Overview: The Yuletide 5K would have been fun...if they'd actually kept their word about the race features.

When: December 15, 2012.

Where:
Manhattan Beach Pier.

Course access: Since this started right by the Pier, it was only a block or so away from the Beach Cities Transit bus stop. BCT buses don't run that often, but they have the nicest drivers in the greater Los Angeles area.

Why: I don't think this race was a fundraiser for anything.
_____________

Number of Participants: About 750. This honestly seemed like a very cold, cliquish sort of race.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was either on Friday at the Village Runner in Manhattan Beach or before the race. It was fine.

Course: Out and back from the Pier, heading toward El Segundo.

This was billed as a "race by candlelight." The website said:
Run, walk, or baby jog along the sea by candlelight! Celebrate the holidays and the Winter Solstice at the most unusual running event in LA. The entire course will be lit by real LUMINARIAS under the stars to guide you. Bring the whole family, then stay and play at the many fine bars and restaurants in downtown Manhattan Beach. You won't find anything else like it!

The reality:
There wasn't a single light on the course. Not one. No luminarias, no lamps, no candlelight, nothing at all. Aside from the glow necklaces and the lights from the homes on the beach, it was extremely dark. They had volunteers shining flashlights on the mile markers. It wasn't pitch black, but it was pretty close. Where this became an issue was when runners started reaching the turnaround: you had people running straight at you, and you didn't really have a lot of ability to see them. Also, there were runners who had chosen to go barefoot (and the mb5k website encouraged that) and there really wasn't any way for them to see or avoid shells, crabs or debris on the beach.

I love night races, I really do. It's easier to race when you're not dealing with the heat of the sun, and the world is magical after dark. Night races can also be easier for those of us who take mass transit, since we're not faced with the prospect of catching a bus at 5am to make it to the course on time. However, night races do present one challenge that isn't there when the sun is up: you have to figure out how to illuminate the course. That's key. If it was too windy to put up the luminarias they should have had a contingency plan.

I enter races for one of two reasons: they support causes I like, and/or they offer experiences I can't have on my own. This did neither. Frankly, I could walk on the beach in complete darkness any night without paying a race entry fee.

Also, there wasn't any water station on the course. Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink, for real.

The only positive aspects of the course were the awesome volunteers at the halfway point who were giving everyone high-fives and trying to be super supportive.

Chip timing: Yes, with a chronotrack tag on the bib. The timing company was pretty amazing, I have to say: before I'd even arrived home after the race I had an email in my inbox with my time, pace and overall rank.

Shirt: A nice black t-shirt with an icy blue footprint.

Swag: A single-use glow necklace.

Expo: None.

Would I Run this Race Again: No.
http://events.didihirsch.org/site/PageServer

When: September 23, 2012

Where: Near Sepulveda Boulevard and La Tijera Boulevard, a stone's throw from LAX.

Why: Alive & Running raises money for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, which runs a leading Suicide Prevention Center and hotline.

Course access: The start/finish area was close to Sepulveda and Manchester Avenue, where several major bus lines were represented. Big Blue Bus 3, Culver CityBus 6 and Metro locals 102 and 115 all stopped on the corner.
____________
Number of Participants: 1400

Pre-race: Fast check-in, and the volunteers -- from schools in the area-- were much nicer and far more helpful than the ones from last year. They had several special memorials for victims of suicide, including a little rock/rose petal garden where you could write the names of loved ones.

Runners: Lots of families; lots of memorial teams; a nice mix of runners and walkers. This was a very walker-friendly race. The kids on the course seemed to have manners this year, which was nice.

Course: A flat, fast, out and back run parallel to LAX. Since the airport was literally right next door, there were up close and personal views of landing planes, but there weren't a lot of other things to see. Trees along the road offered welcome shade in some areas.

Chip timing: Yes, with shoe tags. There were clocks at the turnaround and finish.

Shirt: A baby blue t-shirt. I loved the color and the logo; I hated that a random person's photo was on the shirt. At first I thought it was Didi Hirsch herself, but no, it wasn't.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Swag: Alive & Running bracelets.

Expo: Very small, but included free snow cones. One of the frustrating things was that many of the expo vendors had either packed up or run out of stuff by the time most people crossed the finish line.

Would I Do This Race Again? Maybe. It was nothing special; it was nothing awful. I was ambivalent about doing this race in 2012. It's a pretty run of the mill neighborhood race, but it does support a good cause and it's a nice course.
http://events.didihirsch.org/site/PageServer

Overview:

When: September 25, 2011

Where: Near Sepulveda Boulevard and La Tijera Boulevard, a stone's throw from LAX.

Why: Alive & Running raises money for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, which runs a leading Suicide Prevention Center and hotline.

Course access: The start/finish area was close to Sepulveda and Manchester Avenue, where several major bus lines were represented. Big Blue Bus 3, Culver CityBus 6 and Metro locals 42 and 115 all stopped on the corner.
____________
Number of Participants: 912

Pre-race: Fast check-in, but somewhat rude volunteers. They had several special memorials for victims of suicide.

Runners: Lots of families. I think some of the children who disrupted the Race for Success in May returned for this race. This was another event where kids were weaving in and out of the course and generally acting awful.

Course: A flat, fast, out and back run parallel to LAX. Since the airport was literally right next door, there were up close and personal views of landing planes, but there weren't a lot of other things to see.

