Here is a sampling of some recent reviews published on RaceGrader. We encourage past participants to share their race experiences to help other athletes prepare for upcoming events. Tips on the course, where to park, the registration process, etc...can all be very helpful. To write or read a review of a particular race, just type the name of the race into “Find A Race” on the right side of this page. Keep Racing!
Review of Star Wars Half Marathon by Scott Devine
RACE: Star Wars Half Marathon DATE: January 18, 2015 LOCATION: Anaheim, CA DISTANCES: Half Marathon/10K/5K/Kids Run START TIME: 5:30am WEATHER AT START: 52° and mostly sunny. FINISHERS: 10374 Half Marathon (Sunday)/ 9195 10K (Saturday) A long time ago (okay, it was early Sunday morning) in a galaxy far far away (aka Anaheim)... Half marathon runners were out in full "force" (sorry, been stuck on Star Wars puns all week) for the inaugural running of the Star Wars Half Marathon. When you combine my childhood obsession with Star Wars (I had every Star Wars toy, including Star Wars bed sheets) and my adult obsession of distance running into one event you get something that excites both the big kid and the eternal 8-year-old inside me. REGISTRATION/EXPO Over the years I've spent countless amounts of disposable (and non-disposable) income on Star Wars toys/collectables/memorabilia. Heck my mom once joked that if they sold tauntaun poop I'd want some (I would have). So, this was one race I was willing to spend whatever was necessary. And a good thing too because Disney race costs are really "out of this world" (sorry). Granted it wasn't quite as much as the 17,000 that Luke and Ben Kenobi paid for a one-way trip on the Millenium Falcon to Alderaan, but $195 ($208 once you pay the additional "whatever" fees) is a steep amount of republic credits to part with for a half marathon. Now in addition to the Half Marathon, runners could sign up for the 10K or spend extra and do both the 10K on Saturday and Half Marathon on Sunday (dubbed "The Rebel Challenge"). As for the expo, like the Disneyland Half Marathon and Avengers race before it, the Star Wars Half Marathon expo was held at the Disneyland Hotel (Thu- Sat). Parking at the Disneyland Hotel is typically $17, but costs were waived for 30 whole minutes (not enough time to get your stuff to be honest). Now, I have a feeling that they weren't enforcing that policy but if you want to play it safe, my advice would be to park at Downtown Disney where you get a 3-hour grace period. And that can be stretched to 5 hours of free parking with purchase/validation at one of the sit down restaurants. They do enough races at Disney that the expo runs like a fairly well oiled machine (or should I say like C-3PO getting an oil bath that feels so good). You get your bib in a dressed-up subterranean portion of the parking structure and then head up to the hotel for your shirt and gear bag. The expo had a decent amount of vendors showing off their latest wares, and if you stopped by the PRO Compression booth on Saturday you could have said "hi" to yours truly. NOTE: Runners had to pick up their own bibs; no exceptions. Disney races do have one additional component unlike other marathons/half marathons. People go nuts for the Disney gear. In fact people line up for hours for the chance to pay premium prices (okay, over premium prices) for the jackets/shirts/hats/pins/toys/whatever Disney is selling. In the past hoarders have bought up all of the merchandise on the first day (to turnaround and sell for profit on e-bay) leaving us latecomers souvenir-less. Things were a little better this year as they restocked the shelves somewhat each day. Unfortunately, the one item I wanted, a "Star Wars Half Marathon" pint glass, was long gone when I showed up on Saturday at noon. MEDALS/SHIRT/SWAG If you've run a Disney race before, you know that they love their bling big and shiny. When I first saw the Star Wars Half Marathon medal I have to say I was a bit bummed. It seemed very muted. But then it hit me and I realized its utter genius. The medal was basically a replica of the one given to Luke and Han by Princess Leia after they destroyed the first Death Star. Okay, that's pretty friggin' awesome (my inner geek was smiling). Oh, and the ribbon on the medal was brown with text and featured a pattern that kind of looked like Chewie's fur (did you ever notice that in Star Wars he didn't get a medal... no wonder he roared at the end). The medals for the other races, including the Rebel Challenge were fun bits of bling and lived up to Disney's usual standard. As for the shirt, I have to say I was a little disappointed with it... not because it's a bad shirt (a long sleeve grey Champion shirt with Chewbacca on it). Not at all. But it's more like one of those "other" shirts you tend to buy at races in addition to the free race tech shirt. And given the home run done with the medal, Disney missed an opportunity here. Hoping they improve on it for next year. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Disney offers you several choices when it comes to transportation/parking for their races. If you stay overnight at most local hotels, be prepared to see an additional parking fee on your bill. And most will provide some sort of shuttle service to get you to the starting area. But if you were like me and made the hyperspace trek down to Disney in the very very a.m., be prepared to part with $17 to park in one of the Disneyland structures. COURSE This was the third Disney half marathon I've run in the last 5 months and I was curious to see if the course was going to be something new or a rehash of Disneyland (in Aug) or Avengers Superheroes (in Nov). And happily it did feature some new twists and turns. On the upside, it was a better course than the Disneyland half. On the downside, it wasn't as good as the course for the Avengers race. The course for Star Wars had elements of both a looping and an out-and-back route. As with all of the Disneyland-related half marathons, the race started (and ended) near the Disneyland Hotel. Runners quickly made their way toward Disneyland park, including running through multiple "behind-the-scenes" areas. At 1.75 miles you made your way into the actual park for a run around various popular areas including Fantasyland, Main Street U.S.A., Frontierland and Tomorrowland (of course) before exiting the park and then running all through California Adventure. Star Wars characters were present should you want to