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

The fun 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 2016 it was UCLA's turn to host.

When: November 20, 2016

The UCLA campus in Westwood (West LA).

Course access: Many bus lines go past UCLA or use the campus as a terminus, including Big Blue Bus 1, Metro 20 and 720 (which stop down on Wilshire) and 2, and Culver City 6. 

Why: The race raises money for Special Olympics Southern California. Runners are able to fundraise above their race registration fee, if they wish. In 2016 the race raised over 200K - and UCLA won the school fundraising challenge.


Number of Participants:  My best guess would be 2000 - 2500.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race. Packet pickup on race morning was fast and stress-free, however. There were enough volunteers to handle everyone. 

Course: Totally within UCLA's lovely, leafy campus. It was hilly at points but not overwhelmingly so. There were some cheerleaders and volunteers cheering runners on at a few points. 

Chip timing: Yes, on the bib.

Post-course food:  Water and bananas were provided to the runners, and several vendors gave out samples, such as Hubert's Lemonade and Coca-Cola.

Shirt: The shirt you receive at this race depends on whether you've aligned yourself with Team UCLA or Team USC. This year's shirts are among the nicest I've ever seen at a race. The tech shirts feature the school colors - blue for UCLA and red for USC - with yellow side panels. The center of the shirt featured USC/UCLA mascots.

Swag: Once again, the medal featured a cut-out design that incorporated both UCLA and USC's colors and mascots. The Special Olympics' motto and event date were engraved on the back.

Expo:  More booths than there were at USC last year. Sponsor Coca-Cola was back, as were some local businesses, such as University Credit Union (also a major race sponsor). The coolest thing at the expo was a display with three real Olympic torches from the last three games held in America: Los Angeles (Summer Games, 1984), Atlanta (Summer Games, 1996) and Salt Lake City (Winter Games, 2002). Their owner was very gracious and even allowed visitors to hold the torches. 

Grade: A!

Would I Run this Race Again: Absolutely! I'm looking forward to it, in fact.
Overview: One of Los Angeles's oldest and most beloved races, the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run celebrated its 39th year - and its second with its revamped course.

: December 10, 2016.

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: 1957 finishers in the 5K; 2184 in the 10K. Both events were sold out before race morning.

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

Course: This was the second year for the new course route. 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.

I think the race may have started earlier in the morning this year, because the boardwalk was almost entirely deserted. This fortunately meant that many of the problems associated with the non-closed course on the boardwalk (ie, trying to navigate around vendors and tourists) were alleviated this year.

The 10K and 5K start times were spaced out well.

Post-Race:  Water and bananas. Several vendors were on hand to give out additional goodies, such as chocolate milk.

Chip timing: Tags on the bib by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  Once again, the SMVCR had the best shirt in racing: a long-sleeved red tech shirt. This year's design featured Santa being pulled in his sleigh by athletic bipedal reindeer. From what I understand, the design was inspired by costumes worn by participants in a past race.

Swag: A medal with the same artwork as the shirt, on a satin ribbon.

One thing I really, really did NOT like about this race was its "free photos." In 2015, participants were required to enable a Facebook app and post on social media to obtain the photos for free. This year, participants had to turn over their email address to a beer company and agree to receive marketing from them to even see their photos.

Yeah, I'm just not okay with that. Either offer the photos for free or don't, but don't tell participants they're free and then neglect to tell them that they will be forced to surrender their email addresses or social media for marketing and apps. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!

Overview: The Santa Monica Classic returned for another strong year. The race was sold out for 2016!

The Santa Monica Classic now appears to be affiliated/run by Conqur Endurance Group. There was a "Triple 5K Tour of LA" challenge being offered: if participants complete the Santa Monica Classic, the Pasadena Rose Bowl 5K in January and the Big LA 5K in March, they can earn a special medal. There also seemed to be a special challenge/division for high school athletes.

When: September 11, 2016.

Where: Santa Monica.

Course access: The start line was on Barnard Way between Pico and Ocean Park Boulevards, close to several Big Blue Bus lines, including the 1 on Main Street and the 3 (Pico and 4th stop) and Rapid 3 (Pico and Lincoln stop).

Why: This year the race raised funds for Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, the YMCA, Malibu High School Booster Club, and Santa Monica High School's Viking Fund Athletic Booster Club.

Number of Participants: 1288 finishers in the 5K; 2600 + in the 10K.

Pre-race: Good communication and final race instructions from the race directors answered all questions. There was packet pickup available at the Buy 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 did not change from 2015. 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.

My beef with the course was that the 10K started only a half hour after the 5K, and the back of the 5K pack was shunted all the way over to one side to make way for the 10K leaders. In two cases this was especially problematic: the side of the street that the 5Ks were expected to stay on was opposite both the water station and the 5K turnaround. In order to make the turnaround, 5Kers actually had to cut through the stream of 10K runners.

Timing: Tag on the bib with timing by Spectrum. Individual results were emailed shortly after the end of the race.

Post-course food: Bagels, bananas and water. Kaiser Permanente had an additional table at the Pier and was providing more fruit; Clif was handing out Clif bars and there were other beverages available from vendors.

