grade: A!

Would I Run this Race Again: Absolutely! I'm looking forward to it, in fact.

Overview: The Santa Monica Classic returns after a one-year hiatus, stronger than ever.

This race ran as the Santa Monica 5000 and the Santa Monica classic for over a decade. In 2014, however, it seemed to have been taken over by a different race director -- Generic Events -- and became the much more gimmicky Santa Monica Runfest. Runfest, which was reviewed here, had a costume run and an untimed 3K in addition to the standard 5K and 10K. For 2015 it appears that the race has been restored to its former format and theme, which is very welcome. The race is considered part of the LA Marathon series.

When: September 13, 2015

Where: Santa Monica.

Course access: The start line was at the beach near Ocean Park Boulevard, which is close to several Big Blue Bus lines, including the 1 on Main Street. It's also a 15-minute walk from the 3 and Rapid 3 on Lincoln Boulevard.

Why: The race provides funds for the Santa Monica-Malibu School District.

Number of Participants: 1281 finishers in the 5K; 1436 in the 10K.

Pre-race: Good communication and final race instructions from the race directors answered all questions. There was packet pickup available at a local festival in Santa Monica on Saturday, but pickup on race day was fine. They had plenty of volunteers and lines were short.

Course: The course was the same as the 2014 Runfest --- and I am guessing the previous Santa Monica 5000 and Classic races too. Runners started at the beach but quickly made a few turns and ended up on Main Street. They continued on Main Street to Colorado, turned left, and completed the last mile or so on Ocean. The finish line for both the 5 and 10K was adjacent to the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.

There was one water station, toward Mile 2. At two or three points the course was not closed and runners had to wait to be waved through by the police, which was odd.

Timing: Gemini Timing. What was weird is that the bib had a d-tag but runners were also provided with a shoe tag we were allowed to keep. I am not sure which was the actual timing device, or if both were.

Post-course food: Plenty of bagels, bananas and Clif trail mix bars. Well done.

Shirt: A very classic design with the race's trademark stripes on a heathered blue shirt. What's kind of cool is that from a distance it looks like a cotton tee; it's actually a tech shirt. I did NOT like that runners had to collect their shirts at the Expo AFTER the race.

Swag: Large, very pretty medal with an ocean wave, a lifeguard shack and the Santa Monica Classic stripes.

Expo: Pretty small, but had one or two interesting tables that don't normally show up at race expos, like Megabus.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.

Overview: The third annual Sean Brock Foundation's 5K/10K was a small race with major potential, but some significant organizational flaws.

When: May 16, 2015

Where: Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey.

Course access: Accessing Dockweiler by mass transit is ridiculous: by and large, you can't. Getting here requires ride share or taxi services and a walk.

Why: The race provides funds for the Sean Brock Foundation, which supports educational opportunities for children of military personnel killed in the line of duty, as well as the California CPA Association.

Number of Participants:
I'm not sure. I saw bib numbers going up to 300; that would be a good ballpark guess.

Pre-race: There was a distinct lack of communication before the race. The only course map that was posted was a tiny photo from 2014 that was buried on Facebook; packet pickup information was posted late. The race started almost a half hour late, and the timing of the children's race was shifted from 10:15 am to 9, without any real notice. However, packet pickup was quick and efficient and the volunteers manning the table were friendly.

Course: For the most part, the course went along the flat, fast Vista del Mar road, parallel to the ocean. It's super pretty. Water stations marked the turnaround points. HOWEVER: the major flaw here was that getting to the finish line required runners to leave Vista del Mar and dodge cars as they traversed a parking lot entrance/exit area. There were no cones marking the path until the very end. This was downright dangerous for the runners, as well as unfair for any motorists trying to leave the area. 

I also had a very disturbing incident with a volunteer at this race. When I crossed the finish line and got my medal, another volunteer -- a middle-aged man -- came up and started frantically pawing at my bib, as well as the area of my body to which the bib was pinned. I had to ask him to back off and stop touching me. It turned out that he wanted the small tag at the bottom of the bib. Okay, how about asking? Race volunteers and staff should never be putting their hands on a runner this way.

This race also had many, many dogs, which is a personal pet peeve of mine. I wouldn't mind them if their owners kept them under control, but a lot of people seem to think it's cute when their dog jumps at you. It's not!

Timing: None; times were recorded from bib numbers. However, I have been able to locate results anywhere. Finish line clock provided. No mile markers.

Post-course food: The goodie bag included a Quest protein bar and some coconut water. There were also cups of water near the finish line and runners were offered another coconut water as they received their medals. Other than that, the only food was provided by Fresh Brothers Pizza, who were giving out samples.

Shirt: Shirt-sleeved black cotton shirt. I wasn't a fan of the design so this one will probably not be worn.

Swag: Large, very pretty medal.

Expo: Just a few things here and there, but Fresh Brothers gave out free pizza samples, there was a free massage station and there was an energy drink company providing small cups of their beverage.

Would I Run this Race Again: Probably not. It was really disorganized. I'm going to chalk this up to the fact that the race seems to be a very small affair and does not seem to be run by any established sporting event company. There are a lot of mom and pop races around LA, and most of them are well organized and efficient, though. However, this race really needs to work on its logistics, as well as how it conveys information to participants.

Overview: The inaugural music-themed Sunset Strip Half-Marathon/5K gave runners an opportunity to run along --as the name would suggest -- the Sunset Strip in the heart of West Hollywood. The race was impressive, particularly for an inaugural event.

When: April 19, 2015

West Hollywood, starting and ending in the park next to the Library.

Course access: Bus service around WeHo was a bit screwed up by the street closures; the closest ones were the Metro 4 and 16, both of which were re-routed to go along 3rd St. 

Why:The race provides funds for the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation.


Number of Participants: 575 5K finishers; 1729 Half-Marathon finishers.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on either Saturday or on race morning. One confusing thing was that the informational email indicated was that the packet pickup would close at 6:45am -- but the 5K didn't start until 7:30. A second disappointment was that they seemed to be running out of various sizes of race t-shirts early on. Despite these two issues, packet pickup was smooth, and the volunteers were nice as can be. 

Course: For the 5K, the course was an out and back from San Vincente to Sunset. The hill on San Vicente was extremely challenging, but as the race announcer said, at least it was at the start, and not the finish! The course went past numerous Sunset Strip landmarks, including the Whisky-a-Go-Go, the Viper Room, the House of Blues, Saddleback Ranch and Book Soup. There were numerous informational placards along the course that gave fun facts about various hotels and other buildings.

The course was well staffed with volunteers, who made sure the 5Kers knew where their course split from the Half-Marathon and turned around; and there were two fluid stations with water and Gatorade.

Timing: By Westtime, with disposable shoe D-tags. Finish line clock. Mile markers for Half; none for 5K.

Post-course food:  Yay! Runners were offered Gatorade cans, water, Kind bars, bananas, and bagels. There was also a beer garden and runners were entitled to a free drink. I didn't take advantage of that.

Shirt: A lovely long-sleeved, two-toned tech shirt. No logos! Whoo!

Swag: Great medals for both the 5K and Half.

Expo: Just a few things here and there, mostly sporting goods companies.

Would I Run this Race Again: Absolutely! I was very impressed by how organized, efficient, friendly and well-run this event was. This is what a race should be like!
Overview:  A race themed to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim major league baseball team, endorsed by the Angels. This year's event was marred by subpar customer service, but was still wonderful.

When: April 11, 2015

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 coming up from San Diego, as well.

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


Number of Participants: 4461 finishers; almost one thousand more than last year!

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on either Friday or on Saturday morning before the race. I don't know if they had the ushers or the Angels booster club working packet pickup on race morning, but whoever it was, they were incredibly nasty and rude. The older woman who helped me actually raised her voice at me. It was not a good way to start the morning, and it was a reminder that the Angels quite desperately need to get better customer service professionals working for them.

The T-shirt drop and voucher exchange lines were staffed by regular volunteers, and they were sweet and polite.

Angels pitcher Hector Santiago was on hand to do a short Q&A before the race and to present medals to the top finishers. Considering that he had pitched 6.1 innings the night before, it was incredibly nice of him to show up so early in the morning!

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. Runners were allowed to explore the visitors' dugout and were shown on the scoreboard video screen.

This year the ushers guarding the field were somewhat unpleasant, and did not allow runners to take photos in front of home plate. They also tried to keep prodding runners along at other points. I wasn't happy about that. Surely they understand that being on the warning track is the highlight of the event and a major thing for Angels fans, and that they will want photos, right? 

Chip timing: Yes, with a souvenir shoe tag.

Post-course food:  *sigh* I'm really not liking this whole trend of not feeding the runners. They did appear to have bananas, but not enough to last.

Shirt: Very similar to last year's: a shiny red tech shirt with the Angels Fun Run logo in one corner.

Swag: A voucher for an Angels game and an awesome spinner medal. Pre-registered runners got a ticket to that night's game, but were able to exchange it for a coupon for a future game without any hassle at all.

Expo: Large, with a lot of swag. Items available at the Expo included Body Armour drink samples (the official sports drink of the Angels, championed by Mike Trout), dental kits, lymphoma awareness wristbands, pens,

Grade: B, due to rude ushers and staff and lack of food for the runners. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes! It was well organized and lots of fun. Next year just use regular volunteers and drop the rude Angels ushers/boosters, though, please.
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! Unfortunately, this race was not as well executed in 2015 as it was in 2014.

When: March 26, 2015.

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: 1223 finishers in the 5K; 134 finishers in the 10K. These numbers were slightly down from last year.

