Practice makes perfect, as the saying goes. Last year, the LA Marathon finished in Santa Monica for the first time, per the newly implemented Stadium to the Sea route. Naturally, there were a few bumps in the road: Many spectators couldn't find parking, the finish zone was chaotic, and business was interrupted at some local establishments.
This year, the 26.2-mile race will once again conclude near the Pacific Ocean—but it will feature some alterations, as organizers say they've learned a few lessons since 2010. Changes include a tweaked finish line location, a safer finish zone and a different site for the .
Whereas the 2010 LA Marathon ended at Santa Monica and Ocean, for the 26th edition, the finish line will be a few blocks further north, at California and Ocean. A change to the first part of the race was actually the catalyst for the new finish-line location, LA Marathon Director of Operations Stacy Embretson told Santa Monica Patch.
Runners who participated in last year's marathon will likely recall the loop-and-a-half around Dodger Stadium at the beginning. They'll also probably remember the delay of the race. Those two things went hand in hand, Embretson said, as the starting gun couldn't be fired until all the cars and shuttles were parked.
Now, the course will omit the loop and incorporate parts of Chinatown and Little Tokyo instead. As a result of the new route, when the organizers remeasured the course, they discovered that the 26.2 marker fell at California and Ocean.
"We were hoping it would go all the way to Wilshire," Embretson said.
In the end, it appears that the finish line's location at California and Ocean is "a good thing logistically," Embretson said. Last year, after runners finished, they were directed to continue walking to Colorado and Ocean, and then down to the —which was problematic for all parties involved.
"It was challenging on our end to keep the finishing line secure," Embretson said, recalling the chaotic scene. Media swarmed Ocean, spectators had difficulty finding their family members and friends who had run the race, and some local businesses were interrupted.
Runners weren't too happy, either.
"The last thing a runner wants to do after finishing a marathon is walk up and down a steep ramp," Embretson said.
Accordingly, marathon organizers have been collaborating with the City of Santa Monica to create "a cleaner, more secure 'DMZ' zone," she said. Also, "We've been working closely with the pier tenants to keep them in the loop."
This year, "We will only allow runners and volunteers with credentials in [the finish zone]. And businesses won't be interrupted," Embretson said.
Similarly, this year, the post-race party won't be staged near the pier, at the parking lot. Instead, tents and vendors will be situated at the north lot of the , between Ocean and Main St. As was the case in 2010, the party will also feature storage pickup and massage areas.
Another priority, according to Embretson, has been alleviating the parking problems that plagued the marathon last year.
"We're trying to keep our runners out of the downtown structures" in Santa Monica and encourage them to park in the beach lots instead, Embretson said. "We have a few thousand participants doing that." (Roughly 25,000 runners are expected to run the marathon.)
In the end, Embretson said runners will be pleased with finishing in Santa Monica, as they generally were last year, despite the aforementioned issues. After all, nothing is more refreshing than being by the ocean after a grueling long-distance run.
"It doesn't get much better than this finish line," Embretson said.
While parking issues are being addressed at the Santa Monica finish line, they're also being tackled at Dodger Stadium. This year, only shuttles will be allowed to take the 110 North to Dodger Stadium, with other vehicles having to come in via the 5 Freeway instead.
Other changes to this year's LA Marathon include new, optional Facebook and Twitter features that will automatically update participants' accounts with their split times as they cross each mile-marker mat. And while the number of charities and sponsors is roughly the same as in 2010, there is one more variable as well: a forecasted 30 percent chance of rain. (Runners may recall some drizzle last year.)
The marathon will happen rain or shine, but Embretson said organizers are "putting plans in place in terms of extra tents" at the starting line. The tents that will be used for the pre-race expo on Friday and Saturday "can be repurposed as shelter," she said.
Whatever happens weather-wise, these things are for certain: The LA Marathon will start at Dodger Stadium, end in Santa Monica—and last 26.219 miles. There's no changing that.
Additional LA Marathon coverage on Santa Monica Patch: