RaceGrader - Authentic Race Reviews - Swim, Bike, Run

RACE REVIEWS

Posted by: on December, 27 2011

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 Shoreline Half Marathon, 5K, 10K by

As most distance runners know, July is not the prime month for races. Summer vacations and summer heat limit the number of races available around the country. And since the San Francisco Marathon conflicts with ComicCon this year (yup, the geek side of me wins out there) I was desperately looking for a local SoCal race. And with that I chose the Shoreline Half Marathon/10K/5K, a 2nd year race located in Ventura. Definitely a race on the small side (big contrast to the Peachtree Road Race I ran last week with 60,000 runners) all three races combined feature less than 1,000 runners. This year's installment had about 570 people running the half marathon distance and I decided to give it a look see. REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP Registration for the Shoreline Half Marathon was definitely on the inexpensive side with rates only getting to $75 right before the start of the race (no race day registration). What really made the cost reasonable was a 30% discount courtesy of raceshed.com (check 'em out) for a limited number of early registrants. In the end, the race only cost me in the neighborhood of $45 a real bargain in these days of ever-increasing registration costs. In regards to packet pick-up, participants could grab their bibs and shirts the day before the race at the Sport Authority store in Ventura. But like many participants, I opted to save the drive and pick-up my packet on race day (no additional cost). And since I arrived early on race day, I only waited about 5 minutes in order to get my stuff. The lines got longer as the start time approached, but they moved quickly. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING It was about an hour drive from the valley along the 101 to get to Ventura and the start location. As for parking, you did have several options. You can either park at the Crown Plaza parking structure for $8 (some businesses do validate). I also heard you could park at the nearby fairgrounds for $5. I did arrive early on race day and was able to snag one of the cool beachside parking spots (along with the surfers) for a minuscule $2. T-SHIRT/MEDALS The Shoreline Half Marathon provided its participants with a tech running shirt (manufactured by A4) dark blue in color, featuring the Shoreline logo on the front and race sponsors on the back. The shirt was the same for runners of the half marathon, 10K and 5K and is a decent if unremarkable looking shirt. It should be noted that the race also gave all of the race participants a water bottle sporting the race logo, a nice gesutre. The finisher's medal for the race was on the small side (guess we're getting spoiled with our bling) featuring the race's logo and connected by a plain yellow ribbon. One disappointing fact is that finishers received the exact same medal regardless of whether they ran the 5K, 10K or half marathon. I understand it's a cost-saving measure, but it'd be nice in the future to see them differentiate between the races, even if it just means different ribbon designs or different colors on the medal. One additional nice touch from the race is the inclusion of free digital race photos (taken by Santa Barbara Pix). While there were only a few photographers on the course, I did manage to find a start and finish picture along with one more of myself on the course. COURSE The Shoreline Half Marathon features a rather circuitous course (especially for the half marathon runners) that travels along the beach and up through a nearby neighborhood. The course itself is only about 6 miles long, meaning the half marathon runners needed to complete two loops (with an additional spoke added on the first lap). A huge map near the start line displayed the course layout and the race officials explained each race distance route in detail. Given the windy course, I was a little nervous that we might make a wrong turn, but volunteers were situated to make sure we didn't go awry. The course did cut across a few streets with traffic, but police were stationed at each intersection and the runners always had the right of way. One bit of a headache was the beach portion of the race had us running along on the bike path, which wasn't closed to the public. While most people steered clear of the path that day, you did have to meander through some non-participants, especially near the start and finish line. The course itself was basically flat with the exception of two hills leading near the 101 freeway. The course was most enjoyable as we ran along the beach (dodging people notwithstanding) and fairly scenic around mile 6 as you ran fairly near the water and could see the surfers en masse trying to catch waves. The section of the race through the nearby neighborhood (and featuring one turnaround) was rather unremarkable. A note about weather conditions, as the July sun was rather brutal at times and the course afforded little shade... be prepared to cook out there. COURSE SERVICES Course services for the race were in keeping with its size. Water and Gatorade tables were present about every 1.5 miles and Gu's were available at two of the stops. While there were only a limited number of volunteers on the course, they were working hard and seemed to be able manage things fairly well. Basic mile markers were visible on the course, but the only digital clock was at the start/finish, so be sure to bring a GPS. One thing worth noting is the race was timed, although there were only sensors at the start/finish so runners were on their honor not to cut things short. EMTs were located at various points on the course and I did notice a few support people riding around on bicycles making sure runners were okay. Fan support for the race was minimal save for a group of people cheering at the start/finish line, although I did see this one lone spectator at various points during the race (he was traveling to different places on a bike) and I applaud his enthusiasm and support. FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY Pretty basic at the end, as you were handed your medal once you crossed the finish line and were directed into the gathering area. The race booth featured some water cups and orange slices, but not much else. A few goodbyes to fellow racers and then I made my way back to my car. RECOMMENDATION It's a little hard to compare this race to other races, given that it was by far the "smallest" race I've completed in 2014 and felt like a Mom & Pop store trying to compete against Target for your business. Given the big production connected to other races (expo trips, parking headaches, huge throngs of people) I did appreciate the easy access and intimate feel. And while it was far less polished than other races, the people involved with the race definitely gave it their all. Given that I only paid $45 for the half marathon, it felt like my money was fairly well spent, especially if I consider it more as an organized and glorified training run than a full-fledged race. One detriment to the race is it's located in Ventura, the same area as the Ventura Marathon (which runs on September 7th). Running two races so close geographically in less than two months might be overkill and I think people will lean more toward the larger race if they need to choose between the two.

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 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 Surf City Marathon & Half Marathon by Scott Devine

RACE: Surf City Marathon/Half Marathon 2015 DATE: February 1, 2015 LOCATION: Huntington Beach, CA DISTANCES: Half Marathon/Marathon START TIME: 6:30am (Marathon)/7:45am (Half Marathon) WEATHER AT START: 54° and sunny. FINISHERS: 14,138- Half Marathon/ 2070- Marathon (Updated from 2014 review) So, it's Super Bowl Sunday. What are you going to do before game time? Watch 10-hours of pre-game banter discussing which team has a better equipment manager? Heck no. Instead, why not run a half marathon (or a full), have fun, earn some bling and build up a major calorie deficit... so you don't feel guilty stuffing your face during the Big Game. Well, over 16,000 racers decided to just that and "kicked off" their day by pounding the pavement along Pacific Coast Highway with the annual running of the Surf City Marathon/Half Marathon. REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP Registration costs for Surf City are in keeping with most races, expect to spend in the neighborhood of $90 for the half and a little over $100 for the full (depending on when you sign-up, the earlier the cheaper). Packet pick-up for the race was at the seaside Expo held in the parking lot near the start line. The expo runs Friday and Saturday for bib/shirt pick-up. Parking for the expo was $15 at the beach lots, but if you’re comfortable with a little walking you should be able to find a meter nearby. The expo itself is a nice time, complete with a good amount of vendors present. There are also a few photo opportunities (I like the “pose on a surfboard” one myself). And an added bonus is that when you walk out of the expo you’re right on the beach, so hang out for bit and enjoy the view. TRANSPORTATION/PARKING When you've got 18,000 runners simultaneously hitting an oceanside community like Huntington Beach, parking can be a little challenging. The race organizers “highly recommend” carpooling and people who arrive on race morning should expect traffic delays, as finding a spot might be a bit tricky. There are shuttle options, which worked for me as I parked at one of the "approved" parking lots (Newland Center or Civic Center) and caught a bus to and from the start line without much hassle at all. T-SHIRT/MEDALS/SWAG Surf City does have a great piece of swag with their finisher’s medal. Continuing their “surfboard” trend that they started in ’08, the race features a “wooden” medal sporting the race’s logo... this year's model was nicknamed "Riptide." The full marathon medal is slightly larger than the half marathon version and features a blue ribbon as opposed to red for the half marathon. And an extra bonus for you runners who complete the “Beach Cities Challenge” is the latest edition of the challenge medal (this is my second one). By running three consecutive races (Surf City, OC Marathon and Long Beach) you earn this gigantic medal (it’s a heavy sucker). The twist on the latest version is the seashell medal opens and closes (thanks to magnets) like a lady's compact. And the "surf theme" shows up again with the race tech shirts, which resembles a surfer's wetsuit. This year's long-sleeve shirt featured vertical yet curvy blue, orange and white stripes (the ladies' version had more muted colors while the unisex was brighter). The race distance was printed along one sleeve while a "2015" ran down the other sleeve. I loved the shirt from the moment I saw it and I look forward to wearing it time and again. Very well done! Oh, and this year the race offered up one additional piece of swag. You received your shirt and bib in a re-usable shopping bag adorned with a "VW Beachcruiser" motif. It's a very nice touch, especially for us Cali residents who have to bring our own shopping bags (or pay $.10 each at the store). I know of a few other races that give out bags like this and it's another cool way we can show off our running addictions to everyone. I hope more races follow suit and give out bags like these. COURSE (HALF MARATHON) For all its popularity and other positive attributes, the one thing about Surf City that’s very average is the course itself. Now I’ll preface this by saying you are running along PCH near the water, which is really sweet and a great view (and smell the salty air… or maybe that’s just the sweat from the other runners). But that’s pretty much all you run. The course is basically an “out and back,” running along PCH, with one short add on. Around mile 3 you hang a right and spend the next 2-3 miles scampering around a residential neighborhood before returning to PCH a little before mile 6. From there on, it’s nothing but PCH until around mile 8 where you hang a U-turn and head back to the start (you don’t hit the residential section on the way back). One great thing about Surf City though is it’s a speedy and straight course. With just a few hills in the residential section and another hill and slight upgrade a little after mile 10, this course should allow you to push yourself and shoot for a PR. And since it’s a straight course, for the most part, you don’t have to worry about adding distance to the run (I ended up only adding .06 miles over the entire race). COURSE SERVICES Surf City does a pretty solid job with their course support, offering plenty of water stops manned by eager volunteers. The “official” drink was Vitalyte, and Cliff shots were offered at more than one stop. I noticed several medical tents set up along the course along with numerous bike volunteers carrying supply packs like beachside St. Bernards. There were also a few bands scattered along the course belting out tunes (thanks for coming out) and I turned down my headphones whenever I ran by them. The mile markers on the course featured a "road sign" motif for the half marathoners and a surfboard one for the full marathon. Be sure to bring your GPS as the only digital clock is at the start/finish line. FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY Surf City has decent post race services. Runners get water, a mylar blanket and some snacks (given out in a handy little bag). The over 21 crowd also can go to the beer tent where they can 2 free brews as a fun way to re-hydrate. The expo does remain open on Sunday after the race, although many of the vendors pack-up on Saturday night. But if you're feeling guilty about not grabbing a race souvenir on Friday or Saturday, you get one last chance to snag a memento (although popular sizes of shirts may be long gone). RECOMMENDATION I have to admit a little personal bias toward Surf City, as it was the site of my first ever half marathon (you never forget your first). But this is just a solid race presented on an enjoyable (if unremarkable) course and offering a slew of runners a chance to run along the beach before heading off to watch the big game. I look forward to running Surf City again next year.

Review of Mammoth Half Marathon by

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AS A DESTINATION RACE. Well-organized professional race but comes with the Eastern Sierras as your playground too. This year we came up earlier from San Francisco and stayed longer after . Definitely a photographers vacation spot. We Did some trail hiking (Ansel Adams Wilderness, Devil's Postpile and the Pacific Crest Trail) and a photo excursion day to Bodie a CA historical Park about 10 miles from Lee Vining and Mono Lake -- just north of Mammoth on 395. In Yosemite on the Tioga Pass road, stopped at Saddlebag Lake and Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite for a photo hikes as well. The 2014 Half course was even better IMHO -- by adding a Lake Mary Loop at about mile 2 ; instead of 6 miles straight down hill, you run around the edge of a clear mountain lake. Gave my quads a breather. I still had to walk -- I chose the 7 mile marker to actually walk backwards for about 100 steps. I walked some of that slightly uphill mile 12 that seems like to should be so easy but is NOT somehow ....walked but took in the vistas of the mountains. The support was fabulous all along the course, even for the back of the pack. The start included foil insulating wraps --- excellent idea because the elevation combined with early morning hour was cool, but the temps were climbing this year. Well- done Mammoth folks!

Review of San Luis Obispo Marathon + Half by

Well organized and all the important things they got right -- pre race info and packet pick-up, shuttles, course info and markings, organized start, water and aid stations, finish line water and fuel replacement even for the back of the pack. My only negative is that just when the course starts getting pretty -- (yes) vineyards and distant mountains and cows -- instead of downtown streets past random houses -- it is time for the Half marathoners to turn around. Definitely consider doing the full marathon to get the beautiful course.

Review of Orange County Turkey Trot by jeffcar1

Used to run the Dana Point race up until a few years ago, as it just got way too large. Parking, and logistics make for a long day for Thanksgiving. When I heard about this one, so close to home, smaller field, and less expensive, I decided to give it a try. For an inaugural race, it was put on very well, sure it started late, mainly due to a lot of people who just showed up because they couldn't get into the larger race down south. Even with the late start though, I was still able to get home far earlier than if I had done Dana Point. The course was flat and fast, great tee-shirts, medals, pie and other freebies after the race. I will definitely be back next year and I am sure they will be more than ready for an even larger field next year.

Review of Lexus LaceUp Running Series - Riverside by kcass

Nice location, but parking lot was 3/4 mile away, so better to park on streets in neighborhood surrounding park. Published start time info was not accurate. Poor course markings for 10K, 5K seemed well marked. Nice shirt and participant medal, brunch trucks and beer garden were great. Packet pickup was too far away from race venue and very inconvenient for those in the areas south/west of Riverside.

Review of Southern California Half Marathon & 5K by chsfromca

Positives - Flat course, lots of on-course support (water stops and cheers), great post-race festival, free parking. Negatives - medal had wrong year printed on it and race has never said anything about it to date, no corralling system at start line leads to lots of walker dodging in the first part of the race, kinda boring course (lots of out-and-backs on commercial streets), bib pick up hard to find, poor event shirt - just a white cotton tshirt. I love SRLA kids. I think it is a great organization to get kids in the mindset of running and physcial fitness, but Bell stated it best in the 2013 review: "This is another run that some of the Students Runner’s training for the LA Marathon do and at times this can be a bit difficult as their running etiquette leaves a little to be desired." Adults supervising the SRLA kids - please get them to the back of the starting area.

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 LA Chinatown Firecracker 5K, 10K, Kiddie Run by coishi

I love this race. I did the 5k in 2013 and the 10k in 2014. They made a few changes from 2013 to 2014 that really improved the value of your race fee. In 2013 I would've given the race a B-/C+, but in 2014 it's gotten bumped up to an A. Since it's a nonprofit race run by volunteers, the race fee is much lower than other 5k or 10ks in Los Angeles, which I like. A big complaint in 2013 was the medals, and the race organizers heard the feedback loud and clear. While I'm not the type of runner who really runs for a medal, I will say they substantially upgraded this year. They went from medals that were the size of a silver dollar to medals that were the size of your palm. And the designs were much better too. If you're someone who goes for the "bling" this medal will definitely be one you'll like. It's one of the nicer medals I have. Another big complaint in 2013 were the shirts. They went to tech shirts in 2013, but the fit was rather weird and was small on a lot of people. This year they went back to cotton shirts, but rather than the generic Hanes beefy T's a lot of races give out, this was a premium cotton bamboo blend on par with an American Apparel shirt. And the design was really nice, so much so that I actually wear the shirt regularly. Onto the race itself. The 5k course is basically a run from Chinatown up to Dodger Stadium and back. While there's definitely an incline to get up to Dodger Stadium, it's manageable. The 10k course. Man. It's a beast, but worth it. It takes you from Chinatown up to Elysian Park and takes you up to the top of Elysian Park. It's not easy, but man is that view worth it. Breathtaking views of Los Angeles at the top, a nice overview of Dodger Stadium, Downtown LA, and since it's early in the morning and pretty clear it's quite nice. The first mile is fairly flat, but miles 2 & 3 are basically entirely uphill so you'll really feel the burn. I did some incline training to prepare but still got by butt kicked. Miles 4 & 5 are basically entirely downhill, and mile six is flat with a rolling hill or two. Pre course- I always just pick up my packed the morning of. Well organized and easy. Parking is the standard parking in downtown LA routine. You will have to pay to park in a lot, but if you've ever been to downtown LA you know there is no such thing as free parking in downtown and roll with it. I love the race opening festivities. Before the start of the races they light of a few thousand firecrackers and have dragon dancers. Race itself- I like that the 5k and 10k have staggered start times. Often when doing an event that offers both a 5k and 10k they have them start at the same time and you'll get clogged up with 5k walkers slowing you down. 5k starts half an hour before the 10k so it helps immensely. Still a bit of a logjam for the first quarter mile due to sheer volume of people, but it spreads out pretty quickly. There are taiko drummers playing along the course as you head out of Chinatown towards either Dodger Stadium or Elysian Park on both the 5k and 10k courses, so that's fun as they are drumming right when you start to climb hills. The taiko drummers are also there right as you are coming down the final hill for both courses too to bring you home. Nice touch to get you pumped. Overall It's very well organized, good course support, and good support from the local community. A lot of people cheering along the course and well stocked water stations. Post race festival is less health/fitness expo you get at most runs and more cultural celebration, which I like. Stage has different dancers and singers to enjoy. And since you're in Chinatown, awesome food options too. I like going for dim sum afterwards, it's actually what motivates me as I run. I just thing to myself... 4 more miles to dim sum, 3 more miles to dim sum, etc. After trying out the 5k and 10k course, I'll definitely be making this an annual thing... although only doing the 10k course if I have time to do incline training to take on that beast.