Chip timing: Yes, with shoe tags. There were clocks at the turnaround and finish.

Shirt: A periwinkle blue short-sleeved T-shirt with the Alive & Running logo. I thought it was very nice looking.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Swag: Alive & Running bracelets.

Expo: Very small, but included free Jamba Juice and snow cones. Quality over quantity? :)

Would I Do This Race Again? Maybe. It was nothing special; it was nothing awful. I really like the idea of supporting Didi Hirsch, but I think I'd do so without participating in this event again. Or maybe I'd volunteer instead of running. It was honestly kind of boring.
Overview: A popular race in Westchester/Playa del Rey, Race for Success draws a strong local crowd. It was organized well enough, but the rude runners detracted from the event for me.

When: May 21, 2011

Where: The campus of Loyola Marymount University in Westchester, near LAX.

Course access: The Big Blue Bus #3 stopped outside Loyola Marymount; from there it was a 15 minute walk to the start area. There weren't any signs marking the path for pedestrians.

Why: Race for Success is a fundraiser for area schools.
______
Number of Participants: 668

Pre-race: The packet pickup was held at the Howard Hughes Promenade near Culver City.

Course:A loop around LMU. The campus was lush and green and fairly pretty; at one point the course took us onto a bluff overlooking Playa Vista and Playa del Rey, and the views were spectacular.

Runners: Race for Success attracted a crowd that is primarily comprised of families with children. The race raised money for Westchester and Playa del Rey schools, and many of the students turned out to participate. The problem was that the kids didn't have any manners, and their parents weren't much better. The kids were shoving other runners out of the way, cutting people off and basically acting horribly. It was annoying at best and unsafe for everyone at worst. There wasn't a lot of camaraderie, nor was there a lot of support for the runners.

Chip timing: Yes, with a shoe tag. I don't remember seeing split times, but there was a clock at the finish line.

Shirt: A white cotton shirt with a colorful Race for Success logo. Nice enough.

Swag: The gift bag looked nice, but I didn't get one. They only had 500; if you didn't get to packet pickup early enough, you were SoL. At the race they did have a large number of cobalt blue mugs from the Howard Hughes Promenade on a table, free for the taking.

Expo: The expo was the nicest feature of the race. They had a lot of local Westchester-PdR-Marina del Rey businesses, which made them different from the usual generic race expo. Goodies abounded.

Would I Run this Race Again: No. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great, either. The unruly kids on the course were a problem, and the overall race was kind of bland.

Karhu 5K

Mar. 25th, 2012 08:34 pm
Overview: The Karhu 5K was the sister race to the 13.1 Los Angeles half-marathon. It seemed that the race organizers treated the 5K as an afterthought, and it showed.

One of my major issues with this race was the lack of transparency and the inaccurate information. Changing the location to another zip code, and moving it from a busy municipal area to the hinterlands, really is a big deal. Runners often choose the race based on what they know about the course and their ability to get to the start line, after all.

My registration from active.com showed that the race was happening in Venice, going from the boardwalk to Windward Cicle. It wasn't. They showed really flashy medals on their website, but the 5Ks didn't get them. They didn't even have a chip mat at the start line. The indifference was apparent from start to finish.

When: January 15, 2012

Where: Dockweiler Beach, Playa del Rey

Course access: HA HA HA. Sorry, that was funny. The race was originally billed as being in Venice, which would have been easy to access. It was actually at Dockweiler Beach in El Segundo/Playa del Rey. There are exactly 0 buses that go to Dockweiler or anywhere within walking distance. I ended up taking a cab to the entrance and then walking a mile and a half to the start. There weren't any signs directing participants from either the path or the parking lot; I walked uneasily in the dark and looked for a crowd.

The race ended near Culver Boulevard in Playa del Rey. The Metro 115 ran there, but it was detoured significantly due to the race.
Why:
____________
Number of Participants: 331

Pre-race: Packet pick-up was at an Equinox gym in Marina del Rey. Everything ran smoothly.

Course: Parallel to the ocean, from Dockweiler State Beach to Playa del Rey. The course looped by a sewage treatment plant at one point...ugh! Other than that, it was flat, fast and had gorgeous views of the Pacific.

Runners seemed to be mostly adults, but there was a diversity of ages, shapes and colors. Everyone seemed fairly subdued, and I had to wonder if they were annoyed about the race conditions too.

Chip timing: Yes, with a Chrono-track chip that was attached to the bib. However they did not have chip mats at the start line, which meant that finish times were by the clock, and therefore inaccurate. In addition, they had neither split times nor a clock at the end for 5K finishers.

Shirt: Yuck. It was a standard white T-shirt with an aqua "move and groove" logo. I never saw anything with the logo or slogan anywhere else on the course or website, so it seemed to be something they'd thrown in at the last minute.
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Swag: None, except for a coupon for a free beer. After a race like that, a drink wasn't a bad idea. Despite advertising a very cool medal all over their website, nothing was given to 5K finishers.

Expo: So-so. The one shining asset was the kiosk where they were giving out free massages. There were a few interesting exhibitors, but there wasn't a huge variety. There were a few food trucks, and there was also a special private tent for runners who had trained with a specific charity team.

Would I Run this Race Again: Not in a million years.

Note: my review of the Karhu 5K was also posted on Race Grader in an edited form.

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