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

Where:
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.

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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.

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

When
: January 3, 2015.

Where:
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.
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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.





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).

Where:
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: Kickin' Cancer is a smaller-scale community 5K run/walk benefiting the Lynne Cohen Foundation for Ovarian Cancer Research.

When: September 29, 2013.

Where: San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, adjacent to the West LA Veterans complex, near Santa Monica.

Course Access: Since San Vicente was closed off for the race, the nearest access to public transportation, from what I saw, was on nearby Wilshire Boulevard. The Big Blue Bus #1 and #3 stopped there, as did Metro #20 and #720. From there it was about a 15 minute walk to the course.
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Pre-Race: Packet pickup was available on Saturday the 28th at the nearby Frontrunners store, but was also available on race day. There were no issues. The Expo was already in full swing before the race and many took advantage of it.

Course: Out and back on San Vicente. The course was totally flat and very nice; the scenery wasn't much (just the local houses and businesses). The course included two water stops - three, counting the nice folks from Brentwood Whole Foods who handed out bottles of water and snacks to runners and walkers! :)

Post-Race: My one beef with this race: it was billed as a "walk/run" and there were tons and tons of walkers. When I finished there were hundreds of people behind me. Why, then, was all the post-race food and drink already picked (nearly) clean? Before the race we saw that there was a huge spread with Gatorade, energy bars, and more. After the race only a few things were left. Either they didn't have enough, or they allowed the early finishers to take more than one of each item. Either way, it resulted in a lot of runners and walkers sadly walking around the concessions table trying to find the bottles of water left in the ice buckets and the few food items left.

Also, the folks at the photo station were kind of rude- and never sent me my photo. Boo.

Chip Timing: None. There were overall awards for men and women (three deep), based on the gun time. There were mile markers and a clock at the finish line.

Shirt: A lovely teal shirt.




Swag: None. The race used one of those miserable, totally useless "virtual gift bags." Honestly, folks, just don't offer a gift bag. These virtual bags are nothing but crap and nobody likes them.

Expo: The expo made up for the lack of goodie bags: there were lots of freebies from L.A. Galaxy, Ralph's, USC, and others.




Would I Run This Race Again: Sure. It didn't' knock my socks off but it was a nice course and pleasant experience.

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.

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