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: 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 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: 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: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 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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