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: The inaugural music-themed Sunset Strip Half-Marathon/5K gave runners an opportunity to run along --as the name would suggest -- the Sunset Strip in the heart of West Hollywood. The race was impressive, particularly for an inaugural event.

When: April 19, 2015

West Hollywood, starting and ending in the park next to the Library.

Course access: Bus service around WeHo was a bit screwed up by the street closures; the closest ones were the Metro 4 and 16, both of which were re-routed to go along 3rd St. 

Why:The race provides funds for the House of Blues Music Forward Foundation.


Number of Participants: 575 5K finishers; 1729 Half-Marathon finishers.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available on either Saturday or on race morning. One confusing thing was that the informational email indicated was that the packet pickup would close at 6:45am -- but the 5K didn't start until 7:30. A second disappointment was that they seemed to be running out of various sizes of race t-shirts early on. Despite these two issues, packet pickup was smooth, and the volunteers were nice as can be. 

Course: For the 5K, the course was an out and back from San Vincente to Sunset. The hill on San Vicente was extremely challenging, but as the race announcer said, at least it was at the start, and not the finish! The course went past numerous Sunset Strip landmarks, including the Whisky-a-Go-Go, the Viper Room, the House of Blues, Saddleback Ranch and Book Soup. There were numerous informational placards along the course that gave fun facts about various hotels and other buildings.

The course was well staffed with volunteers, who made sure the 5Kers knew where their course split from the Half-Marathon and turned around; and there were two fluid stations with water and Gatorade.

Timing: By Westtime, with disposable shoe D-tags. Finish line clock. Mile markers for Half; none for 5K.

Post-course food:  Yay! Runners were offered Gatorade cans, water, Kind bars, bananas, and bagels. There was also a beer garden and runners were entitled to a free drink. I didn't take advantage of that.

Shirt: A lovely long-sleeved, two-toned tech shirt. No logos! Whoo!

Swag: Great medals for both the 5K and Half.

Expo: Just a few things here and there, mostly sporting goods companies.

Would I Run this Race Again: Absolutely! I was very impressed by how organized, efficient, friendly and well-run this event was. This is what a race should be like!
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!

When: April 26, 2014.

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.

Number of Participants: 1422 finishers in the 5K; 191 finishers in the 10K.

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 one thing that confused me about the race course was that it seemed to be closed very, very early. After only about 40 minutes in, the police were asking runners to move to the sidewalks on certain streets. Since there wasn't a pacing requirement, the course was supposed to be open for several hours and there were many, many walkers in the 5K, I'm not sure why this happened.

Post-Race: Food was offered at the large and interesting expo in the park. There were booths from local businesses in El Segundo and the South Bay, as well as local sports teams like the Kings (who practice in El Segundo) and Galaxy.

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 deep red shirt with a retro logo - really nice.

Swag: The race medal was gorgeous - it had a retro 1930s design and depicted El Segundo HS. The goodie bag included a water bottle, some snacks, and a keychain.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!

Overview: A shining example of how to run a large race. VfV is a fun, friendly and really well organized event!

On a personal note, it was really heartwarming to me to witness the turnout and supportive nature of the participants. Sexual abuse and rape are horrific experiences, there's a lot of victim-blaming out there, and it can all isolate a survivor. Seeing the community come together to not only acknowledge abuse but to actively support survivors, acknowledge their trauma and raise funds to help them, was inspiring and wonderful.

When: April 15, 2012.

Where: Lake Balboa Park in Encino in the San Fernando Valley.

Why: The event raises money for CATS, or the Center for Assault Treatment Services at Northridge Hospital Medical Center. It is the Valley and Santa Clarita's only 24/7 program for sexual abuse victims. CATS provides supportive services ranging from offering victim advocates at forensic examinations to counseling and other outreach activities.

Course Access: The race was a five-minute walk--if that--from the Woodley station on Metro's Orange Line Busway. Extra points: CATS mentioned this on their website's "directions" page! :)
Number of Participants: 1786 in total. There were 1225 participants in the 5K and 561 in the 10K. The announcer mentioned that the 2012 event broke previous attendance records.

Pre-race: VfV had a lot of tables set up for packet pickup. Here, again, were really good examples of how to troubleshoot and manage a huge race. The check-in was next to the help desk was next to the goodie bag/shirt pickup was next to the bag check. You could float from one table to the next in order, instead of wandering around, trying to find each thing you needed.

For some reason my bib was not there. No problem. They had me fill out a bubble scan sheet, they handed me a new bib and chip, and by the end of the race, they'd matched it up to my existing registration information and verified me. Smooth, painless and stress-free. A representative from Prime Time was waiting by the Finish Line to verify information. That, my friends, is how the pros handle problems...bravo CATS and Prime Time.

Another nice thing was that the Expo and the food tent were open before the race. This made it possible for us early risers and long commuters to get some nourishment before setting off on our run.

Runners: The runners and walkers were very diverse. Men, women, children; people with dogs (boooo. I am not in favor of dogs on race courses for various reasons), women with jogging strollers, hardcore runners, leisurely walkers. A fair majority of people were walking.

