We are still receiving reports from angry runners and frustrated family members who braved the first ever Stadium to the Sea course for the 25th year of the Los Angeles Marathon. The race, now owned by Dodgers’ owner Frank McCourt, was in peril with city religious leaders demanding the race be on a holiday Monday, the only one available being in May. The previous owners were boycotted by elite runners for non-payment of prizes. It’s been a rough course for LA’s oldest and biggest race which started right after the 1984 Olympics.
We’ve not seen any reporting in other media outlets of the problems with the race this year, but since your humble editor is a runner and has reported on this particular race in the past – we’ve received a ton of email complaints.
One woman, who dropped off a friend at Dodger Stadium at 5:45 am on Sunday, was stuck in total gridlock trying to leave the sports arena. There was no one directing exiting traffic and, due to road closures from the course, the cars were spit out downtown as far as 6th Street. Our source saw a woman abandon her car to go out on foot to wave down a police officer to inquire as to what to do. “It was like Calcutta,” said the witness. People were driving the wrong way on streets and driving on the sidewalks, just trying to figure out a way out. She tells us she didn’t get out of the downtown quagmire until after 6:45, an hour after dropping off her runner.
And that was just the starting line. There was no arrangement for cars after they dropped off runners at the stadium. In previous years the start line was also a Metro stop, giving people options in transportation. This year it was suggested to buy a parking space in Santa Monica and take a chartered shuttle to Elysian Park. The shuttle service started at 3am. The race at 7:23. Of course the parking garages didn’t allow for overnight parking, so it was between parking at midnight or the middle of the night. This was very frustrating to the runners we talked to.
At the end in Santa Monica, the place designated by lamarathon.com to pick up runners after the race was blocked off to traffic by police — which had many dazed 26.2 mile finishers perplexed and wandering around the crammed streets of the beach city. One runner told us he just walked four miles home to Venice after the race for lack of options.
Another avid marathoner emailed us, “I did not enjoy that marathon! The course was way harder than it looked on paper. I breathed in so much smog that I am still having trouble breathing. The traffic was nightmarish. Awful, awful, awful!”
After crossing the finish line runners were corralled to the beach, which meant waddling another half mile in a slow moving cranky herd to get to information/bathrooms/changes of clothes. The race ended and then it became like being in a mall on Christmas Eve. Then exhausted athletes were directed back up the pier to exit.
There were no shuttles at the end to get runners to their cars. There were no plans to get traffic moving in Santa Monica with the race. There was no strategy beyond the finish photos.
It was almost as if the marathon organizing was for another big city that doesn’t have the crippling transportation issues we have.
We had Chicago’s traffic plan and LA’s traffic problems.
Perhaps because it is so inspiring to see 25,000 people run a long race across four cities, combined with shrunken news holes, smaller staff and fewer local publications, the reporting on the snafus has been nonexistent. Since there were no runners who died, the narrative has been about the personal stories of triumph and not the failings of the organizers. The organizers, some of whom are marathon runners themselves, just dropped the ball.
One coach, a life long runner and avid marathoner, wrote us and summed it up perfectly, “We decided the traffic plan of the LA Marathon was not to have one and see how it works out. It didn’t.”
Previously on FBLA: