Holy cow -- what a course! This hilly evening run takes you up, and down, and up, and down, and up again until your knees are begging for mercy. This is a challenging run for those looking to push themselves, and for those who love taking in the views of urban LA!
I found out about this race through a recommendation from a friend of mine. I signed up, and perhaps rather foolishly, I was under the impression that this run offered two events: a hilly 5k, or a 282-step stair climb. In actuality, this 5k course culminates with a stair climb! I still would have signed up regardless of the events, but for those who have bad knees or are looking to return to running after an injury, this race is NOT for you! That being said, I arrived on race day to find that all the roads leading to the top of Baldwin Hill were closed off for the race, which meant parking was a bit of a nightmare. I had arrived early to anticipate this, but even so, I found myself rushing a bit toward the end for fear that I'd miss the start. The closest parking is in a TINY paid lot at the bottom of the hill. I was fortunate enough to snag a spot, but the unlucky ones ended up circling around for a while scoping out possible streets parking spots. The race started at the top of the hill, which meant we were all in for a hike to the top before the event even began. At the top at the Nature Center, there were volunteers and tables set up for check-in, late registration, and bag drop-off. Once checked in, the starting line was a few yards over in the parking lot.
Oh man, how do I describe this course? Runners start from the top of the hill and run around the winding, zig-zag dirt pathway all the way to the bottom of the hill. This part of the course is practically a trail run -- so watch out for uneven surfaces and tight pathways! The course even crosses over on itself at one point (not an issue at the start, but you'll understand why this was a bit tricky later on). Once runners reach the bottom, the course switched from dirt to road, and runners ran up the main road from the bottom to about 60% up the hill. The course then turned right and became even NARROWER as runners ran along the outer field of the baseball diamond before returning to main road. From there, runners finished the hill, and then looped back onto the dirt pathway from the beginning, zig-zagging down (almost) to the bottom before turning left and taking the 282 STEEP stair climb alllllll the way back up to the top for the finish. WHEW! As runners completed the dirt pathway for the second time, they had to dodge runners who were climbing the stairs, as the stairway cuts right through the dirt trail, which led to some near-collisions as runners were spread out along the route and having to cross numerous times at these intersections of trail and stairway.
The course was lined with multiple volunteers helping direct runners, as well as water stations. As runners climbed the final stretch, volunteers were cheering runners on, and the MC at the finish line was on the mic hyping the crowd up as well!
All finishers received a shirt and medal, as well as having the option at registration (for an added cost) to sign up for the post-race taco and beer party. The finish line had plenty of water as well as sponsors offering post-run flavored sports drinks, and nutritional juice shots. I opted out of the taco party, but runners who chose to participate were directed to the outdoor picnic area set up just beyond the starting line area. It was really cool to finish at the top of the hill and take in the sights overlooking Culver City and greater LA!
Tips: (there's a bunch for this one!)
- This is a HARD course. Use your best judgement when signing up and remember to take it easy if the hills and stairs start to cause you any (bad) pain!
- This is a trail/road hybrid course. Watch out for uneven surfaces, rocks/roots, and narrow pathways. (And wear a pair of shoes that you don't mind getting dusty!)
- If you're not used to running downhill (especially on a steep course such as this), be careful not to lose control of your footing! It can be really easy to let gravity carry you away and you could risk significant damage to your knees, or a very serious fall!
-This is an evening run, so take that into consideration when planning your hydration (as well as your parking!)
- Make you to add EVEN MORE additional time than normal to walk up to the top of the hill to check-in.
- Pace yourself! This race will test you! Don't get carried away on the downhill, and remember, you've got 282 steps to factor in between you and the finish!
With a course this difficult, this 5k truly earned it's daunting nickname. If you like a good challenge, this is definitely the race for you! You'll be rewarded with beautiful views, swag, and maybe a taco or two!