Race Recap and Review: New Year’s Race Los Angeles

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#1 / 13 of the 2013 Half Marathons

The idea? Great! The execution? Not so much.

This was certainly a very unique race, and is sure to generate runners every year. Run LA at night, with the city skyline, and inside Dodger Stadium too! Who would turn down something like that?

But not everything turns out the way as expected. Read on!

The Expo

The expo was held at the historical Millennial Biltmore Hotel in Downtown LA right across the street from Pershing Square. Naturally, being a new race there weren’t as many sponsors or vendors, but all of the major players were there (Clif, Sierra Nevada Beer, etc.).

The website says that every runner gets a sweatshirt, and I was wondering where on earth the long sleeve technical tees would be. You know, the kind that is distributed at only every other race ever.

Y U NO IN MY RACE BAG?!

Y U NO IN MY RACE BAG?!

Turns out they were on sale for $30! At least I know how much of my registration fees on other races goes to the included shirt.

Overall, it was a good expo. Nothing huge like the Rock n’ Roll races, but definitely worth visiting.

Race Day

After remembering the horrors of showing up too late to the Rock n’ Roll LA race back in October, Erica and I drove down and parked in Pershing Square at 6pm, three hours before the race began. We spent the three hours lounging around the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, sitting at Starbucks, and eventually waddled our way to the start line and my corral (4 out of 15).

The celebrity who ran an LA race this time? Sean Astin, better known as Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings ran the 5K!

At least there's a view.

At least there’s a view.

The race started a whopping 17 minutes later than usual and we were finally off!

The Course

I have to admit: with two weeks of not-as-much-running-as-usual, it really shows.

The beginning of the course (mile 0 – 3) was extremely hectic, but in a very organized fashion along Broadway, Olvera Street, and LA City Hall. The 5K and half marathoners all shared the same route, so naturally it was difficult to tell who in fact I should keep pace with. It was also very well lit and course support was everywhere. Finally, after the 5K loop around (which I hear several 5K runners actually missed due to a misinformed volunteer and ended up running 4.8 miles, yikes!), I spotted the 1:50 pacer and decided to keep pace with her, at least for a little while. I was hoping to PR on this course, since being a cold winter night it seems like the conditions would be right.

That was before we got to the hills.

LA has some pretty monstrous hills. The San Francisco Marathon tries to steer you away from SF’s worst hills, but this race doesn’t give you that kind of mercy. I imagine I was running uphill from mile 3-9 up and around Dodger Stadium. Luckily, I seem to do pretty well with uphill runs, so I charged ahead and was able to keep a comfortable pace ahead of the 1:50 pacer. Looks like I was on track to a PR!

We then arrived at Dodger Stadium, and the lyric of the (in)famous “Hotel California” should come in.

You can check out anytime you’d like, but you can never leave…

The entire time, I felt like the course was never going to end. When the hell am I going into Dodger Stadium?!

My thoughts during miles 3-8: Man it’s dark. Holy crap a pothole! Oh man another hill. I should’ve trained more had I known of these hills. Dodger Stadium sure has a lot of parking. This is such a huge lot. It looks like I’m going to be on that side of the parking lot soon. Whoa! LA looks pretty. Man it’s dark. Another pothole. So much parking.

Finally, we entered the stadium from right field, ran around the stadium clockwise and looped back out of the stadium. That was neat! But certainly not worth 45 minutes of nearly spraining my ankle in a dark parking lot.

After Dodger Stadium the course goes back the way it came, which meant seeing all the same things in reverse and downhill. It sure felt great to get a change of scenery; anything but a parking lot was great. I ran down Broadway again, only this time much more tired of hill running and at a much slower pace than before.

Finally, the last mile or so was where the 1:50 pacer finally caught up to me and was trekking along. No problem, I thought, I’d still hit a PR so long as I stayed slightly behind her.

The finish line at the Staples Center showed up unexpectedly, and I wasn’t able to make a long enough sprint as I wanted to. It’s hard to tell where exactly the finish line is when all you see is Staples Center’s massive blue lighting ahead of you!

Never wear gray shirts again.

Never wear gray shirts again.

I finished at 1:56:35, or 8:54 / mile. However, my Nike GPS app (and many others online) have stated that their devices measured the course at 13.5 miles or so. In fact, my app says I did a half marathon PR! If it really was a 13.1 mile course, the 1:50 pacer was a little over by 3-4 minutes.

I'm not sure who to believe.

I’m not sure who to believe.

The minute I finished I realized that running in 40 degree weather wasn’t such a good idea. As soon as my body cooled down, I realized how cold it really was outside. Luckily, Erica had my post-running clothes available and the course organizers had heating lamps right after the finish line.

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Would I do this again? No. Compared to previous races I’ve done in the past, this was a race filled with issues, inaccuracies, and a very boring, dangerous, and needlessly hilly course. I also realized now that I am simply not good at running at night, and it seems like I’m much more optimized to run at the crack of dawn.

However, I understand that this is an inaugural race, and being a first time organizer there are indeed some kinks to iron out for the year after. Setting up a race on a Saturday evening when people and celebrities are out drunk driving probably isn’t a good idea. It was indeed a good first try, and with a killer idea like this one I hope they figure out their logistics, but more importantly, alter their course.

Definitely the most bling in a medal.

Definitely the right amount of bling.

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