Race Report: LA Marathon
by Jen Reyes Tibangin
Last Sunday, I hit the Los Angeles Marathon for the second time. Last year, it was an opportunity to chase down a Personal Best. This year, it was one of many awesome things to do while visiting family in SoCal. This relaxed approach really let me appreciate the awesomeness of the race, but I’m a little biased. Here are some details for you to decide if it’s your kind of marathon.
Perhaps because of last year’s unprecedented rainstorm, this year, organizers were almost too communicative, offering regular updates including one on offering tips on how to run in the rain. Bag check, once located, was smooth, and there were plenty of port-a-potties for everyone’s convenience. They even opened up Dodger Stadium for runners, so you could take yourself on an informal tour if you were so inclined. The race typically has a seemingly arbitrary start time of 7:24 AM, and this year they started about six minutes after schedule. For those not fortunate enough to live within easy driving distance to Dodger Stadium, there were free shuttles from Santa Monica or LA Union Station.
Picking up your race number at the Expo in Dodger Stadium was as easy as pie. When I arrived early Friday afternoon, it had the feel of a dignified open air flea market. I took a precursory tour and spotted expo staples including headbands, shades, spybelts, and fuel. In the bib pickup tent, there were plenty of polite and enthusiastic staff. Fun fact: the organizer will put the name you specify at the time of registration on your bib. Word to the wise: the LA Marathon really promotes Students Run Los Angeles (SRLA), a program for high school students to train to run a marathon. This means that the average age of volunteers and racers skews young. But on the flip side, along the course, you may find that you have the privilege to run alongside one of the 195 Legacy Runners, who have completed every single LA Marathon since its debut in 1986.
The LA Marathon has a crew of sponsors, the biggest being Honda which remained the same, but there was a sponsor shift from last year’s shirt designer K-Swiss to Asics. My only complaint about the expo was that the “Greetings from Mile X” backdrops that were a cliché but fantastic hit last year, were not present.
From drop-off and parking, it is an easy walk to the race start and to port-a-potties. Please note that there is no enforcement mechanism for keeping folks in their assigned corrals, so it’s up to you to angle for front, middle, or back. Also, there are no vendors at Dodger Stadium, so make sure that you have everything you might possibly need on you or in your drop bag.
This Stadium to the Sea run is essentially an unrivaled running tour of Los Angeles. The first 10K take you through downtown LA, where some of the sharper inclines might surprise you. You visit Little Tokyo, the Chinatown Gate, and make your way to Echo Park and Silver Lake. From there, you hit Hollywood, where you check out tourist attractions including the Pantages Theater, Capitol Records Tower, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Next is West Hollywood, where the WeHo Cheerleaders pump up the crowd with glittery heels, naughty sign, and provocative cheers.
Further down, you run along deserted posh shopping districts, where palm trees and designer duds might prompt you to stop, stretch, and window shop. From there, it’s only a few more miles to the finish, but you’ll have to make it past a less inspiring stretch through Century City. After running through the parking lot of the VA Hospital, smile for cameras at the apex of the gradual climb, and then enjoy a slow steady descent westwards through the quiet and gorgeous Santa Monica neighborhoods the beach. The last bit, slightly less than a mile, is parallel to the ocean and you cross the finish line with the Santa Monica Pier in sight.
While it lacks the throngs of fans in the New York City Marathon, I can’t recall an empty stretch. As an added bonus, there was a lot of music along the course, including percussionists at a few critical junctures. There’s nothing like a steady beat to inspire you to make it to the top of a gnarly hill.
This year’s run had about 23,000 participants, the size of a “small city on the move” certainly, but smaller than some of the behemoths (like Chicago or New York City) that I’ve experienced. This directly contributed to a run smooth all around. Apart from the race start, there was no point that I ever feel like there was not enough space.
On Route Drinks and Snacks
Water stations are every mile, so it would only do you a disservice to tote your own water. Volunteers a plenty hand out orange wedges and candy, and there are a handful of good Samaritans pushing tiny Dixie cups of beer.
Hot, no. Functional, yes. An electric blue long sleeve. This is not a race you do for a t-shirt.
Meh. Again, not a race you would do for the medal.
On post race organization
Greatly, greatly improved from last year’s rain-soaked debacle. More fresh faced volunteers to fetch your bag, wrap you in a silver cape, and snap your photo guerilla style than you can shake a stick at.
Marks out of 10: 8.5
Read more of Jen over on her Tumblr cryingisforsissies.tumblr.com