Overview: One of Los Angeles's oldest and most beloved races, the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run celebrated its 39th year - and its second with its revamped course.

When
: December 10, 2016.

Where: 
As the race name would suggest, Santa Monica and Venice. 

Course access:  The start line was accessible from the Big Blue Bus #1 down Main Street or the BBB #3 to Pico and 4th. The finish line at Windward Circle was close to the BB #1 again.

Why: Harvest Home for women and babies.
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Number of Participants: 1957 finishers in the 5K; 2184 in the 10K. Both events were sold out before race morning.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race; everything was fast and painless.

Course: This was the second year for the new course route. Both the 5K and 10K started at Barnard Way in Santa Monica, adjacent to the beach. However, instead of being an out-and-back, the course wound through local streets, went on the Venice Boardwalk for a bit, and then went back through Venice before finishing at the Venice Pavilion/Windward Circle.

I think the race may have started earlier in the morning this year, because the boardwalk was almost entirely deserted. This fortunately meant that many of the problems associated with the non-closed course on the boardwalk (ie, trying to navigate around vendors and tourists) were alleviated this year.

The 10K and 5K start times were spaced out well.

Post-Race:  Water and bananas. Several vendors were on hand to give out additional goodies, such as chocolate milk.

Chip timing: Tags on the bib by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  Once again, the SMVCR had the best shirt in racing: a long-sleeved red tech shirt. This year's design featured Santa being pulled in his sleigh by athletic bipedal reindeer. From what I understand, the design was inspired by costumes worn by participants in a past race.

Swag: A medal with the same artwork as the shirt, on a satin ribbon.

One thing I really, really did NOT like about this race was its "free photos." In 2015, participants were required to enable a Facebook app and post on social media to obtain the photos for free. This year, participants had to turn over their email address to a beer company and agree to receive marketing from them to even see their photos.

Yeah, I'm just not okay with that. Either offer the photos for free or don't, but don't tell participants they're free and then neglect to tell them that they will be forced to surrender their email addresses or social media for marketing and apps. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!

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.
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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 oldest and most beloved races, the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run celebrated its 38th year in 2015, with a new course.

When
: December 5, 2015.

Where: 
As the race name would suggest, Santa Monica and Venice. 

Course access:  The start line was accessible from the Big Blue Bus #1 down Main Street or the BBB #3 to Pico and 4th. The finish line at Windward Circle was close to the BB #1 again.

Why: Harvest Home for women and babies.
_____________

Number of Participants: 1977 finishers in the 5K; 2363 in the 10K.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race; everything was fast and painless.

Course: The 2015 race had a brand-new course. As before, both the 5K and 10K started at Barnard Way in Santa Monica, adjacent to the beach. However, instead of being an out-and-back, the course wound through local streets, went on the Venice Boardwalk for a bit, and then went back through Venice before finishing at the Venice Pavilion/Windward Circle.

My pet peeve from 2014 remained the same: the section on the Venice Boardwalk was not closed. This meant that runners had to dodge street vendors, vagrants, tourists, skateboarders and cyclists as they were trying to complete the race. I know it's unrealistic to expect the Boardwalk to be closed, but the opposite isn't fair, either. If a runner had been at the back of the pack, they would have been totally confused about where to go, since nothing was closed or marked off.

However, thankfully, there was less boardwalk in 2015, and we seemed to hit it earlier in the day.

Post-Race:  Water and fruit; better than last year.

Chip timing: Shoe tags by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  Once again, the SMVCR had the best shirt in racing: a long-sleeved red tech shirt with Santa Claus running under the famous VENICE sign.

Swag: A lovely, glittery medal that was shaped like a snow globe, with the same "Santa in Venice" art as the shirt.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!!



Overview: The Santa Monica Classic returns after a one-year hiatus, stronger than ever.