Shirt: The Santa Monica Classic likes to keep things simple and, yes, classic, with clean lines and designs. The 2016 tech shirt lived up to previous years, with a deep teal color and stylized waves. The race considers these to be "finishers' shirts," and you can only pick them up at the expo on the Pier after the race. That means that yes, after your 5K or 10K, you get to schlep all the way down to the Pier and back...

Swag: A well-designed medal with palm trees, a wave, Ferris wheel and the Santa Monica Pier sign.

Expo: Pretty small, but had some nice tables. Kaiser Permanente had a large presence this year, and handed out reusable bags to runners as they entered the Expo. Best of all, for me, were the numerous tables for other local races, including the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run. Signing up at the Expo saved quite a bit off the online price with processing.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.

Overview: A small, friendly 5K sponsored by Pepperdine University's 

When: January 23. 2016

Dockweiler State Beach near LAX.

Course access: Dockweiler is one of those places that seems as though it should be very easy to access, but is not. There's no direct bus to the beach, and the nearest mass transit stops several miles away. Rideshares, bikes or cars rule the day here.

Why: The race races money for Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education and Psychology's initiatives to help foster care youth in Los Angeles County.

Number of Participants: I cannot find results anywhere, but this seemed to be a smaller race. I'd estimate it at 500 participants or less.

Pre-race: Painless packet pickup on race morning.

Course: An out and back along the flat, fast Vista del Mar. The course ran parallel to the Pacific Ocean, so runners and walkers were treated to wonderful ocean views and breezes for the entire race. There were ample water stops and the course was clearly delineated, with no problems crossing the parking lot. However, I did not notice mile markers or clocks along the route.


Chip timing: This is going to sound awful, but I honestly don't recall.

Shirt: Cotton t-shirt with the race name.

Swag: A great medal.

Expo: They had a small but mighty expo, with some really interesting booths from disparate companies, like Equinox gyms and US Bank. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes! This small, friendly race was a great way to start 2016.

Overview: The Angels' official 5K returned for another strong year. Special props to Angels' starting pitcher Hector Santiago, who not only got up at the crack of dawn for a Q&A before the race, but stuck around for over an hour afterward to give out medals and pose for photos with fans. Hector's wonderful! The Angels traded him to the Twins over the summer (BOOOOOO) and I'm sure I am not the only fan who thinks that his gracious, kind spirit will be sorely missed around Angels Stadium.

When: April 9, 2016

In and around Angels Stadium in Anaheim.

Course access: Was a bit wonky this year. Technically, the Amtrak/Metrolink station is right at the edge of the Angels Stadium parking lot, so it should have conceivably been easy to access the 5K, as it was in 2014 and 2015. Alas, Metrolink decided to do track work this weekend, and as a result, there were no trains at all to or from Anaheim. Amtrak did not replace the 6:15 am train with a shuttle bus, so if one didn't have access to a car or rideshare, they were not going to get to the race. I ended up taking an Uber.

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

Number of Participants: 3677 finishers.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on either Friday or on Saturday morning before the race. It was painless; the issues they had with rude staff last year were nonexistent this time around.

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.

What made this better than last year is that the ushers did not try to rush or shoo participants out of the stadium, as they did in 2015. That's important. Most people are not going to have many chances to walk on the warning track and past home plate in a Major League Baseball stadium...that moment is important.

Chip timing: Yes, with chips on the bib.

Shirt: The 5K shirt has not varied from year to year, for the most part. It's still an awesome tech fabric t-shirt with the race logo in the upper left.

Swag: A voucher for a ticket for a future Angels game (participants could choose among several dates) and a wonderful medal. For the second year in a row, the medal was a spinner! This time, the spinning component was an Angels baseball jersey that had the team name on the front, as per usual, and "5K" on the back.

Expo: Once again, the Angels 5K has a pretty sweet expo, with lots of stuff. :) 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes! I am glad they worked out the issues from 2015.

Overview: A Memorial Day race benefiting veterans.

: May 30, 2016.

West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Medical Campus. This race is actually one of only a few still permitted to take place at WLAVAC. About a year and a half ago, the campus was closed to all activities except those that directly benefit veterans. As a result, some races that had taken place on the campus for many years, such as the LA Cancer Challenge, were forced to find new courses.

Course access:  Walking distance from buses on Wilshire Blvd, including the Metro Rapid 720.

Why: New Directions for Veterans, which assists homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area with several different programs designed to address their needs.

Number of Participants: 321 finishers in the 5K.

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

Course: Around the older part of the WLAVC, past the administrative buildings and parkland. Unlike other races I've done at the campus, this one did not cross Wilshire to the more "modern" and active part of the facility; it stayed in the older section. Participants did the same loop twice. It was slightly hilly, but not too bad.

Post-Race:  Water and fruit.

Chip timing: Bib tags by Chronotrack.

Shirt:  Dark blue cotton t-shirts. Unfortunately, they seemed to fun out of sizes very quickly.

Swag: A medal with a satin Stars-and-Stripes motif and a pair of black combat boots.

Expo: This 5K actually had an expo that outdid some much larger races' events. Among the most welcome booths were one giving away lots of free coffee and another giving away whimsical plastic ducks. There were several booths advertising products and services for veterans.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.


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