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 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: last year there were complaints on Facebook about various aspects of the race...and the race directors listened. This year's event was sleeker, more organized and better! Way to go, guys!

When: January 4, 2014.

Where:
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. The RDs extended the Expo hours from 2013 and the race also started earlier, but there were still two hours or so to kill between the close of the Expo and race time.

Course: The 5K went through Downtown LA, mostly along Broadway (near the historic cinemas). Many of the historic theaters on Broadway, including the Los Angeles, were all lit up. The 5K course this year differed in that runners stayed on Broadway for a longer stretch, instead of veering off down abandoned streets. The race finish was also closer to the Pico Metro station. I greatly preferred that, yes I did.

In response to last year's complaints there were also many, many signs advising 5K runners as to their turnaround point.

Chip timing: Yes, by Gemini, with a chronotrack tag on the bib.

Shirt: 5Kers received a nice tech shirt. I liked it a lot, except for the fact that the tech fabric, combined with the white color, make it very see-through. I preferred the black shirt in 2013. Maybe they will use alternate colors on alternate years?

Swag: A backpack. Unfortunately it wasn't as nice as last year's, since it just had a hashtag on it. Runners also received a reusable glow bracelet. Unfortunately there was nothing else in the bag; the race was using those useless and annoying "virtual gift bags." The medal was lovely, however, and had a touching tribute to the Boston Marathon bombing victims.

Expo: At the Millennium Biltmore. It was fairly small, and they did have vendors selling glow items this year. However, it was also very heavy on the timeshare/vacation club folks, and they tend to be very aggressive. I didn't enjoy the Expo.

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?
Sure.

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.

Where:
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!
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://espnwwos.disney.go.com/events/rundisney/tinker-bell-half-marathon/

Overview: The Never Land 5K, a night race through the theme park, was the first event in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon Weekend at Disneyland, operated by RunDisney. It was an exciting, whimsical event, with typical Disney "magical moments."

The one major drawback to this race was the price: at $100, the Never Land 5K was more expensive than many half-marathons. It was also double the price of the Disneyland Family 5K, held in September. The reason for this was likely to be the "Twilight Ticket" that was included with the registration, which allowed admission to one Disney theme park after 4pm during the Half-Marathon weekend. I'd seen complaints about this online: for Annual Passport holders, the Twilight Ticket was a bit of a waste. I also have an AP, so in 2013, I'd appreciate it if the Twilight Ticket was optional.

When: January 27, 2012. This was a night race, and the first wave started at 10:30 pm.

Where: The Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, Orange County.

Why: Disneyland's races benefit the Anaheim Community Foundation, which helps families, seniors, children and and adults with many issues; and the City of Anaheim. I really liked that the beneficiaries of the 5K were local residents.

Course access: The race was held at Disneyland, so it was accessible by Metro bus 460, the Disneyland Express from LAX, OCTA bus 43, various shuttles and more. After the race, transportation was a problem. The last 460 bus of the evening went back to Downtown LA at about 12:20, but some of the connecting buses and trains shut down before then. The Disneyland Express stopped running at 10:30. During the other events of the Half-Marathon weekend, Disney offered free shuttles to and from various pickup points at hotels around Anaheim.
______
Pre-race: The packet pickup was at the Expo at the Disneyland hotel. Fortunately, one could go to the Expo on the same night as the race, so two separate trips to Disneyland were not required.

Disney's pre-race festivities included an appearance by Tinker Bell, who flew over the Castle. Fireworks were also on the schedule, but had to be cancelled due to high winds.

There were several corrals/waves, which were self-assigned. Each wave was treated royally, with confetti canons and a special sendoff from the Emcee.

Course: The course started in front of the Sleeping Beauty Castle, wound through most of Disneyland, crossed over to California Adventure, and ended at Paradise Pier. There were several forays backstage, through areas that are normally verboten to visitors. There were also photo ops with Disney characters, floats from the Soundsational parade, and whimsical mile markers. It would have been very tempting to just meander through the course and spend a few hours taking pictures! At the end of the race, Paradise Pier was awash in color.

The course itself was almost entirely flat, but had a lot of corners and winding paths. There were announcements made over the PA to warn runners any time the course changed directions.

Runners: The Tinker Bell races were geared toward female runners, and women of all ages, shapes and sizes were well represented. There were also men of both serious and casual running styles, families, and older people. Many runners of both genders opted to wear costumes. It went without saying that there were numerous runners dressed as Tinker Bell or Peter Pan. There were also many who chose to wear costume pieces, such as glittery wings and tutus. Many children participated, but not as many as I expected. I'm guessing that this was due to the late hour, the price, and the fact that Disney also held a full contingent of (much less expensive!) Kids' Races later that weekend.

The course was so crowded that it was more of a power walk than a race, but almost everyone was polite. After the serious runners broke away at the beginning of the first wave, most people just meandered along.

Chip timing: None. This was strictly a fun run. RunDisney did give split times, however, so you could check your own pace. Technically, a 16-minute mile pace was required, whether you were running or walking. However, given the huge numbers of people at the race, given that the pace requirement didn't start until the last runner had crossed the start line, and given that the last wave started almost a half hour after the first, I think that one would have needed to fall way, way behind to get swept. I wouldn't have pushed it, though...getting swept from a race at the Happiest Place on Earth would have been a bummer, to say the very least.

Shirt: White short-sleeved T-shirt with the Never Land 5K logo in vibrant color.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Swag: Everyone received a gorgeous finisher medal: a full color vinyl medallion on a midnight-blue satin ribbon with the race name and date. Some people complained because the Disney 5K races get these vinyl "medallions" instead of medals made out of metal, but I was not in that camp. I thought the medallion was beautiful, well crafted and a wonderful finishing prize.

I also want to mention the bib, which was a work of art in itself: the same midnight blue with stars and personalization. For the goody bags: there wasn't much, in all honesty. There was a big race program, but the GEAR bag only included an energy bar. About two weeks before the race Disney sent a link to an "online i-gift bag" with promotional offers; this would seem to be the wave of the future.
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Expo: Lots of vendors offered running gear, from shoes to iPod holders, and reasonable prices. There were also free lectures throughout the weekend with RunDisney experts, including Olympian Jeff Galloway.

Would I Do this Race Again: Yes. Without question.

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