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 major con on this year's course: the students. Schools in El Segundo encourage their students to participate in this race, and they do, in droves. Unfortunately, many of them have not yet learned race etiquette, and being on the course with the kids was a bit of a nightmare at times. I was behind a group of preteen girls who were throwing water on each other, and thus making the course slippery for anyone behind them. Not cool at all.

Post-Race Food: Unfortunately, the race followed the unacceptable trend of not feeding the runners. Nothing. No bananas, no bagels, nada.

Expo: There was an expo in the park next to the library, and across from the El Segundo High School, which featured mostly local businesses and organizations.

Chip timing: Yes, with chips on the bib, by Racewire. The snafu this year was that the chip timing didn't seem to work - the time reported was the clock time.

Shirt: A retro logo on a hunter green t-shirt, very similar to 2014's design.

Swag: Unlike last year, there weren't any goodie bags. Runners received a drawstring bag and a finisher medal. Unfortunately the medal wasn't quite as nice as the 2014 edition, but was still appreciated.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes, but I hope that they return to their 2014 form.
Overview: A small, friendly race in its second year, the UCLA True Bruin 5K is finding its stride.

: March 8, 2015

The UCLA campus in Westwood.

Course access:  UCLA is very well hooked up to mass transit, with the Big Blue Bus lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and 12, the Culver CityBus 6 and Rapid 6, and Metro 2, 20 and 720 passing close to the school.

Why: Sponsored and run by the UCLA Staff Assembly, the race is intended to encourage UCLA students, staff and community members ot get out and exercise.

Number of Participants: 466 finishers. The runners included many UCLA students and staff members, but there were a lot of community members, too.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on Friday at UCLA, on Saturday at a running goods store in Santa Monica, and on race morning. Everything seemed smooth, simple and well run.

Course:  The course was an out and back through the bucolic UCLA campus, with several hills. One water stop was offered at the turnaround point.

Post-Race:  The race suffered from the same condition that seems to be affecting a lot of events lately: an inability to feed the runners. Friendly volunteers handed out water and Clif bars, but that was all. I am never in favor of Clif bars simply because they have soy, peanuts and chocolate and are therefore are not feasible for all runners. I much prefer when races offer fruit. Some runners still might be allergic to fruit, but they are probably fewer than those with soy or peanut sensitivities.

Chip timing: Yes, by Gemini Timing, with chips on the bib. There was one clock, at the finish line.

Shirt:  A black cotton T-shirt with the UCLA Bear and a disco ball.

Swag: A cute medal and a drawstring bag, both with the same UCLA Bear logo.

Would I Run this Race Again: Absolutely. This was a very friendly, accessible race.

Overview: Los Angeles's January night race returns for its third year.

: January 3, 2015.

Downtown LA.

Course access:  DTLA is very well hooked up to mass transit. The race start was close to the 7th St/Metro Center stop on the Red, Purple, Blue and Expo subway lines. The finish line was close to the Civic Center stop on the Red and Purple lines.

Why: A Place Called Home.

Number of Participants: 1218 finishers in the 5K; 997 in the 10K; 2979 in the Half-Marathon.

Pre-race: Once again at the Milennium Biltmore Hotel. They still haven't figured out the expo; it was small, too cramped to even consider navigating, and didn't have any really appealing exhibitors.

Worse, the packet pickup once again closed at 4pm, so runners had to arrive at least two and a half hours before the race to get their bibs and t-shirts. This seemed to be unclear on the instructions and apparently some runners arrived after 4pm, were denied their bibs, and were understandably very upset.

Another issue: some of the volunteers working the corrals were completely rude. The assignments were bizarre, with walkers in the first five corrals. In addition, the way the corrals were enclosed made it impossible for some runners to even access them.

Course: The 5K course differed from the map that was posted online. The turnaround did not seem to be clearly marked, either.

The highlights of last year's race were running down Broadway, where all the theatre marquees were turned on, and then finishing at L.A. Live. This year, the course was boring. Instead of Broadway, runners went up Hill Street, went through the 2nd Street Tunnel, and ended by looping around a bunch of courthouses and municipal buildings, a freeway exit and a truly sad homeless encampment. The only recognizable landmarks on the course were Angels Flight and City Hall.

The race finished at Grand Park. I know this is fast becoming the hangout du jour for all types of events, but LA Live was better.

Post-Race:  Water, Nuun electrolytes, bananas, apples, Clif bites and moonpies were offered. Mylar blankets were also provided.

Chip timing: Shoe tags by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  For the 5/10K: a black tech shirt. This was a vast improvement over last year's see-through white one.

Swag: Finisher medals with a baseball theme and drawstring backpacks (the same one from last year). Legacy runners also received special clip medals. The medals were very different, and not as nice, as the ones advertised on the race's Facebook page.

Would I Run this Race Again: I guess. The only reasons I'm hanging on with this race after my 2015 experience
are because of the Legacy status and because I can't find another race I'd like to do in January. They have a lot of work to do.


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