Sunrise on the Sunset Strip May 16, 2015 | Half Marathon Overall Rating: M_Sohaskey FIRST-TIMER '15 Follow BOTTOM LINE: The inaugural Sunset Strip Half was a terrific opening act that’s only going to get better as it matures (unlike some of the musical acts who made their … MORE BOTTOM LINE: The inaugural Sunset Strip Half was a terrific opening act that’s only going to get better as it matures (unlike some of the musical acts who made their name here). The course provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity for runners to retrace L.A.’s musical roots while collecting a finisher’s medal and t-shirt at the end of their tour. Overall, there’s a lot to recommend this race: 1) The COURSE itself starts at the Pacific Design Center in the West Hollywood Design District and immediately heads south on a 2.5-mile loop back to the start, before leading runners on a challenging climb of ~1.5 miles up San Vicente Blvd to Sunset Blvd. Out-and-back stretches along Sunset Blvd and Santa Monica Blvd follow, stretches that to the uninitiated may feel like quintessential L.A. with their nondescript storefronts and seemingly endless strip malls, but which are in fact home to some of the city’s most historic nightclubs – venues such as the Whisky A Go Go, Troubadour, Viper Room, Roxy Theatre & House of Blues, where bands like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Van Halen, Mötley Crüe & Guns N’ Roses all plied their trade as fledgling musicians. How often do you have the chance to run down the middle of the city’s celebrated Sunset Strip, without having to dodge traffic or evade police officers? It’s an awesome feeling that I basked in, despite the fact that the “out” portion of each stretch does lead directly into the rising SoCal sun. Sunset Blvd in particular has a rolling quality to it that keeps the legs interested, without the steepness of San Vicente. And with the final mile along Santa Monica Blvd being a nice downhill to the finish line in West Hollywood Park, I was able to clock my fastest mile of the day. 2) The field was relatively small (1739 half marathoners, 577 5K’ers) and slow – I finished 28th overall and 4/180 in my age group. I only note this because I was surprised to find myself running the final two miles by myself, with the next closest runner ¼ mile ahead and the closest pursuer ¼ behind. I’m not sure I’ve ever experienced that much elbow room in a road race before, and it really added to my feeling of complete freedom while running along Sunset & Santa Monica. Understandably crowd density increased where the half marathon & 5K courses merged on Sunset Blvd, but even then I was able to negotiate the more leisurely 5K runners with minimal effort. 3) Energized positivity infused the start/finish area – the vibe was laid-back and festive, with enthusiastic runners who were excited to be there, and volunteers who were (as race volunteers usually are) helpful & friendly. 4) Race-day packet pickup in WeHo Park was smooth & easy, as was parking near the start line in the WeHo Library parking structure. Be aware that access to the Pacific Design Center (our original target) was blocked earlier than the published 6:15am cutoff time, so we shared a brief moment of panic while circumnavigating the road closures. Luckily the WeHo Library parking structure was still accessible, cheaper than the PDC and just as convenient. 5) The race is a great value – see “PRODUCTION & SWAG” below. With all these positives in mind, this was nonetheless the race’s inaugural campaign, and several steps can be taken to make next year’s iteration even better: 1) Most notably, the music did not live up to the promise of the race’s name. Granted I was running closer to the front, but I saw only one band along the course around mile 6, and they were still setting up when I passed. Nor did the pre- & post-race music impress – in fact my only memory of the pre-race music was “Happy”, nowadays a race staple which I’d hoped to avoid on the Sunset Strip. My recommendation here would be to forego all live bands along the course in favor of giant on-course speakers blasting the music that made the Strip famous. I’m going to presumptuously speak for all runners in saying we’re fueled & motivated by the classics we know played by the bands we know, rather than by live bands reworking those classics. On the other hand, live bands feel completely appropriate for the post-race party. 2) The 5K turnaround on Sunset Blvd made for some awkward & potentially dangerous moments, as faster half marathoners with a full head of steam had to swerve or slow down to avoid slower 5K runners turning around right in front of them. Separate lanes for the half marathon & 5K runners at this juncture would avoid these near-collisions. 3) According to Katie’s Garmin which clocked in at 3.35 miles, the 5K course was long. 4) Every race organizer has heard this race-day mantra at one time or another: more porta-potties, please. When your announcer is suggesting to runners that “If it’s not an emergency, feel free to wait and use the porta-potties on the course”, you know you should’ve ordered more. Luckily we got in line early, but there were plenty of runners still in the queue when the starting airhorn sounded. PRODUCTION & SWAG: The race is an excellent value: I paid $55 for the half marathon, while Katie paid $30 for the 5K. In both cases this included a colorful long-sleeve tech tee and a cool medal (the medal for the half marathon is a definite keeper, a glitzy purple-and-gold Flying V guitar with the Sunset Strip logo emblazoned on the headstock – see photos). And post-race snacks (including fruit) were available in the finish chute. Worth mentioning here is the contrast between the Sunset Strip Half and the more established Hollywood Half, held one week earlier: the Sunset Strip costs half as much and starts 90 min later (at 7:00am). These criteria alone made the choice of races a no-brainer for us, and we weren’t disappointed in our decision. And unless we find ourselves otherwise engaged next year (Boston, maybe?), we plan to run again in 2016. DIFFICULTY 3 PRODUCTION 4 SCENERY 3 SWAG 4 My Media Please login to reply to this review.