I believe I got to see a couple of Los Angeles’ most iconic places through the back-to-back races I ran this weekend.
Saturday I got to run through the Santa Monica and Venice beachfront town and boardwalk. Though the usual California sunniness was drenched in rainy weather, you still got the sense of the picturesque, Los Angeles beach-side lifestyle. Sunday was all about the Los Angeles movie industry, as I ran a 10K through movie sets old and new on the Universal Studios backlot. It’s not ALL that Los Angeles has to offer, though I would probably recommend this to people visiting here as a unique way to see those iconic things that Los Angeles is known for.
This is what Christmas is like in Santa Monica!
Santa Monica-Venice Christmas Run: So the skies had opened up prior to the weekend, and by Saturday morning, there was some good steady rain, with several sudden downpours. Not great for the freeways here, as my early-morning commute to the beach was marred by two accident sites. Be careful when driving in the rain!! When I finally got to the race, some announcer was putting the racers through yoga moves. There was a lot of talk about the rain, but people were in good spirits. It was not crowded at all, with the crowd feeling closer to that of a neighborhood run. The races are set up as a couple of waves. the 10K was earlier, at 7:30am. I ran the 5K, which started at 9:15am. The race course took us through the beach house neighborhoods, made up of houses that probably are time-shared more than they are permanent housing. We also ran through downtown, passing by hip restaurants and hip murals. The Venice Boardwalk, normally a river of hippies, tourists, and merchants, was strange to see relatively quiet and empty. Just a few people hanging out, probably wondering what all these crazy people were doing up so early running in the rain. I have to say the volunteer cheering section for this race was sort of half-hearted, but people were still extremely nice. You did get a lot of free samples of bars and snacks and drinks and things. The shirt was a long sleeved tech tee, designed by a big-time graphic designer. If you like courses fast and mostly downhill, you would like this. Oh, and parking was 7 bucks. They were trying to encourage people ride their bikes or take the bus. This actually was not my favorite race. Well organized and friendly yes, but something felt missing. Of course it’s all subjective! I think I would have preferred getting a course with more beach views, though the choice may have been for practical reasons, or a matter of tradition. When I went back to the car, I got a pretty nice view of the wet beach, the classic thatched fencing and the squat little lifeguard house, and the sea gulls and pelicans swooping around.
Just like a tourist! But not! Notice most people are walking. This is the uphill portion of the race.
Say No To Drugs race at Universal Studios Backlot: Oh I liked this one! I like to think they structured this race like a movie. They start off giving you a bunch of great stuff, teasers: you get to run through a bunch movie sets, whetting your apetite for more. It’s all on a nice easy downhill. Then the sets drop off and you’re in movie producer land, those squat little office buildings and assigned parking, with the names of producers like Noah Oppenheim inscribed in order of importance, probably. This part is a little less interesting, but the surrounding moutains/hills are quite beautiful. No rain, but it’s still kind of misty and cloudy. Peaceful. Then comes the conflict, the battle. It’s you and the monster hill! Just when you thought it was bad, it gets worse! Through this climactic period, you’re back running through the movie and tv show sets, but this time it’s all up hill. Oh, they are really teasing you now. Can you really still enjoy the scenery, while also dying from exhaustion? The smart thing to do here is just to stop, stand like a tourist in front of the sets, one of them the Bates Motel sign, and have your friend take a photo of you looking sweaty like you were just running away from a psychotic killer. And finally, right when you thought you could not take it anymore, the FINISH sign emerges from the curved edge of the hill, and suddenly you hear the cheers. And just like that, it’s over! Unless you signed up for the 10K. Then you get to do it again! So yes, this was one of those courses with variety – not just in the scenery, but also in the challenges to the runners. If that’s what you like, then this has lots to offer. Again, it’s a unique way to experience those quintessential things Los Angeles is known for. Btw, the volunteer cheering section throughout the race were rather over-the-top enthusiastic, in such a great way. Not sure how much race directors have control over these types of things, but we happen to have some great cheerers, many of them screaming and cheering us on the way you would a sports team or a rock star. It was kind of crazy, and they were doing it with just as much enthusiasm when I passed them the second time.
So there it is. A couple of races that are just as much about Los Angeles as they are about the holiday season. I hope both these races will be around next year, especially the Say No To Drugs one, which I think isn’t guaranteed to be at Universal Studios every year.