catch a snapshot with Boba Fett or some stormtroopers. By 3.75 miles, however, your jaunt through the "happiest places on earth" was done. The rest of the race took you away from Disney, down a few main city streets and around various residential Anaheim neighborhoods before heading back toward Disney in the last few miles and concluding at the Disneyland Hotel. Those expecting another run through Angel Stadium (as in several other Disney races) were in for a bit of a shock as it was absent from this course. I'm not familiar with the neighborhoods around Disneyland, so this was quite a bit of new (if unremarkable) territory for me. As is the story with all of the Disneyland halfs, the course is very anti-climactic. Once you leave the parks by mile 4 (which are a lot of fun to run through), the rest of the course is really like any other city race and honestly quite average. SERVICES Disney does channel its inner Trade Federation with its high prices, but for that amount you do get some good course services. The pre-race area is well laid out, complete with water, porta potties, video screens and host. And once you make your way to the starting area/corrals you get a whole new batch of video screens and two hosts who are way too chipper for 5:00am. NOTE: Oh and a plea to the RunDisney pre-race organizers. Please skip the incredibly cheesy pre-race skits that included your hosts... they were quite painful for everyone to watch. There's so many cool Star Wars-related things you can do (showing movies clips was a good idea) that are way better than this. And while we're at it, claiming your Disneyland ambassadors were "special guests" was a horrific bait & switch. Instead of bringing out some coolStar Wars characters (or perhaps one of the films' actors) just before the start of the race, we were subjected to "punny" banter from two of the most annoying women you've ever met (and remember it was 5am and most of us runners hadn't had caffeine yet). Yup, that pair should have definitely been tossed into the Sarlaac pit to be digested over 1000 years. Disney's solid organization continued onto the course itself. Water stations were well-staffed with volunteers and there were plenty of aid stations. Photographers from MarathonFoto were afoot capturing images of everyone decked out in their Jedi and Sith costumes. And for those unable to make the race, they were able to follow participants with free runner tracking. Disney usually does a good job with their mile markers (some races just have a simple banner) and this was no exception, as they had large "lightsaber inspired" markers complete with digital read-outs. The crowd turn out was decent and a special shout out for the Cos-players who gathered en masse to grace the course later in the race. It was a lot of fun to suddenly witness a a huge cheering line overflowing with stormtroopers, Sith lords, X-Wing pilots, rebel supporters and Mandalorian warriors. FINISH/POST PARTY The finish area (which also doubled as the pre-race area) was designed quite well, which is in keeping with Disney's well-proven ability to manage crowds. Runners were greeted by volunteers with medals and then led off to areas for water, finisher's photos and pre-packaged boxes of snacks. I would have hung around longer but, unfortunately I had plans back in LA (a good friend's wedding later that day) so I was "forced" to make a hasty exit. RECOMMENDATION This was my third high-priced half marathon at Disneyland in the last five months and while they were all fun; they were also very similar. The courses changed a little over the three races, but all basically had the same major elements: Run through the two Disney parks. See the characters specific to that race. Wait in line and take pictures if you want. Then run a very pedestrian stretch of Anaheim. Finally, head back to Disneyland. It really felt like the same race three times over, just with different "themes." In August it was all pure Disney; November was Marvel super-heroes; January it's all things Star Wars. Again, a fun time but I can't see doing all three again in the same year (especially without some serious kind of price break that almost assuredly won't happen). Now if you don't have problem with repetition and have the extra disposable income (or if you just absolutely love anything RunDisney has to offer), then by all means do the trifecta (and don't forget Tinkerbell too... doest that make it a "quadfecta"). As for me, I'm going to pick the "theme" I like best, run that race and skip the rest. And while I love Disney and Marvel superheroes (although at heart I'm a DC boy), nothing trumps Luke Skywalker & Company. I'll expect to be part of this Podrace again come 2016. May The Force be with you.
Review of MK5K & 10K Run/Walk by lipservice
This is a fun race for the entire family and the proceeds go to a GREAT cause!!!! It's a MUST Attend!
Review of Orange County Turkey Trot by belindakcarter
Had a great run that day! The course was perfect, and easy to follow. It was super fun, and the swag was awesome. Pumpkin pie, and goodies to pick up afterwards 🙂
Review of Lexus LaceUp Running Series - Riverside by tlujan
Thank you for a great event. It was close and convenient to where I live. Nice and easy 5k course. I felt that the check in was nice and easy. The staff was very friendly and was able to socialize with you. The only down fall was not enough photographers out on the course but I guess we can take our own pictures with our phones. The post race event was fun. I never have went to a beer garden in all the other races that I have done but I thought I would give a cheers to a great race on 12~13~14. I made history running with my husband on such a memorable day!!! I give all the thanks to you for making this event happen and I am more than willing to offer my time on next years series. Great job Team Lexus LaceUp!!!
Review of Temecula Wine Country Half Marathon by kris10sullivan
Well organized. It was a small race which was great so it wasn't too crowded for the first mile like the big races. The scenery was AMAZING. Hot air balloon began ascending about 30 minutes before the race. It's hilly, but totally doable if you train properly. The vineyards are so amazing. Lots of horses watching us wondering what we're doing! I would describe it as peaceful. There were parts that were just very quite. We ran on the right side of the road so there was some traffic going in the opposite direction. I am going to do this one again.
Review of Santa Monica RunFest by Scott Devine
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/PACKET PICK-UP 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. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING 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. T-SHIRT/MEDALS/SWAG 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. COURSE 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 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. RECOMMENDATION 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.
Review of Long Beach International Marathon/Half/5K by kjensen16
I ran the Long Beach half last year and loved the course so I thought I would run my 1st full marathon this year here. Expo: The expo is great! Very well organized. They are ready to take on any problem that you might have as well. They were very quick getting our bibs and shirts to us. The shirts were not the best shirts that Long Beach has had. Really really really did not like that they were white, but the sea shell design on the side was nice. They were also shaped a bit odd. The official merchandise store had quite a large selection of stuff. Loved the hats this year. The expo itself was huge. It really does make OC's expo look funny. It is very spacious and has pretty much all the vendors that you could possibly want. Pre Race: The marathon does not have half as many people as the half marathon so everything is pretty easy for the pre race. It was quick to drop off our stuff at the UPS vans and there were plenty of port o johns with no lines at all. The runners village was pretty great too. It gave our group a great spot to set up camp. It was a great place for our group to meet up before and after the race. Course: The marathon starts off at 6am with the Voice of America's Marathons, Rudy Novotny! The course goes through parts of downtown Long Beach then goes up and over the bridge to the other side of the bay. Then you come back and run on the bike path on the beach. The marathon was not as packed as the half was last year on this part, but the bike path does get very crowded. I would not suggest running on the sand either. From the beach you head north through the neighborhoods as you make your way up to CSULB. There are some pretty interesting houses to look at. The crowd support was awesome! People were setting up aid stations right out of their own house. There were also people all over the place handing out bananas, oranges and candy. These were not people that were associated with the race themselves, just some amazing people cheering on the runners. The aid stations were great too. I believe there were 24 stations all together with one being about every mile or so. You leave the neighborhood streets for a bit when you get onto Atherton. From there you go through Cal Stat Long Beach. Lots of students out cheering you on! Then you start your way back. Running down Ocean was one of my favorite parts of this race (even though I drive it every day to work). It is a beautiful way to finish up a great race. Nice big houses on your right and the ocean on your left. The finish line is great with Rudy calling all the runners in. Post race: We were given the best medal I've ever gotten. Since this was the 30th anniversary it was a special seashell medal. I really love it. We were given a water and a bag full of snacks. We did not finish this race very quickly at all so there were no foil blankets by the time we got there, which I was bummed about. Not a big thing. The beer garden was alright. Just make sure you get over there before 1pm when it closes. Spectators: I had my family and friends that wanted to be out on the course for me. The best place that I found for spectators that want to view their runners more than once and not have to move around is right by the start/ finish line. They can send off their runner at the start line, walk across the grass and see their runner at about mile 6.5 (half and full). Then if they walk up shoreline drive a little bit they can see their runner cross the finish line. Other great spectator spots that would be reasonably easy to get to is up by Cal State Long Beach and over on 7th street by Blair field at recreation park. Overall a great race! I'll run at least the half next year for sure!
Review of Lexus LaceUp Running Series - Riverside by amberlouise
This was my 2nd half marathon and it was a great experience! Everything ran smoothly and the course was fairly easy (and flat). They offered all sorts of energy boosters along the way, and bananas before and after the race. Parking was easy at the park, and I got there about 30 min. before the race. I would definitely run this again!
Review of Lexus LaceUp Running Series - Ventura by Scott Devine
RACE: Lexus LaceUp Ventura DATE: October 24, 2015 DISTANCES: Half Marathon/10K/5K LOCATION: Ventura, CA (Shoreline Park) START TIME: • 7:00 am Half/10K • 7:45 am 5K WEATHER AT START: 61 degrees Welcome to the second stop on the Lexus LaceUp 2015 race series. After an enjoyable jaunt last week in Irvine, the LaceUp crew found themselves gathering pre-dawn (daylight savings ends next week) at Promenade Park overlooking the ocean in scenic Ventura. REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP The entire Lexus LaceUp series offers very reasonable registration rates. For Ventura, the “earilest bird” rates started low ($25 for 5K, $45 for 10K, $70 for the half marathon) and increased as race day approached. But even for the latest of comers, the rates never got too high ($40 for 5K, $60 for 10K and $85 for the half marathon). On top of that, Lexus LaceUp offered plenty of online discounts (and some really nice ones too) so in the end the rates were quite light on the bank account. LaceUp Ventura offered packet pick-up the two days before the race at a local Roadrunner store (yours truly was there on Friday lending a hand to the crew), but also allowed same day pick-up (at no additional charge). TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Racers driving to Promenade Park had plenty of easy parking available at the Ventura Fairgrounds. The cost for parking was $5, which is rather reasonable given what some other races charge for parking at their races (talking to you Disney). T-SHIRT/MEDALS/SWAG For people running other races in the LaceUp series, the swag was familiar. The tech shirt was similar to the one given at Irvine, but the race location “Ventura” was printed on the sleeve. Racers also got another reusable shopping bag to carry their swag (I look forward to hitting Trader Joe’s with mine). Racers also received the cool “honeycomb” shaped finisher’s medal. The ribbon (green for 5K, blue for 10K and white for the half marathon) also listed the Ventura location on it. The race also served as another notch for those trying to achieve special challenge medals. Those people who run all 4 Lexus LaceUp races (Irvine, Ventura, Palos Verdes & Riverside) will earn a special “LaceUp Challenge” medal. And those people who ran the Ventura Marathon (back on Sep. 13th), LaceUp Ventura this past weekend and the upcoming Santa Barbara Half (Nov. 7th) will earn the special “805 Challenge” medal. Bring on the bling. And Runner Buzz was once again on hand, providing runners with free digital photos of the race. COURSE For LaceUp Ventura, each of the races shared common start and finish locations, as well as sharing parts of their courses. The 5K and 10K races utilized a loop course that began at Promenade Park and headed down the coast on surface streets before looping around and heading back up along the water. I ran the half marathon, which utilized a good chunk of the 10K course before continuing up (running parallel to the beach) along the oceanside bike path. The course then turned inland, utilizing a lengthy “out and back” route that followed the bike path, turning around at mile 8. We did cross a few streets during the course of the race, but police were present to ensure that traffic stopped to give the right-of-way to runners. According to the elevation charts, the half marathon course featured a slight upgrade as we headed inland (gaining about 120′ over three miles) and then back down after the turnaround. To be honest, I hardly noticed any incline, but after the turnaround I convinced myself mentally that I was indeed running downhill (a little bit of a “placebo” effect). Those people who have run other races in Ventura will definitely remember parts of the course, but who is going to complain about running near the ocean (a nice view). COURSE SERVICES The course services for the LaceUp Ventura were in keeping with those at the Irvine race. “Arrow” signs and volunteers were present at key points along the course to make sure that runners stayed on course. Water/electrolyte stops were present about every 2 miles (they served double duty on the out and back portions) with volunteers to make sure we stayed hydrated and to give some encouragement. Mile markers were present along the course but not digital timers except for at the finish line. Once again runners had B-tags on their bibs, which provided race results and info. People could also utilize the mobile “LaceUp app” for information about the race. FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY The finish line services and post party were reminiscent of the Irvine race, as runners got their medals, snacks and then could check out a few vendors (including the Lexus display) or get a complimentary massage. As for me, I made my way right to the food trucks and their free grub for runners. This time around I chose a spicy chicken quesadilla and washed it down at the beer garden with another brew provided by Sierra Nevada. RECOMMENDATION This was another enjoyable race in the Lexus LaceUp series (for the record, I am one of the Lexus LaceUp ambassadors). While these races don’t feature some of the polish or flash of the bigger (and more costly) races, these are intimate and informal affairs and worth the effort of waking up early and pounding some pavement.
Review of Father Joe's Thanksgiving Day 5K by
For a race that is really a family friendly "do-good feel good" race -- they do a GREAT job of making sure all the expected race day quality is still there for safety, timing, organizing. Great blues band to listen to afterwards and YES order a pie from the Academy kitchens for your holiday meal. Agree that the start is chaotic. Keep working on separating the walkers and strollers from the runners -- but hey -- be Thankful you are healthy and out there on such a beautiful course.
Review of Temecula Wine Country Half Marathon by ashleyspotts
This was my first half marathon, and the experience could not have been better. The t shirt was lovely & the swag good. The whole course was stunning beyond words. Hot air balloons rose as we began. The mayor spoke at the start which was really, really neat. The pacers were on target & so helpful. The course was lovely. It was easy enough for a beginner, but still with hills for some challenge. We passed all sorts of beautiful homes, yards, vineyards, & many animals! It was quiet & peaceful. Weather was very nice for that time of year. It was well supported with aid stations, first aid, & porta potties. It was a moderate crowd which was nice. We weren't running over eachother, but it was well loved. Looking back after having done a few half's now, people seemed so generally happy to be at the race. It was mostly women...Maybe that's why. There was a neat comradery. Post race was nice. The complimentary wine & glass was awesome! There was band & some good booths. Only thing that was not great was the shuttle service back from the race. We waited forever & it was not clear where we were being picked up. Would HIGHLY recommend.
Review of Santa To The Sea Half Marathon by Scott Devine
RACE: Santa To the Sea Half Marathon DATE: December 14, 2014 LOCATION: Oxnard, CA DISTANCES: Half Marathon/5K/1K Kids Run/Diaper Dash START TIME: 8:00am (Half Marathon) WEATHER AT START: 51° and sunny FINISHERS: 1,878 (Half Marathon)/ 736 (5K) 'Tis the season to be sweaty, Fa la la la la... la la la la. This past Sunday the north pole came to Oxnard as a gaggle of runners showed off their holiday spirit (and a whole bunch of wacky holiday costumes too) as they trekked from the 101 highway down to the ocean in the 7th running of the Santa to The Sea Half Marathon. REGISTRATION/EXPO Costs for this Santa-centric race are quite reasonable as they start at $55 for early comers, climbing throughout the year, maxing out at $95 just before race weekend. And the race does run specials/discounts throughout the year, so your inner Scrooge can smile as you'll be sure to save a few dollars off registration fees. As for the expo/bib/shirt pick-up, the race offered several options. You could do the traditional "day before race" expo in Oxnard. Another option was to do VIP pick-up on race morning for an extra $20. For those of us in LA who didn't feel like driving all the way to Oxnard two days in a row, the race organizers also had an early pick-up the week before in Santa Monica (a tradition I hope they continue). I, however, chose the final option which was to pay $6 to have my bib/timing chip mailed to me. I would get my race tech shirt at the finish line. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit of a problem as after the race I was told they were out of men's shirts (grrr). But like Santa coming to the rescue, I met with the race director who took my info and said he would get a shirt mailed to me asap. MEDALS/SHIRT/SWAG The swag for the race was pretty standard fare, meaning a finisher's medal and race tech shirt. One nice twist is that the organizers let the runners vote (via Facebook) on various aspects of the bling. We got to decide on the color scheme of the medal as well as the ribbon design. As for the shirt, runners got to pick the color and short sleeved vs. long sleeved. The votes were tallied and the winning designs chosen. This year's medal featured Santa chugging along, lugging the number "7" on his shoulder along with a green border surrounding him. The ribbon was a holiday themed green and red sash, complete with images of presents, ornaments and the race's name. Not the most subtle or elegant medal you'll ever receive, but it definitely radiated the holiday spirit. The 2014 race shirt was a deep green color with white stripes on the side and featured the race's logo on the chest. The shirts were long-sleeved and they had crew neck versions for the "lords a' leaping" and V-necks for the "maids a' milking." As race shirts go, it was a pretty decent design and again kept with the holiday theme. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Transportation to the half marathon was pretty straightforward. Drive on the 101 highway until you get to "The Collection" shopping center in Oxnard where you park and catch a quick bus ride to the starting area. People running the 2nd leg of the half marathon relay took another shuttle from the start line to the midway point of the race. After the race, runners caught another bus back to the parking area. Parking is free at "The Collection" and the whole operation went pretty smoothly. COURSE (HALF MARATHON) The Santa To The Sea Half Marathon features a "point to point" course... hence the "to the sea" part. You start at the big "Santa" located at Nyeland Acres (right by the 101) and meander your way down through the city of Oxnard until you get to the ocean (find yourself standing in waves and you've gone too far). The route is flat (with the exception of a freeway overpass or two) with twists and turns along industrial parks and neighborhoods making your way to the coast. Once you hit mile 11, you run along a seaside bike path for a mile or so before finishing near the harbor. Two things of note on the course: first off, at times you're sharing the road with cars (runners have one side of the road). The course does intersect several sizable intersections with cars waiting to cross. Police and volunteers were on hand directing traffic and holding cars. But on more than one occasion I felt a little uneasy that an impatient motorist was going to try and "thread the needle" and jump the gun. Secondly, on some stretches of road the pavement was a bit beat up (lots of cracks/potholes). Runners need to be extra alert to make certain they don't step on a crack and potentially twist an ankle (or break their mother's back). SERVICES Kudos to the over 500 volunteers who helped out with the Santa to the Sea Half Marathon (many of whom I saw handing out water). The services for the race were in keeping with its size and fairly basic. The course was dotted with water stops (and some energy drink) and Gu's were given out at one stop near the end. Since it's impractical to think a race of this size would be packed start to finish with fans, the race opted to create "cheer zones" along the course where locals gathered to give runners a nice motivation boost. I enjoyed running through each of the zones, high-fiving kids along the way. Given the meandering nature of the course, I was wondering early on if there would be enough signage out there to give runners sufficient heads up on which way to go. I definitely went with a lemming-inspired "follow the person in front of you" strategy. And while mile markers were present on the course, be sure to bring a GPS watch if you want to know your time. FINISH/POST PARTY The Santa To The Sea Half Marathon did have a pretty good finish line area. After receiving their medals, runners were treated to a few drinks, fruit and snacks (I appreciated the homemade cookies). Runners could also visit the tented area to check out the race expo one last time. Spectators were also able to see many of the presents donated by the runners. NOTE: One really great aspect of the race was that each runner was asked to bring an unwrapped toy to give to local charities. As I approached the start line amidst the sea of Santas, almost every runner I saw was bringing toys or goods to donate. Well done runners! One other nice addition at the finish line was the race basically emptied out into the area for the local farmer's market. So be sure to tuck an extra $20 in your running belt if you want to pick up some good home grown produce and local prepared food. Oh, and since the shuttle after the race dropped you right back at The Collection, you have the chance to do some quick shopping or grab a bite to eat (provided you're not too sweaty or too tired to walk). RECOMMENDATION I enjoy "holiday themed" races and the chance to break out goofy headgear (I opted with Santas on springs this year). Last year I ran the Holiday Half Marathon in Pomona, so it's hard not to think of Santa To The Sea without comparing the two. In their defense, I'll say each race has its strengths as well as areas where they could improve. But both are small town races, so you tend to be more forgiving with shortcomings as well as wanting to support the local running community. I'm glad I ran the Santa To the Sea Half Marathon. From the runners donating gifts, to the people decked out in costumes and the locals supporters cheering on friends and family (and strangers), I think the race succeeded in capturing the spirit of the season.
Review of Orange County Turkey Trot by chspensley
I have run a Thanksgiving Day race every year for as long as I can remember with varying experiences. This race was once of the best. I ran Dana Point the last three years and enjoyed the event but the race almost becomes an all day affair with all of the events and the number of participants. I was looking for an alternative race and I found one in this gem of a race. Parking was plentiful ($5) but at least you knew you could park relatively near the start line. Pre race was solid until the very willing and helpful staff was overwhelmed by the vast number of last minute registrations. Because it was the first year of the event I am certain they were surprised as the number of participants doubled and hour before it started. All that considered and with a keen eye on the charity the race supports I think the fact that they didn't turn anyone away was amazing. I am certain there will be cut offs next year but I think the desire for a good alternative to the mass crowds at Dana Point will sell this one out quickly. Easily the best shirt I have received this year, also the friendliest staff. The pumpkin pie was also a very nice touch. I have read the previous reviews and found a few pans to be a little unfair to this event as it was only it's first year - This event was only hindered by minor logistics. The race was fast and fun and the swag was wayyy superior to Dana Point for a lot less $$.
Review of Citrus Half Marathon by mrmao1
Enjoyed the race right up until I crossed the finish line. The organizers did not have enough finisher's medals even for the pre-registrants (I registered in August), were unkind (at best) the day of the race, and have not been very responsive - they have not provided any kinds of a time frame for when the medals might be delivered, despite multiple queries, just that they will be mailed later. Their overall attitude is disingenuous at best, condescending and evasive at worst.
Review of Great Donut Run by lawiii
The most fun and delicious 5k ever!! This is a perfect event for the whole family, and a guaranteed good time will he had by all.
Review of Lexus LaceUp Running Series - Irvine by speedygonzales
What a great race. I did the 5k and had a blast. We started on time. split into two waves, as there were 300+ in the 5k, which was smart - i went in the second wave. There were tons of volunteers and good signage, i never felt lost. The aid station was well stocked. After the race, i got the FREE brunch at the food truck. It was nice to have options (3 or 4 trucks), the steak and cheese quesadilla was awesome. The band was fun while we ate brunch and then i got a stretch in with the Equinox people. It was cool to get some snacks and water handed to us at the finish and the medal is great. I was pretty amazed at the quality and weight of it - it is even a coaster (i already have it sitting on my desk)! They had computers and screens in the Lexus area where you could see your result right then and there. Needless to say, i did not win my age group, but those that did got these cool tiles. I got a chance to take a pic on the podium. Hoping to see it turn up on FB!! All in all, this was a great race experience. I hope they come back to Irvine next year. I will be running in my race shirt this winter to help share the word about this race, as I love to see great races like this coming to town. Thanks Lexus
Review of Rock N Roll Marathon/Half Marathon - Las Vegas by Scott Devine
RACE: Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon DATE: November 16, 2014 LOCATION: Las Vegas, NV DISTANCES: Marathon/Half Marathon/Half of Half Marathon/5K START TIME: 4:30pm WEATHER AT START: 51° and sunny... colder when the sun went down. FINISHERS: 25,172 (Half Marathon)/ 3208 (Full Marathon) "Viva Las Vegas" everyone! It was a busy night in "Sin City" as almost 30,000 runners shut down the famed Las Vegas strip, gambling that they could finish the latest running of the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon/Half Marathon. REGISTRATION/EXPO Registration fees for Rock 'n' Roll races are definitely on the high side and Las Vegas is one of their most expensive ones (guess it costs a lot to shut down the strip). Waiting until the last minute you can expect to spend over $150 for the half marathon. Fortunately, Rock 'n' Roll offers numerous discounts online (including $13 off of races each 13th of the month). And there is another option as you can sign up for the North American "TourPass" (unlimited Rock 'n' Roll races in the US for $449 in 2015). I registered for the Las Vegas race courtesy of the "TourPass 3-Pack" for $199. My 3-Pack also included the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego Marathon (in July) and Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon (in October). It's a pretty good deal, basically giving you 3 races for the price of 2. Unfortunately I can't comment on the race expo as I didn't arrive in Las Vegas until 2 hours before the race. From what I heard from other runners, the expo was fairly sizable and presented a good variety of vendors offering up their goods. I chose to pay for same day bib/shirt pick-up, which was available for an additional $40. That's a bit pricey for a basic service; clearly the high cost was designed to discourage everyone except for seriously "time crunched" runners. Since I had races on both Saturday and Sunday morning in CA, I had no option but to agree to pay the extra fee because runners had to pick up their own bibs (no sending friends/family in your stead). MEDALS/SHIRT/SWAG The Rock 'n' Roll series typically has decent bling and shirts (the 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon tech shirt was a miss) and they kept that "more good than bad" trend going in Vegas. Given that there is a "lil bit" of gambling going on in Las Vegas, it makes sense that the bling would celebrate our love of giving our hard earned money to the casinos. This year's medal featured an overlapping trio of playing cards: the 11 of clubs, 16 of hearts and 14 of spades, showing the date of the race (I'm waiting for some blackjack dealer to pull out the 14 of spades). The medal also featured a red ribbon and the various playing card suits (the full marathon had a black ribbon). And bonus, the medal also glows in the dark! The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas race typically has black colored tech shirts and this year is no different. The shirt features the well-known "Welcome to Vegas" sign mashed-up with the race's "We Run The Night" slogan. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING For those traveling to Vegas you're visiting the land of taxis, so getting around shouldn't be a problem. If you drove to Vegas, odds are you parked at one of the casinos/hotels where you're staying. Parking should be free (don't worry, they'll get that back from you at the tables). Another option is to use the Vegas monorail (get yourself a day pass and you'll be fine). Or of course you could just hoof it along the strip (think of it as a warm-up). Be warned that the start line (Mandalay Bay) and the finish line (Mirage) are a bit of a ways apart, so be prepared to trek either before or after the race. I stayed at the Luxor, so I had quite the walk in the cold after the race. COURSE (HALF MARATHON) The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon features a basically flat "modified out & back" course as runners make their way down the main strip. FYI, this is one of only two nights a year that the strip is closed to traffic (the other is New Year's Eve). Runners are gathered into 42 different corrals (a big field of racers) and start near the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Initially, runners head south to the outskirts of the city, hanging a U-turn shortly after the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign (great photo op set up there). After that, runners basically head back up the strip past all of the popular casinos (MGM, Bellagio, Caesar's Palace, Treasure Island... just to name a few) as they make their way toward the older part of the town. I have to say that running down the main strip of Vegas is a pretty sweet experience (talk about sensory overload). And the throngs of cheering fans/"gamblers taking a break" make it even better. Around mile 7, runners leave the strip and weave through a bunch of nondescript Las Vegas side streets. This is definitely not the highlight of the race as the bright lights of the strip are temporarily gone and your only illumination comes from street lights and some temporary generators. The meandering backstreets eventually lead runners to Freemont Street, but unfortunately only the full marathon runners get to run down the famed boulevard. The half marathoners turn just shy of the street and instead make their way back to the strip. The final 3 miles retrace your route on the main Las Vegas strip, passing multiple casinos and hitting the finish line around the Mirage. SERVICES The Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Marathon had solid services before and during the race. They had a nice pre-race area, complete with live music to help runners get in the mood to pound the pavement (and an elevated VIP area for those who wanted to pay extra). Multiple water/Gatorade stops were situated along the route as well as plenty of medical tents/areas. And MarathonFoto was out in force snapping photos all along the way (and thank you for placing multiple photographers at the "Welcome to Vegas" sign). Mile markers were present on the course, although the only digital clocks were at the start and finish line (bring your GPS watch). And runner tracking was available for friends/family so they could leave the warm casinos (and slot machines) in time to cheer you on at the finish line. FINISH/POST PARTY The finish line area for the race was basically a cordoned-off chute along the Vegas strip. On the upside, runners were given a plethora of things upon completing the race... water, chocolate milk, Gatorade, Powerbar wafers, chips, fruit and the much needed mylar blankets given the dropping temperatures (I took two). Some plastic bags to carry the snacks might have helped, especially with runners sporting chilled fingers at this point. On the downside, given the huge number of runners, the chute felt increasingly cramped. Rather than dawdle, I grabbed my snacks and quickly made my way out of the finish area. There was a post party with live music, but to be honest I was simply too tired and cold to hang around and party. Instead, I made a beeline for my hotel and a much needed warm shower. RECOMMENDATION I've run the Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon twice before, in 2010 when it was still a morning race and again in 2011, the first year it was run at night (and an unorganized disaster). It seems that Rock 'n' Roll has fixed many of the shortcoming of that original nighttime race. The current incarnation of the half marathon/marathon is rather enjoyable. This is definitely one of the larger (and pricier) races you'll run with over 25,000 finishers in the half marathon alone. Nighttime races are not the norm and that novelty alone is enough reason to give the race a try. And if you're a fan of Vegas, this gives you another reason to check it out. Also, if you're one of those hardcore racers who want to to run two races in a single weekend... or even attempt two races in a single day (which I did)... this is a great destination. Viva Las Vegas... and Run on!
Review of Long Beach International Marathon/Half/5K by Scott Devine
In 1984, Long Beach hosted its first marathon. In the three decades since, the race has become a popular annual event in southern California featuring almost 20,000 participants enjoying one of the many races they offer, including: the full marathon, half marathon, bike tour and 5K. This past Sunday the race celebrated its 30th anniversary and Long Beach was once again packed with energetic runners and cyclists ready to pound (and ride) the pavement of this seaside city. I ran the half marathon (my fourth time running the route) and will focus my review on that distance. REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP Registration costs for the Long Beach Half Marathon are in keeping with standard half marathons. The key as always is to sign up sooner rather than later to avoid the higher fees. I registered for the race back about 6 months ago and paid around $80 for the half marathon. You can find occasional discounts online or at race expos. Packet pick-up for the race is on the Friday and Saturday before the marathon, located at the Long Beach Convention Center. Expo parking is $10, but street parking is available if you don't mind parking a few blocks away. I ended up about a half mile from the convention center and meter parked for the cost of a few quarters. The pick-up process is pretty quick, but be sure to bring a copy of your signed release form (they e-mail you it ahead of time) as you need to have it in order to get your bib. And just to be safe, bring a blank one along with you as you'll invariably find someone looking for a blank form (they don't print 'em out for you). Fortunately, you can pick up the bib for a friend or family member, but again be sure to have their signed release form and a picture of their ID. The expo itself is good sized and featured plenty of vendors showing off their latest wares and advertising upcoming races. I myself picked up a few new items to try out and a few bits of swag (can you ever have enough bottle openers and water bottles). TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Those people traveling to Long Beach for the race should be aware of potential traffic problems. With about 20,000 people trying to reach LB in a short span of time, traffic back-up is inevitable. And since a huge number of people funnel onto the 710 freeway, it can become quite the quagmire as race time approaches. The race advises you to arrive 90 minutes prior to your race start time and that is some advice worth following. Better to get to the race early and relax near the start line, than to get a few extra minutes of sleep only to end up sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic wondering if you'll make it to the start in time (I almost missed the start of the race in 2011 and it was no fun whatsoever). As for parking, there are a good number of spots at the convention center, the Pike Shopping Center and various lots around town. You can pre-purchase parking passes and expect to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 whether you purchase ahead of time or at the lot itself. This year I managed to find a parking bargain ($5) at a public lot about a half mile from the start line. And again, it's worth getting there early to save yourself some stress and making sure you don't come across lots at capacity. T-SHIRT/MEDALS/SWAG The Long Beach Marathon consistently utilizes a nautical