This race ran as the Santa Monica 5000 and the Santa Monica classic for over a decade. In 2014, however, it seemed to have been taken over by a different race director -- Generic Events -- and became the much more gimmicky Santa Monica Runfest. Runfest, which was reviewed here, had a costume run and an untimed 3K in addition to the standard 5K and 10K. For 2015 it appears that the race has been restored to its former format and theme, which is very welcome. The race is considered part of the LA Marathon series.

When: September 13, 2015

Where: Santa Monica.

Course access: The start line was at the beach near Ocean Park Boulevard, which is close to several Big Blue Bus lines, including the 1 on Main Street. It's also a 15-minute walk from the 3 and Rapid 3 on Lincoln Boulevard.

Why: The race provides funds for the Santa Monica-Malibu School District.
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Number of Participants: 1281 finishers in the 5K; 1436 in the 10K.

Pre-race: Good communication and final race instructions from the race directors answered all questions. There was packet pickup available at a 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 was the same as the 2014 Runfest --- and I am guessing the previous Santa Monica 5000 and Classic races too. 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. At two or three points the course was not closed and runners had to wait to be waved through by the police, which was odd.

Timing: Gemini Timing. What was weird is that the bib had a d-tag but runners were also provided with a shoe tag we were allowed to keep. I am not sure which was the actual timing device, or if both were.

Post-course food: Plenty of bagels, bananas and Clif trail mix bars. Well done.

Shirt: A very classic design with the race's trademark stripes on a heathered blue shirt. What's kind of cool is that from a distance it looks like a cotton tee; it's actually a tech shirt. I did NOT like that runners had to collect their shirts at the Expo AFTER the race.



Swag: Large, very pretty medal with an ocean wave, a lifeguard shack and the Santa Monica Classic stripes.

Expo: Pretty small, but had one or two interesting tables that don't normally show up at race expos, like Megabus.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.
Overview: The former Santa Monica 5000 race has been re-branded as RunFEST, with several new events.

When
:October 19, 2014.

Where:
Santa Monica, ending on Ocean Blvd. close to the Santa Monica Pier.

Course access:  Downtown Santa Monica is very well connected to mass transit. The start line near Ocean Park was close to both the Big Blue Bus #1 and #3, and the finish line near the Pier was within walking distance of most Big Blue Bus lines, as well as the Metro 4, 704, 33 and 733.

Why: Harvest Home for women and babies.
_____________

Number of Participants: 985 finishers in the 5K; 568 in the 10K. There were also two untimed events for adults: a 3K "Fundemonium" race and a 5K Costume Run.

There seemed to be an effort made here to separate the "fun" runners (those who are running with friends, wearing costumes, and just trying to have a good time) from the hyper-serious ones (who really want a PR and don't want their course mucked up with lots of slower runners and walkers) by offering several different events.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race at the beach; everything went smoothy.

Course: The course started near Ocean Park and the beach path, tuned onto Main Street, and eventually went down Ocean Boulevard in the heart of Santa Monica. The finish line was on Ocean near the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.

The course was flat, fast and closed; one can't ask for more. 

Post-Race:  One thing I disliked about this race was the fact that runners had to trek down to the Santa Monica Pier proper for the post-race. Water was available at the finish line, but everything else was down at the Pier in the small expo. The expo itself was nice, though, and to be fair, it was probably much better than it would have been if it had been crammed onto Ocean Blvd.

Chip timing: Yes, by Gemini Timing. The 3K and Costume Run were not timed.

Shirt:  Nice sea green cotton t-shirt with the Santa Monica Pier ferris wheel. What was different at this event was that if you chose to pick up your bib on race day, you didn't get your shirt until after the race, down at the Pier.

Swag: This was the first year that the RunFEST offered finisher medals. They were given to those who completed any event (10K, 5K, 3K or Costume Run), and they were very lovely. Those who had opted to attend packet pickup the day before the race received a bag of swag; those of us who picked up our stuff on race day got an empty drawstring bag. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.




