The Manhattan Beach Yuletide 5-K - Race Report (Read 1187 times)

    I wouldn’t normally bother with a race report for a 5-k, but last night’s run was spectacular enough and horrible enough and beautiful enough and miserable enough and downright memorable enough to deserve one. And anyone considering it ought to know what they’re getting into. Besides, I’m stuck here looking out at the moody Pacific, ankle elevated and draped with a bag of ice, all alone for the moment, and it’s too early to start drinking. Although not by much. A Cuban cigar, soft sunshine, a pack of dogs at my feet, and a rambling race report sounds like a nice enough way to start the day. The Manhattan Beach Yuletide 5-K is anything but your typical little sprint race; it is more an experience than a race, more a run to remember than a PR to pursue. The short version: there are a thousand bad things about this little run, but I’d recommend it unreservedly to just about anyone in southern California. Do it at least once. Don’t wear shoes. Don’t necessarily arrive sober. And leave your watch at home. The run will suck; the memory will last. The race is run on – you probably guessed this – Manhattan Beach, starting and ending right at the pier of the same name. I can actually look down the hill from where I sit right now and barely see the pier, eight miles distant, obscured by the morning fog and L.A. smog. The setting for the run is like none I’ve ever seen: moon rising over the pounding surf, a billion twinkling Christmas lights everywhere you look, the pier festooned in holiday decorations and glowing blow-up ornaments, a brilliant green tree of lights at the pier’s end. It is a true out-and-back: run down the beach, turn around and come back to the pier. Which is a surprisingly cruel way to race, by the way. The lighted pier seemed just out of reach for what seemed like forever, a mirage dancing on the sand. Seeing that finish line never seem to get closer, especially in the pitch dark of night, is a strange, dispiriting, but remarkable experience. I’ll start with the problems with the race – and there are a multitudinous myriad to report: 1) Although it has gone on for years, and last night had almost 1,000 runners (981 to be exact), it is by far the worst organized race I’ve ever seen. So bad it was funny. Almost funny. The race volunteers all seemed to be 18 or younger; I did not see one person I’d call an “adult” organizing this thing. They were all young surfer dudes. Seriously. I’m sure I heard the word “rad” at least once, and I thought that went out circa 1985. To explain just how poorly organized this thing is would take pages, so I’ll give you just a few of my favorite examples: first, they hadn’t even considered the fact that 1,000 people were going to be using the bathroom. No porta-potties. Just a nearby beach bathroom, with two toilets. Both of which were quickly overflowing with the foulest demon-spew you could imagine. Seriously. I just walked up the beach and took a leak in big blue. Not sure what the poor women did. Next year, I’m bring toilet paper and a shovel. No joke. There were NO organizers organizing the start. None. No gun. Nobody explaining what was going on. Not one person even had a microphone or a loudspeaker. True story: there was a false start. Pretty funny, no? All at once, people started running. So I joined in. After a couple hundred yards, they stopped us. Well, mostly. And tried to herd everyone back to the pier. Truth is, we never got back to the starting line, so God only knows how far the race actually was. No one was directing traffic at the turn around, so the faster folks literally ran right back through the crowd, barreling people over. Dangerous in the dark. Hell, dangerous not in the dark, too. A local lawyer would be smart to hang around and pass out business cards. He’d make a mint. The luminarias (little candles in bags) lining the course would have been a great touch – except they were half extinguished by the 30-mile an hour winds on the beach. Nice idea, though. It might also have been swell to let us know which side of them to run on. No chip timing. The mile markers were dramatically wrong, unless I really ran a 7:00 mile followed by a 9:00 mile. No one at the markers. Are you getting the idea? The organization was as bad as it gets. 2) The course: you’d think it would be great. And frankly, it was … until 1,000 people trampled on it. Running it pre-race, on the night of the lowest tide of the year (and how cool is that, huh?), the surface was flat, smooth, and dry. But it very quickly turned into a rutted, muddy pit, full of puddles and ankle-breaking holes. None of which you can see, of course, because it’s almost pitch black. I saw several people fall, and then get promptly trampled. If they’d just have put in a few hills, it would have made a great ultra-5k. As the sand got softer, the course also got slower, of course. None of this is actually a complaint, by the way; it was great fun acting like a kid, splashing through the muck. But unless you’re in the front of the pack, don’t expect a PR. And for God’s sake, don’t wear new shoes. 3) The crowd: one part that sucked pretty bad, with few redeeming features, was the size of the pack, coupled by the darkness. Get ready to deal with a lot of flailing elbows and flying knees, some well-chosen curses, and one helluva a lot of new runners who will do the first mile in 6:00 flat before dying and forcing you to hurdle them. Seriously. Again, as with the rest of this thing … if you treat it as a race, you’ll be annoyed. If you treat it as an experience, it’ll just seem part of the messy fun. I saw one dude, must have been 6’2” easy, bowl right over a couple of young girls, maybe 8 years old. Ran right over them in the dark. I tossed a few choice words of my own in his direction (so did the little girls, which was funny) … and the oversized punk actually flipped me the one-fingered salute. Made me miss the southern hospitality of home. But when I – AND those two little girls, who hung with me until the turnaround, surprisingly – passed him at the first mile marker, a good time was had by all. They giggled, I chuckled, he rasped and gasped. Karma sucks, I guess. Okay, you’re thinking … that sounds like it sucked miserably. But here’s the thing. Despite all of the above – or maybe partly because of all of the above – it didn’t suck even a little. It was magical. Picture it. The tide is as low as it ever gets, the surf a hundred yards out from the high water mark. The sand, at least before all the tripping and tromping, is flat, smooth, and empty. Nothing but sandpiper prints and tangled kelp. The crowd gathers quickly; a thousand runners, five times as many family and friends, lining the course near the start, lining the pier overhead. The crescent moon rises as the sun sinks below the ocean horizon; blue becomes purple becomes night. On any day, it is beautiful; two days before Christmas, magical is the only word that works. With all the organizational problems, they still came up with one very good idea: every runner gets one (or two … or three …) of those glow in the dark necklace things you see at amusement parks and football games. They serve a useful purpose: it’s the only way to really see your fellow runners. But it’s really a sight to behold, once the race – and I use that term loosely – begins, you see 1,000 glowing purple or green or yellow or blue neon chains of light, bouncing down the moon-drenched beach. Pretty cool. Don’t miss it. But like I said … leave your watch at home. And your shoes, too. Maybe even your shirt. Bare feet might even make the run faster. As for the other stuff runners care about: Water? Please. That requires organization. There was no refreshment, at least not until after the race. Awards? Not sure what they were – we didn’t stick around – but they do award them 5-deep, and in like 24 different age groups. A sub-20:00 5-k will probably win you something, in any age group. And by the way, despite my griping, it IS possible to do this fast, if you’re in front. The winner came in at a blistering 15:45. For most folks, though, I think you can safely add a minute or two or three to your PR. The t-shirt? Not too shabby at all. Dark blue. Nice, in fact. Much better than other shorter races I’ve seen. Plus, you get to keep the glow in the dark bling. As for me … well, I’d run just about 60 miles in the last week, all of it on Monkey-size hills, climbed roughly 12,000 feet on uneven roads … so I wasn’t expecting to run fast. Good thing, too. I didn’t. I could blame my now sprained/strained/broken/pissing me off ankle (the one currently resting under a bag of ice), or the uneven, bumpy, holy (not in the good way), puddle-filled and muck-spattered course, or even the big sandwich I had from Ralph’s grocery store 3 hours before the race (lots of onions) … but it was the mileage and the hills more than anything. I ran it in 24:34, a 2 minute slowdown from the last effort … 17th in my age group, 220th out of 981 overall… but it was a run to remember. Even after the pain fades and the shoes recover from the sandy punishment. For the record, my better half did it in 30:50 (or thereabouts) … and since we handicap our races according to our PRs, that means she obliterated me. Should have seen her at the end. She must have passed 15 people in the last 50 yards. And right now, as I’m sitting her nursing both my ankle and the remnants of this Cohiba, she’s at the gym. Running on a treadmill. I’ve created a monster, methinks. Time for that beer now. I’ll see you all in 2007. And I’ll finally get around to the race report on Trent’s Fun with Monkeys. His effort deserves my best. Peace to all, and Merry Christmas. Blessings to you and yours. Now go run.
    E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com

      Wow. Nice report, Jake. Hope your ankle heals up well. Merry Christmas!

      Roads were made for journeys...

      Princess Cancer Pants

        Owie! So, have you been to see a doctor or to the ER to make sure that you don't have a fracture? I'm still trying to wrap my brain around that many people trying to run on the beach in the dark. Crazy. We've got some awesome beaches around here, but running on sand is not something I am eager to do...particularly in the dark. Have a great Christmas and take care of that ankle! Smile k

        '18 Goals:

        • Recover from 2017

        • Surgery in March

        • Continue showing Cancer that it's not welcome back. Ever.

        • Rebuild to racing and big running & biking miles in 2019


        Getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to

        remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air.    

             ~ Sarah Kay


          "A fascinating read" - The bas Times Thanks for this report. I could see it all... Madness! Madness! But you obviously know how to appreciate that. Smile And 24:whatwasit in those circumstances is good! (Or it would be for me if I ran there.) I will do a race with 7km beach at high tide in january. That race will be in the daytime and is supposed to be well organized. Which does not mean I will survive, of course. Enjoy your holidays. bas

          52° 21' North, 4° 52' East

          Now that was a bath...

            Dude - a 'rad' report as always. Hope the ankle recovers quickly Jake. Rest up and take care of yourself Soldier! Claire xxx
          • jlynnbob "HTFU, Kookie's distal tibia"
          • Where's my closet? I need to get back in it.

            madness baby

              Great race report. I will have to try it next year! Sounds slightly disorganized, though, which is surprising for this area. JakeKnight-During Christmas I posted another route that you migth be interested in next time you're in SoCal. My knees were hurting and I could imagine yours might be soon, as you were planning to run around like a crazy man in PV, so I found a little softer and very flat trail through Manhattan and Hermosa. It's close to the strand, too, so easy enough to get to the beach and add on a few miles. Here's my original post from the Favorite Run log you started: http://www.runningahead.com/maps/b2cd86fdb4cd4780b9c9299ad24aca93 I ran this yesterday for the first time. It's a woodchip trail that is very soft, flat, and just happens to be very pretty, as well. It saved me for my first 10-miler yesterday! All I've run for the past 3 months is concrete/asphalt, and my knees have begun telling me to take it easier, so my husband took me there where he used to run when he lived in Redondo. The trail is between 2 roads and there are only a few places where you have to cross over and wait at lights. There are plenty of water fountains, and mileage markers are every 1/4 of a mile.


                sounds like a crazy fun run...I don't think i'll be able to run along the beach in southern cal though..i'd be too tempted to take a board out and go surfing...last time i ran along Huntington Beach my neck was stiff from looking at the water the whole run...if the water isn't so darn cold..
                  sounds like a crazy fun run...I don't think i'll be able to run along the beach in southern cal though..i'd be too tempted to take a board out and go surfing...last time i ran along Huntington Beach my neck was stiff from looking at the water the whole run...if the water isn't so darn cold..
                  Since it was pitch black, you couldn't see the water much. You could hear it. And you could feel it soaking your feet when you stepped in the muck. But see it ... not so much. Speaking of surfing, I usually run in Redondo Beach and the waves are pretty lame, but they actually had a couple storms, and there was some serious surf out there. Maybe not Hawaii serious, but four or five times bigger than I'd ever seen it there. Surfing, by the way, is the hardest thing I've ever tried. Ridiculous. I couldn't even SIT on the damn thing, never mind trying to stand up. I kept hoping for a shark to attack and end my embarrassment. Dead
                  Great race report. I will have to try it next year! Sounds slightly disorganized, though, which is surprising for this area. JakeKnight-During Christmas I posted another route that you migth be interested in next time you're in SoCal. My knees were hurting and I could imagine yours might be soon, as you were planning to run around like a crazy man in PV, so I found a little softer and very flat trail through Manhattan and Hermosa.
                  Deb: Disorganized is an enormous understatement. It was actually laugh out loud funny, it was so bad. Take your family and make it a fun jog on the beach. It's beautiful. But not exactly a race. Thank you so much for the trail map! Sorry I missed your post earlier. Yes, I crippled myself over the holiday. Ran 60 miles in 6 days on those hills, ran the 5-k on day 7, and then didn't run for a week. Couldn't even walk actually. I think it was really more the slant of the road than the hills. Regardless, ANY actual flat space would be awesome. Those trails between the roadways are nice, and I dig the water fountains and mileage markers. It looks like your run's turn around point is just a mile or two from Redondo pier, so I'll definitely check it out, especially if I could find an easy way to run to it. Thanks!
                  E-mail: JakeKnight2002@aol.com