theme when it comes to their shirts and medals (as well as signage). Past years have focused on the Queen Mary, palm trees on the beach and the Rainbow Harbor lighthouse. For the 30th edition of the Long Beach race, the scallop shell gets its moment in the spotlight. The familiar casing for that oh so yummy bivalve mollusk is front and center on just about everything race-related this year. The finisher's medal for the race features a silver scallop shell highlighted by sparkly blue text reading "30th anniversary" and a blue ring listing the distance of the particular race. All of the various medals (marathon, half marathon, bike tour, 5k) are basically the same design, just varying in size. The ribbon is white, blue and silver and lists the race distance run. They're nice and elegant medals and will look good on your medal rack (or wherever you hang your bling). And for those of you who like challenge medals, the Long Beach Marathon is one of the three races comprising the Beach Cities Challenge. Finish this race along with Surf City and Orange County and you can earn the impressive 2014 challenge medal (a new "clasp shell" design will be offered stating at Surf City in 2015). As much as I liked the finisher's medal, I did not like the tech shirt at all. Last year's shirt design introduced a more "minimalist" look where the majority of the shirt is a solid color (blue in the case of 2013) with the design/logo wrapping around one side of the bottom of the shirt. It kinda worked with last year's shirt. This year... not at all. The 3oth anniversary shirt started off committing what many consider to be the cardinal sin of race shirts: it's white... really white. And given the small logo and muted scallop shell wrapping around the side (so muted at first glance you wonder if it's inside out) this shirt looks like a big white mistake. Here's hoping they get enough negative feedback to revamp their shirts (and add some color) for the 31st anniversary shirt. The swag bag featured some fliers and a few freebies (there's also a virtual swag bag online), but one bit of swag worth noting is that each racer gets a free entry to the Aquarium of the Pacific during the month of October. It's a great aquarium, by the way, and worth another trip to Long Beach. COURSE The Long Beach Half Marathon basically features a looping course that begins and ends near the water by the convention center. If you like waterfront views, then this a course for you. Starting near the Pike Shopping Center, the course meanders down the main drag before heading up and over the Queensway Bridge that then winds around near the water and takes you in and around Rainbow Harbor, including a nice view of the Queen Mary. Continuing on through Pierpoint Landing and Shoreline Village you make your way onto the running path on the beach (which stretches from about mile 6.5- 10). The beach path is a scenic (and sometimes windy) path, but it also is a bit narrow and can cause a little bit of congestion. Around mile 10 you climb the bluffs and head back along Ocean Blvd. making your way to the finish back near the convention center. The full marathoners share the half marathon course, until splitting off around the 10.5 mile mark and then rejoining it around the 24 mile mark. The course itself is mostly flat with only a few inclines, most notably the Queensway Bridge. While I haven't run the full marathon, the half marathon course is rather scenic, giving you the flavor of Long Beach and a nice view of the Pacific. COURSE SERVICES The Long Beach Marathon has been around for thirty years now and has had plenty of time to iron out any kinks. The course services for the race are basic but solid, featuring plenty of well-manned water/Powerade stops. Cliff was also present, giving out gels around the 10-mile mark. The course also featured plenty of porta-potties at the start, aid stations and support staff to handle any problems that may arise. Mile markers were present at each mile, although the only digital clocks were at the start/finish. Long Beach did offer runner tracking, however my friends/family only received text updates for the 5k and 10K splits (might want to look into that). Race results were posted shortly after the race and one additional nice touch is RunPix graphics that give you detailed info about how you fared in the race. FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY One aspect of the Long Beach race that kind of irks me is the finish line/post party. The services themselves are fine... water, snacks (handed out in bags, thank you very much) and a free beer (for those of us runners over 21). What gets me is that the post party feels very claustrophobic, as if the crowds are too large in relation to the space they set aside for the party. After being funneled through the finish area, which is a little too tight to begin with, you're dropped into a sea of family members and other runners to fend for yourself. While there are food trucks, vendors and other services, they don't seem to be organized with any real logic, nor is there sufficient signage to point out where things are. I typically enjoy hanging out for a little bit at post race parties, but every time at Long Beach I find myself feeling like a salmon swimming upstream. So I typically grab my snacks, drink my complimentary brew (yay carbs) and then make a beeline for the exit. Given the overall good organization for the rest of the race, it's an aspect I wish the race officials would give a long hard look at improving. RECOMMENDATION As I said earlier, I've run the Long Beach Half Marathon four times now. I like this race; I really do like it. But I don't love it. It's a solid and fairly well organized affair, but it does have a few shortcomings and lacks the extra touches that could elevate it to the next level. The race is reasonably priced, local and part of the Beach City Challenge (a series I like). I'll continue to run it each year when it fits my schedule, but I wouldn't be overly heartbroken if I missed it from time to time.
Review of Great Donut Run by belindakcarter
Such a fun race! Loved the donut holes and whip cream shooters on the course! I'll be at the next one!
Review of A Run Through Redlands by fbekker
This is a well run local race (1/2 marathon): easy packet pick up, easy parking, well marked course with enough water stops. They claim the race is less hilly than previous years but it is still pretty challenging. My GPS tracked almost 700 feet of climb - most of it was during the first 7 miles. The course is scenic and mostly traffic free. The biggest complaint was that there was very little post-run food. It appeared there was only water and orange slices. Overall, pretty decent race.
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