Course: This was perhaps one of the most picturesque courses I'd ever run. It wound around bucolic Lake Balboa park, so the scenery included the lake, waterfalls, a stream, ducks, and beautiful park.

My only issue with the course was that in a lot of places, it was way too narrow. There was at least one point where there was a significant bottleneck, and runners who were trying to do a competitive race ended up actually running in the mud to get around the walkers. Any time you needed to pass someone, you had to do that. This might be remedied in the future by making sure runners and fast walkers are in corrals at the front.

Chip Timing: Yes, with a standard shoe tag. At the end of the race they even had buckets you could stand on so a volunteer could cut your tag off for you. Mile markers were present; split times were not. There was a clock at the finish.

Shirt: A white shirt with the CATS logo and purple ribbon. A little cluttered, but cute. The CATS' logo is a child's drawing of a cat. For this event, they give the cat some red running shoes. Adorable.
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Swag: I was somewhat stunned--in a good way--by the amount of truly useful stuff I brought home from this race. There were two goody bags which included things ranging from a band-aid holder (still in my purse, and very handy) to a can of healthy cream soda a really high quality pair of gloves.

The race also offered a very cute finishers' medal with a border of bronze stars and a center with the sneakered CATS cat on a purple background. The purple medal ribbon can be detached from the medal for use as a lanyard, if desired.

Expo: The Expo was especially interesting because it included a lot of businesses and groups that were local to the Valley. Some had to do with counseling and other health services; some were food companies I'd never seen at any other race. Everest College, in Reseda, sent out an entire team of massage therapists to offer free table massages. And let me tell you, those MTs were good at what they did; in less than five minutes they'd worked out the kinks in my legs. In less than 15 I was feeling much more relaxed and pain free. There were tons and tons of freebies ranging from bracelets to orange juice. Panera, El Toro and Ben & Jerry's, among others, were on hand to give out free snacks.

Would I Run this Race Again? Yes, in a hot second. This was a fantastic event for a worthwhile cause. I am already looking forward to the 2013 race.
Overview: This race is a perfect example of how a wonderful idea can be marred by imperfect execution.

The 5K and 10K were the little sisters of the main event, the Hollywood Half Marathon. Both races started and ended at the same place; the 5K simply had an earlier turnaround point than the 10K.

The races were all billed as red-carpet events and opportunities to "run with the stars." The website even included a page of "etiquette for running with celebrities." I think anyone from L.A. probably saw this for what it was: a tongue-in-cheek, deliberately over the top stereotypical "Hollywood event." Would people from outside of L.A. see it the same way? Well, I don't know, but I would hope so. Then again, a lot of out of towners think this is what we do all the time, so who knows.

Unfortunately, the race suffered from that quintessential Hollywood ethos: all flash and no substance. Several things promised on the website/registration didn't pan out. For instance, the website stated:

travel in comfort to the post-race awards ceremony in a limo party bus shuttle with your fellow runners. Walk down a movie-premiere style red carpet and photo backdrop and celebrate your victory in style when receiving your beautiful Hollywood Star Medal.

The race instructions for the half-marathon said:

Star Medals will be handed out at the finish line. Age Division Awards and Prizes will be presented on the 5 Towers Stage at CityWalk.

and for the 5K/10K:

All participants will be given their medals at the finish line. There are no age specific or overall awards. Shuttles will not transport 5k / 10k runners to Universal Studios for breakfast. We recommend taking the Metro Red Line to Universal Studios.

Hmmmm. I also received word that the shuttles for the half-marathon shut down well before the race ended, leaving many runners with no option to get to the finish area, save to trek up a steep hill.

Even given the fact that it was an inaugural race, it seemed to be very poorly planned out. What's more, the race director seemed to ignore the numerous complaints and concerns that were posted to the event's very active Facebook page.
When: April 7, 2012

Where: Hollywood Boulevard, right by Grauman's Chinese Theater.

Why: The race benefited two charities for homeless youth: Los Angeles Youth Network and Covenant House. Additional beneficiaries iwere the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Gateway to a Cancer Cure and the Pediatric Hydrocephalus Foundation.

Course access: The start/finish area was a stone's throw from the Metro Red Line subway's Hollywood & Highland station.
Number of Participants: 1136 in the 5K; 1302 in the 10K starting at the same time from the same start line

Pre-race: Packet-pickup was spectacularly inconvenient. There wasn't any race day pickup, so everyone had to go to the Expo, which was held at a hotel at Universal Studios in North Hollywood. The Expo ended at 7pm, too.

7pm? Really? In LA where a lot of people get out of work at 6, traffic can be bad, and Universal isn't exactly on the beaten path for many? Did the race directors expect people to take off work just to pick up their packets? In addition, there was the insane suggestion of dressing in Hollywood formal wear for the Expo. Dude, look. It's an Expo. Looking at kiosks for energy bars and racing apparel is fun, but it's not exactly a glamor-packed activity. People want to get their packets, get their samples and freebies, and take off. They're not there for cocktail hour. Fortunately, everyone at the Expo completely ignored this suggestion.

In addition, um, remember that Friday after work timing? Exactly. Not to mention, as someone pointed out on Facebook, that the packet pickup happened to be on both the first night of Passover and Good Friday. The Expo/packet pickup wasn't really thought out well, and it did sour me on the race before I even started.

With close to 10,000 people all going to Universal for their packet pickup--and most arriving after work--the traffic for the packet pickup snaked all the way down to Lankershim Avenue. Many reported waiting as long as 40 minutes to park. Additionally, since the parking at the Universal lots isn't cheap, many ended up paying $8 or more simply to pick up their packets. There was a table near the front where you could stamp a ticket for parking validation but it was not clearly marked or mentioned.

In addition, problems at the Expo were numerous. A number of people reported on Facebook that they had received the wrong chips. One man's bib was inadvertently given away to someone else; and they ran out of bibs. Since the registration for all events was capped, there was no excuse to run out of bibs.

Not only that, but the information about start times and locations was not clear. Instead of sending an email with the details written out, participants received a message saying "peep the link" (WTF?) with an URL to the website.

The race website crashed the night before the race. People had heard vague announcements about times/time changes at the Expo, and they were confused. The Facebook page was bombarded with questions. The RD's main response was to direct people to the existing link on the race website, despite the fact that numerous runners reported that the website had been down for at least seven hours. The RD wasn't answering questions so random runners were posting the information and maps they had. Perhaps they should have been paid as race directors too, because they were the only ones providing useful information.

Runners: A decent mix of serious runners and fun ones; with a heavy Gen-X and Y contingent. There were some young people in the race, but most of them seemed to be over at the kids' events being held elsewhere.

Course: A flat, fast, out and back run on Hollywood Boulevard. The race started directly in front of El Capitan Theater and the Hollywood & Highland Center; the turnaround was at Gramercy.

The course was marred by, you guessed it, problems. Most notably? They didn't have fluids for the runners. Why? They ran out of cups. Right. It was a perfect Southern California day, which meant that it was unbelievably sunny and hot. The runners needed water. Some desperate runners were drinking directly from the giant jugs that had been left out and unattended, which of course rendered them unusable for anyone else. Clif handed out drinks for a little while, but they were gone before most of the 10K and 5K runners reached them.

The lanes for runners/walkers were poorly indicated. After the turnaround, my friends and I had the unfortunate experience of being shouted at by a volunteer when we were in the wrong lane. There was nothing marking any lane, so we had no idea where we were or why we shouldn't have been there.

There was a notable absence of staff and volunteers on the course. The only one who was pleasant was the announcer at the end, who was doing his very best to be supportive of all the runners.

Chip timing: Yes, with shoe tags. Runners were allowed to keep their chips, in a departure from usual race procedure. There weren't any mile markers or split times for 5K or 10K runners. There was, however, a clock at the finish line.

Shirt: A white t-shirt with a red and yellow star/red carpet logo. It wasn't that impressive. Runners were offered the chance to upgrade to technical shirts for a $20 fee, but I later heard that the shirts were being give out for free. I wish I'd known that; I would have liked a technical one. The techs still had the homely logo, but they also had nice red or yellow sleeves and detailing.
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Swag: A goodie bag was promised: we got the bags, which were cheap drawstring backpacks in either black or white--but there weren't any goodies in them. The timing chip was yours to keep, as mentioned above. The race director did email everyone a link to a "virtual race bag," but it was mostly a collection of the same coupons you could find in any tourist magazine. The only exception was a free ticket to Madame Tussauds. That was a nice surprise.

The medal was billed as the big ticket item, and it lived up to the hype. It was a gorgeous, heavy replica of the pink stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on a black ribbon. The medal was the one thing this race did 100% right.

Expo: Small, crowded, and without a lot of freebies.

Would I Do This Race Again? No. Absolutely not. There were simply too many problems. The race director did apologize for some of the mistakes, but others were totally ignored and overlooked. It wasn't well planned and it wasn't well organized.

In addition, the excuses that were made for the failures were pretty flimsy. It was the first year's event? Why yes, it was. There are a lot of other huge races in Los Angeles, including some that go through the same route. Just by observing these and asking questions, one could learn a lot about how to operate a Hollywood race. The race director and his wife were having a baby? Well, you know, a lot of people do that. If it was such a big deal, perhaps the date of the race should have been changed.

Some things, such as the lack of water and the chip mix-ups, were inexcusable. That's basic racing 101. In the case of the water, it wasn't just an inconvenience; it is extremely dangerous for runners to become dehydrated.

Could I do better, if I were planning a race? Well, on those two points, I think I could.

I have the feeling that the RD bit off more than he could chew with this event. Instead of doing a full out, four-race extravaganza, maybe he should have tested the waters with a 5/10 first.

And here's the issue with "trial and error" at races: you end up putting the runners' health at risk. Really. You risk having runners with heat stroke, dehydration, and other issues. That's not okay.

At any rate, the race left me feeling frustrated. I'm not in any hurry to do it again, and that's a shame, because it could have been brilliant.
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.


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