LOS ANGELES The 26-year-old Honda L.A. Marathon, as it is now officially known, is one of the nation’s largest foot races and increasingly a draw for runners from all over the world. But getting to that point required some tweaking over the past several years.
Devine Racing, which acquired the race in 2004, managed it through 2008. Taking over just prior to the 2009 event was L.A. Marathon L.L.C., an entity created for the purpose—and that’s when the real transformation began. “Given some problems from previous events and new event requirements from city hall, we had significant hurdles to address,” said race director and C.O.O. Nick Curl. Among those was moving the date three times from the first Sunday in March, due to requirements from city officials, eventually settling on Memorial Day.
“As you might imagine, this caused significant problems for our runners, who had to change their training regimen three times. Nonetheless, we were able to put on a successful race, and begin the foundation building for a world-class race course [with the] stated goal to showcase the best of Los Angeles,” Curl said.
The marathon moved to March 21 in 2010. A new route, dubbed “Stadium to Sea,” was intended to draw locals—as well as participants from around the world—to show off the city’s best features on a sightseeing tour from Dodger Stadium, through downtown, Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills, and on to the Veterans Administration grounds and the finish line in Santa Monica. The marathon drew a capacity crowd of 25,000 registrants—the first time in the race’s history that it sold out, and a 45 percent increase from 2009.
“The [early] trials and tribulations evolved into our goal of designing the iconic tour of Southern California,” said Curl. “Our staff spent 13 months and designed more than 50 marathon courses in our attempts to achieve it—we had to secure approvals from four cities and the federal government to run through the V.A. property.”
In 2011, the buzz surrounding the scenic course was drowned out by dismal race-day weather, the worst in the event’s history. To get runners out of the driving rain and flooding, eight hotels in Santa Monica opened their ballrooms to allow participants to dry off and warm up. Runners were checked for hypothermia in a ballroom at the luxe Fairmont Miramar, and Santa Monica provided city buses equipped with heaters for additional shelter. Nevertheless, an astonishing 97 percent of all of the runners who started actually finished the race—with war stories to share.