Overview: A friendly community race.

When: June 15, 2014.

Downtown Culver City, on Washington Blvd.

Course access:  The Metro 733 was running normally, and the start line was only about a block away from the stop at Venice and Bagley. The Culver City station on the Expo light rail line was also within walking distance.

Why: The Culver City Educational Fund and Train 4 Autism.

Number of Participants: 823 finishers in the 5K; 390 in the 10K.  

Pre-race:  Packet Pickup on race day was seamless; volunteers were friendly. However, a few more port-o-potties would have been nice!

Course: Through Downtown Culver City and back, past landmarks such as Sony Studios, with their giant rainbow. Very flat. Mile markers and water stops provided.

Post-Race: A few small items of food and drink. There were only a handful of tables at the expo in the small park, and I believe they all were educational services, etc. They were of interest to parents with children in elementary school, but perhaps not to the general running crowd.

Chip timing: Bib tags and timing by Gemini. Clock at finish line.

Shirt:  A simple gray t-shirt with the race logo.

Swag: A very adorable medal of a shoeprint. The race also provided free photos with the race logo. This was very welcome, since most race photos are ridiculously priced. 

Would I Run this Race Again: Yes!

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

When: December 15, 2012.

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.
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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