Overview: One of Los Angeles's oldest and most beloved races, the Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run celebrated its 37th year in 2014.

When
: December 6, 2014.

Where: 
As the race name would suggest, Santa Monica and Venice, mostly on and around the boardwalk. 

Course access:  The start/finish area was a short walk from the Big Blue Bus #1 on Main St. and a longer, but doable, walk from the #3 on Lincoln Boulevard.

Why: Harvest Home for women and babies.
_____________

Number of Participants: 1964 finishers in the 5K; 2600 in the 10K.

Pre-race: Packet pickup was available before the race; everything was fast and painless.

Course: The course started in Santa Monica by the beach, veered onto Main Street, went toward Venice, and then went onto the Venice Boardwalk. Runners stayed on the Boardwalk all the way back to Santa Monica, veered onto another side street and finally ended back up where they'd started.

One thing I absolutely disliked about this course: the section on the Venice Boardwalk was not closed. This meant that runners had to dodge street vendors, vagrants, tourists, skateboarders and cyclists as they were trying to complete the race. I know it's unrealistic to expect the Boardwalk to be closed, but the opposite isn't fair, either. If a runner had been at the back of the pack, they would have been totally confused about where to go, since nothing was closed or marked off.

Post-Race:  One more objection here: they really didn't feed the runners. We were offered water and a piece of (admittedly very good) fruit.

Chip timing: Shoe tags by Gemini Timing.

Shirt:  The SMVCR prides itself on giving what it calls the best shirt in racing, and they really were on the mark with that. Runners received truly lovely, warm, long-sleeved black tech tees with green accents. 

Swag: This was the first year the SMVCR gave finishers' medals, and they really were cute. They featured the artwork from the t-shirt. A cute Santa hat was also given out at packet pickup. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes.


Overview:  A 5/10K race through downtown Santa Monica, parallel to the ocean. This was the first West Coast run for Live Ultimate, who are developing a series of races after successful events in Florida.

The race was well designed, well executed and for the most part, a fun event.

When:  February 10, 2013.

Where: Santa Monica. The race began on Barnard Way right near the beach at Ocean Park and ended next to the Santa Monica Pier.

Course access: Santa Monica is very well connected. The race start was a short walk from several Big Blue Bus lines, including the 3. The finish line and festival were right in the heart of Santa Monica and near numerous buses, including most of the Big Blue Bus lines and several key Metro buses to Downtown LA and the Pacific Palisades, including the 534, 704 and 733.

Why: The race benefited the No Kid Hungry initiative to end child hunger.
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Number of Participants: About 1800, pretty evenly split between the 5K and 10K.

Course: A flat run through Main Street and Ocean. The streets were totally cleared for the runners, and it was a rare treat to experience Santa Monica's main thoroughfares without cars and buses. The turnaround for the 5K was very well marked, and a volunteer was giving instructions next to the large sign that told the runners which way to go.

Chip timing:
Yes, by Gemini, with shoe tags. No split times were given but there was a clock at the finish line.

Shirt: A gray cotton t-shirt. They had both women's and men's cut shirts. The RD boasted that the shirts were very soft, and that wasn't an exaggeration. My only gripe with the shirts is that the women's cut had a pink logo. *eyeroll* Not all women love pink and not all women's items have to have pink, okay? I took a men's shirt in protest.

Swag: They used one of those useless "virtual gift bags" *eyeroll* but the race medal was very unique and fun.


Expo: On the boardwalk at the Santa Monica Pier. It was a five-minute hike from the finish line. The race directors claimed breakfast would be served but it wasn't; there were just a lot of vendors offering freebies. Many 10K runners found that bagels, oranges, water, etc. was gone by the time they finished.

Also, Live Ultimate did not offer runners even small samples of their drinks - they sold them. I'm sorry, that is crass.

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes. It didn't knock my socks off but it was a perfectly nice race.

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