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 Great Donut Run by miketherunner12

Ran this last year with my wife and infant -- the little guy's first race! It was a blast! The course was more entertaining than your average themed-race, which was nice because our friends who we invited hadn't run anything like this before. Everyone loved it, and there were plenty of extra donuts, if that's your thing. I was surprised how many people showed up with costumes and props! People really love their donuts. The shirts and medals were very cool, and most importantly, it was well organized. The start was like a little party, good tunes. What else... plenty of water and porta-potties, and the staggered start was great because it gave us more room for our stroller.

Review of Great Donut Run by mikeerlanson

This race was fantastic! It was well put together and extremely well supported by volunteers, traffic management, parking, vendor support and volunteers. I was even more surprised that this race was so fun and well done being an inaugural event! The course was flat, fast and fun and the donut challenge was great! I ssssoooo can't wait for the next one, it was an absolute blast! The best part of all is that they are dog friendly too. And I can't forget the costumes! There were a ton of spectacular costumes that were absolutely hilarious!

Review of Orange County Turkey Trot by lunasea

Fun, fast, flat course. Great swag => nice tech shirt instead of cotton. Easy parking. Sure, they've got a little work to do pre-race, but they know what's needed (point the speakers so the queued up runners can hear the announcements) and they got buried this first year with walk-ups. I'll be back next year.

Review of Los Angeles Marathon by Scott Devine

RACE: Asics 2015 Los Angeles Marathon DATE: March 15th, 2015 DISTANCES: Marathon (Sunday)/5K (Saturday) LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA START TIME: 6:55am (moved up from 7:25am) WEATHER AT START: 69° and hot. FINISHERS: 21,589 (12,569 Men/9,389 Women) (Updated from 2014 Review) Hot! Hot! Hot! Mother nature seemed to take the spotlight at the 30th running of the Los Angeles Marathon. The 2014 race was one of the warmest on record and this year’s edition seemed hellbent on breaking that mark. A week before the race, the 26,000 participants learned the awful truth. We were going to apparently be running a marathon on the surface of the sun. As a result, the focus of the race race became more about “the experience” than going for fast times. And big kudos to the race officials for taking steps to minimize the heat’s impact. For starters they sent out numerous e-mails telling runners about the impending heat and how to best prepare. In addition, they increased the course support (improved water stops) and even moved the start of the race up 30 minutes in order for runners to get a few miles in before the heat hit. I have a feeling the marathon start time will permanently shift earlier. As it turns out, some lingering cloud cover helped shave a few degrees off of the temperatures, but it was still one of the hottest races I’ve ever run. And now the rest of the info… REGISTRATION/PACKET PICK-UP Registration costs for the LA Marathon are pretty standard for a big city race. And since the race sold out again this year (about a week before race day), it’s wise to purchase your spot early, lest you be relegated to being a spectator. Packet pick-up for the race was at the marathon expo located at the LA Convention Center. The LA Marathon has one of the better expos out there and it’s worth stopping by to check out the vendor wares and freebies. One little tip, rather than shelling out $15 for expo parking or similar costs at one of the nearby lots, just drive 3-4 blocks away and you can find ample meter parking (more cash for race souvenirs). TRANSPORTATION/PARKING Since the LA course is a point-to-point race, parking/transportation is a little complicated. Racers have the option of being dropped off or parking at Dodger Stadium (traffic can get a little crazy as the start time approaches; get there early). The other option (and better option in my opinion) is to park in Santa Monica and take one of the race shuttles/buses to the start line at Dodger Stadium. You can pay for a parking spot ahead of time (which is a good idea) and it will set you back $20, but the shuttle is free for all runners and it’s a pretty painless process. Although, be warned that the shuttles tend to run “early early” in the morning in order to guarantee you getting to the starting line with plenty of time to spare. I had a 4:30 am shuttle that got me to Dodger Stadium at 5:00am and ample time to relax (and then get anxious for the race to start). T-SHIRT/MEDALS For swag fans, the 2015 LA Marathon T-shirt featured a black shirt with light blue side panels and featured a retro “LA 30″ design on the front. It’s a more subdued look than last year’s shirt and it worked for me. As for the medal, this year’s design displayed a big “30” logo in metallic blue with the cityscape and finisher ribbon beneath it. A nice piece of bling to add to the collection. COURSE Back in 2010, the LA Marathon ditched its downtown course in favor of a point-to-point “Stadium to the Sea” path and it has transformed an average marathon into a destination race. It truly is a spectacular route that hits numerous LA Landmarks. Starting at Dodger Stadium, the course travels through Chinatown and parts of downtown before heading up into Hollywood and past the Chinese Theater. Then you head down Sunset Blvd and into West Hollywood before a jaunt along Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills and a turn toward the ocean. A quick run through the VA Hospital grounds (seemingly the toughest and least attractive part of the course) follows and then heads out onto San Vicente Blvd along residential streets before a final left at Ocean Blvd. The last mile of the course is run along the ocean and ends just a few blocks away from the Santa Monica Pier. It truly is a magnificent course that shows the heart of The City of Angels. COURSE SERVICES As mentioned before this year’s race was run in extreme heat and as a result the race’s already solid course support was improved even more. Water/Gatorade stops were at every mile (although they got a little less organized in the last few miles of the race). Cliff also was on the course, providing gels at various stops for runners. Medical personnel were even more present this year and I saw several of them tending to any downed runners along the course. The biggest shout out though has to go to the fans. Knowing that this was going to be a challenging race because of the heat, the citizens of LA turned out in force. And they all seemed to be carrying goodies. From water (in cups and squirt guns), to ice, to fruit and salty snacks, the fans and charity groups showed the runners just how much they love the marathon. One runner I passed told me he’d never seen so much ice in his entire life. I think I speak for all of the 26,000 participants when I say “Thank you LA for your love and support.” FINISH LINE SERVICES/POST PARTY The finish line for the LA Marathon was what you’d expect for a large race. After you received your medal, you were given a Mylar blanket (aluminum side out to reflect the heat as opposed to keeping it in) and access to various snacks and water. An incredible post race treat was the small hand towels soaked in cold water and available to each runner. After surviving a 26.2 mile run in a virtual sauna, being handed an ice-cold towel is an absolute slice of heaven. One little picky note is that racers could really benefit from bags to hold their post-race snacks. I know for a fact that my dexterity was totally off and holding three different bags of snacks and a bottle of water was a virtual impossibility (I again used my hat as a makeshift sack). I will say the final walk to exit the “secure area” was really long (or maybe I was just really tired). There were plenty of other amenities available such as “cooling buses” for overheated runners. And if you didn’t feel like hanging around the course once you have your medal in hand, the 3rd Street Promenade and beach were just a stone’s throw away (but please don’t throw stones, you might hit a runner or spectator). RECOMMENDATION Put simply, when I think of what a high-profile marathon should be, Los Angeles now comes to mind. With its wonderfully scenic “LA” course, fantastic fan support and other amenities, the LA Marathon deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as many of the other established A-list races. This is another race I’m more than a bit biased toward (it was my very first marathon), but it has been a near annual tradition for me since I first ran it back in 2009 and will remain on my “to run” list for every year to come. NOTE: Next year’s LA Marathon will be run a month earlier (Feb. 14th, 2016) in order to coincide with the Olympic Marathon Trials.

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 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 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 - Ventura by happyrunnerstanley

Great event. I really enjoyed the experience. i ran the 5k and was amazed by the medal. I have only done a few other races, but this was just so much more of an experience. the brunch and beer were great. leave it to Lexus to do that so well. I will run this race again next year and i plan to do Palos Verdes and Riverside i heard the volunteers were a little young at onsite registration, but i did packet pickup at Road Runner, so i did not deal with them. overall it was a great race

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