Griffith Park is my backyard…I run and train there all the time. It is an oasis that was gifted to the residents of Los Angeles almost a century ago. Its trail system is a familiar friend. The Griffith Park Bear statue always on duty (and sometimes dressed in the spirit of whatever holiday has just passed or is on the horizon) greeting those entering the park at Fern Dell off Los Feliz. The Merry-Go-Round standing as a lovely reminder of simpler pleasures. And because I know it so well I was both excited and a little apprehensive to participate in an organized trail race in my park (yes, I am somewhat proprietary about the park). Well, that apprehension was quickly dismissed as soon as I arrived for the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon this past Saturday.
First and foremost, Keira Henninger, the Race Director, puts on a great race. Period. The Griffith Park Trail Half-Marathon and 10K were well-planned and executed events and I had a great time running both! These are small races capped at about 400 participants each but the size of the event is perfect. Smaller races sometimes skip, overlook or skimp on certain facets of the event organization but that was definitely not the case with these two races. Race packet pick-up the day before at A Runner’s Circle was a breeze. Breakfast options upon arrival at the race were excellent. Parking was easy. There were plenty of volunteers both on and off the course to assist, guide and provide encouragement. The medals were uniquely cool. And lunch was provided after the trail run.
The alarm goes off, I throw on my gear and drive the short distance to Griffith Park. After the rainy weather, race day Saturday turns out to be one of those picture perfect days captured in so many tourist postcards sold at trinket shops up and down Hollywood Boulevard. The skies are clear and the views from the top of Griffith Park are spectacular. I make my way to the start area, munch on a few breakfast items, drink more water and enjoy the friendly vibe of the crowd. Near the start time Keira makes some last-minute remarks and 8AM we are off and running!
This was an out and back race with many side out and back sections. This was really fun since it allowed racers to run past each other coming or going on the same trail. There were a handful of steep hill sections…in fact, the first 1.5 miles was all uphill. The course was extremely well-marked and there were plenty of volunteers at water stations and at key forks in the course. Many thanks to the volunteer near a scenic overlook who encouraged us to look left as we ran by. The skies were so clear that the view reached as far as the ocean. THIS is why I love this park. Days like this and areas on the trails like this. The trails (Aberdeen, Hogback, Brush Canyon and Mt. Hollywood) were used well and the course layout made for some really challenging sections.
I ran hard most of the race and flew down the declines. I could hear the crowd as I reached the finish line and crossed in just over 2 hours. I didn’t beat my goal of under two hours but I was still happy with my time. And since this is a labor of love race, Keira herself was placing finisher medals on all the racers as they crossed the finish line. A nice touch to end the race on.
The 10K Trail Race the next day was no less fun. The race began above the Merry-Go-Round parking lot and made its way along Fern canyon Nature Trail and Mineral Wells Trail. This was not nearly as steep as the course for the half Marathon the day before but my legs were thankful for it. This area of the park has much more canopy shading the trails and although it was not especially warm I enjoyed the solitude the trees provided as I ran the dirt paths. Again, I ran hard and beat my personal goal of 54 minutes!
Both these races were extremely fun and I really liked the small nature of them. The swag was very cool – 1/2 Marathon tech shirts by Patagonia that look great and fit really well (the 10K shirt was not Patagonia but it also looked great and fit nicely),reusable grocery/tote bag with race logo on it, and cotton race t-shirt. The ceramic race medals were also very cool and unique and because I ran both races I also received the Hollywood Trail Rock Star medal!