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RACE: Los Angeles Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon
DATE: October 26, 2014
LOCATION: Downtown Los Angeles
DISTANCES: Half Marathon/5K
START TIME: 7:00am
WEATHER AT START: 61°/ Partly Cloudy
FINISHERS: 7762 (Half Marathon)/ 1264 (5K)
This year marked the 5th running of the LA Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon as thousands of costume-clad Angelenos lined the streets near the Staples Center for a pre-Halloween romp through the city streets.
As part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll series, registration costs for the LA Rock ‘n’ Roll Half tend to be on the higher side, but there are plenty of ways around paying out through the nose. Of course, first of all you can always pay as early as possible before rates go up. In addition, you could choose one of the group deals that Rock ‘n’ Roll offers, either the season pass or the 3-pack of races for $199 (the route I went this year). In addition, Rock ‘n’ Roll likes to give discounts through social media (check your FB page) and they typically run a $13 off special for all of their races on the 13th of each month.
The expo for the race was held at the LA Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles. Convention Center parking was $10 and there are also plenty of nearby lots for you to choose from. I decided to stretch my legs a bit and parked a few blocks away, saving myself the parking cost and instead fed a meter for far less. The expo itself is a decent size, with plenty of vendors on hand for you to check out the latest racing gear, sample some of the running grub available or sign up for upcoming races. And once again, the main sponsor for this year’s race was the ASPCA, so their paw prints were all over the expo as racers stepped up to show their support for our four-legged friends.
NOTE: Runners had to pick up their own bibs; no exceptions.
The LA Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon seems to have planted itself firmly on the weekend closest to Halloween, so “things that go bump in the night” have become an ongoing presence, blended with the series’ Rock ‘n’ Roll theme. Racers voted for the medal this year (from three options), which features a guitar-riding witch sailing over the LA skyline complete with a giant spider web in the background. The design is a bit busy, but still a decent bit of bling complete with a Halloween-orange ribbon (yellow for the 5K). And the Rock ‘n’ Roll series does have additional bling for those people running multiple races this year, including the “Cali Combo” and their signature “heavy medals.”
Racers didn’t get to vote on the tech shirt, which is a shame because this year’s edition felt like a step backward from last year’s cool design. The 2014 shirt is white in color (sorry, I’m just not a fan of white shirts… I feel it’s lazy) and featured a gray muted mash-up design of musical notes, speakers, palm trees and a witch (remember, it’s Halloween) overlaid by an orange-colored outline of the letters “LA.” In my opinion, not one of their better shirts (give the racers a say next year, perhaps). Racers were also given a black drawstring backpack, which doubled as a gear check bag.
Since the race begins near the Staples Center, parking is not much of an issue (as long as you avoid the street closures) and racers can park at the convention center or one of the nearby lots. But be prepared to spend anywhere from $10-$20. I chose to take the Metrorail downtown, parking at the Universal City lot and grabbing the Red Line train to 7th Street (about 1/3 mile from the start area). Round trip only cost $3.50 ($1.75 each way, plus $1 if you need a TAP card) or you can purchase a day pass for $7. The trip for me only took about 30 minutes on the train, about the same as driving downtown and finding parking, plus it’s pretty stress-free.
The course was the same as last year, featuring a modified “Out & Back” route. Starting at the Staples Center you head south on city streets, looping around the LA Coliseum and making your way back past the Staples Center around mile 6. After that, you head north through the 2nd Street tunnel, along Figueroa and Flower before a back & forth across the popular 6th Street bridge and then back toward downtown and the finish. The course itself is mostly flat with the only true incline being on the 6th St. bridge (and you do get to run back down it).
I once again had an issue with the length of the course, as it seemed to be longer than 13.1 miles (my GPS came in at almost 13.4). Be sure to cut corners as tight as etiquette allows and don’t weave too much, if you want to make sure you don’t add too much length.
NOTE: Be aware that your GPS will almost certainly lose its connection during your two trips through the 2nd St. tunnel. Fortunately, my Garmin recalculated shortly after emerging both times.
LA Rock ‘n’ Roll typically has decent course services at their races. Plenty of porta-potties were on hand at the start line and there were adequate water/energy drink stops (Gatorade Endurance was the drink of choice for 2014) manned by energetic volunteers. Gu gels were given out around mile 9 on the course. I also saw plenty of medical tents along with support personnel cruising the course on bicycles. I did have an issue with one of the services, as I signed up for runner tracking (along with a friend or two) and no one received any text updates. Not sure if there was a ghost in the machine (remember, it’s Halloween) system wide or just a glitch with mine.
Rock ‘n’ Roll races also tend to have good finish line/post race activities. After receiving my finisher’s medal from a volunteer I made my way along the chute and received a decent array of snacks, including: water, chocolate milk, gatorade, tiny bags of snack mix and bananas. Once again, no bags on hand to carry our post-race bounty, but maybe they’ll get it right next year.
The post party was located near the exterior of the Nokia Theater and featured a stage with music and a Michelob Ultra beer tent (each 21+ racer got a ticket for a free post-race brew along with their bib). There were also a few other vendors around giving out some swag as well as Rock ‘n’ Roll tent where runners could grab some last minute race merchandise.
This was my second time running the LA Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and it felt very similar (not in a bad way) to last year’s race. I enjoy the runners in costumes as well as the downtown course. And while there is room for improvement… better job on the shirts next year please, it’s a fun local race, well-organized and one that I plan to continue on an annual basis.
In the City of Angels, people are known for changing their name (aka “rebranding”) all of the time. Archibald Leach became Cary Grant. Sean Combs went from Puff Daddy to P. Diddy. And Prince became “The Artist Formerly Known As Prince” (yup, for a while his name was symbol) and then thankfully finally went back to Prince.
Well, having undergone an identity shift, the 8-year-old Santa Monica 5000 re-emerged this past Sunday as the newly christened Santa Monica RunFEST. I’m happy to say that even with the name change, the race retained its charm. With a myriad of distances to choose from: a 10K, 5K, untimed 5K “retro themed run,” and a family friendly 3K, around 2000 people laced up their running shoes for some seaside scampering. This year I ran the 10K for the third time and joined 545 other finishers for a fun 6.2 mile jaunt through Santa Monica.
Registration fees for the race were rather reasonable, with the 10K costing between $40-$50 (depending on when you sign up) and numerous discounts were available online. And with a portion of the proceeds benefitting the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, I felt fine with opening up my wallet to support the cause.
Packet pick-up was on Saturday afternoon, located near the Civic Center in Santa Monica and the expo doubled as the “Wellbeing Festival” sponsored by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. In addition to getting my shirt, bib and swag bag, I also got to peruse some non-running related vendors and picked up some nice free “first aid” supplies from the Red Cross (thanks). Parking was reasonable for the expo as the parking lot gave you the first half hour free. It seems I was there for exactly 31 minutes and ended up paying a whole dollar.
Runners could also pick up their bibs/shirts on race day, but the swag bag was only for people showing up at the Wellbeing Festival.
Plenty of parking is available around Santa Monica for the racers. You had the choice of parking near the start of the race with beachside parking (expect to spend $10) or you could choose to park at one of the many structures near the finish line. I myself chose a structure right by the 3rd St. Promenade and ended up getting it for free. Not too shabby.
The Santa Monica 5000 typically gave runners a cotton participation shirt and that trend continues with RunFEST. This year’s shirt was green in color, featured a simple yet effective logo and was identical for both the 10K and 5K runners. Retro race runners did get an appropriate retro shirt. RunFEST did start a new tradition by giving all of the finishers a medal to celebrate their achievement. While runners got the same medal regardless of the distance run, it was a decent medal and a nice bit of bling to add to the collection.
The race did give out another bit of swag in their bags (the Sketchers cinch sack also doubles as a basic backpack) as each runner received a running visor courtesy of race sponsor 2XU. Very nice.
RunFEST features a point-to-point/out & back combo course. The 10K race starts near the intersection of Barnard Way and Ocean Park Blvd. and then loops north, heading up Ocean Avenue before turning onto San Vicente Blvd. At the mile 4 mark, runners turn around again and head back along San Vicente and finish on Ocean Blvd. near the Santa Monica Pier.
One little bit of info worth noting is that even though the course feels flat, it actually has a gradual incline and decline. While the elevation change only ends up to be around 200′ (spread over two miles), runners will probably notice that the final third of the race seems to be easier than the section that precedes it. This little tidbit might help racers adjust their pacing and help them finish a few seconds quicker.
And for those of you who ran the Los Angeles Marathon, the Santa Monica RunFEST gives a chance to relive the final two miles of the marathon and perhaps enjoy the nice ocean view a bit more (let’s face it, at mile 24 of a marathon I’m not overly aware of my surroundings).
Course services for the Santa Monica RunFEST are pretty basic, but sufficient. There aren’t a ton of porta potties around, so you might want to find a place to stop at before your arrive in Santa Monica (I myself made a quick pit stop at a nearby McD’s). The course itself featured a few water stops, but they were a little undermanned. Since the race is only a 10K, you might be better served to bring your own water. I carried two 8oz. bottles on my hydration belt and was able to bypass every water stop.
The race did have safety personnel traversing the course on bikes and police officers monitoring the intersections to keep the traffic at bay. Basic mile markers were situated on the course, but be sure to wear your GPS as the only digital read-out is at the finish line. The race did provide runner timing (although not for friends/family members to monitor) featuring a shoe tag (which for some reason we were able to keep). I would suspect that next year the timing chips might be imbedded on the bibs.
FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY
The finish line services for the race were pretty basic, only some water available (no snacks) and I couldn’t find any “finish photographers.” The race did feature a post-race party located on the Santa Monica Pier where you could get some water, energy drinks and a few snacks from vendors (I scored a bottle of chocolate milk, which did hit the spot). They had a band playing in the background and race results were available (there was also an “extra cost” VIP party located further up on the pier), but you really didn’t miss anything if you decided to skip the festivities.
I do enjoy the Santa Monica 5000/RunFEST or whatever it ends up being called next year. It’s a nice no-stress race with a laid back feel and decent view of the ocean. The race doesn’t feature many bells and whistles, but that’s okay with me. This race doubled as my taper run for next week’s LA Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and I had a lot of fun. I plan to be back in 2015.