OCEAN AVE — The Honda L.A. Marathon will descend on Santa Monica again this weekend, and with it a deluge of people, road closures and cold, rainy conditions. After nearly 10 months of planning, Santa Monica is ready for all three, city officials said.
Last year, city officials, first responders and other medical teams learned that a little rain can rain out a parade when L.A. Marathon runners were stricken by hypothermia after they crossed the finish line.
According to the National Weather Service, the winds Sunday will be lighter, but it will still be wet and even colder than the year before with temperatures in the low to mid 50s.
City Hall and the marathon team have adjusted the route to end at California Avenue, a small change that lengthens the path runners need to traverse as they get warming blankets and food while they’re still moving.
Runners that need extra heating or cooling will be escorted to buses parked on Second Street outfitted with air conditioning to make sure participants are cared for while also reducing the impacts on local hotels, said Elaine Polachek, assistant city manager.
The 2011 race saw an outpouring of support from the hotels, which opened their doors for impromptu warming stations to help soaked, shivering runners recuperate as nearly two inches of rain launched by 30 mile per hour winds drenched them over the course of 26.2 miles.
“Last year we were scrambling,” Polachek said. “We need to have contingency plans in place to deal with whatever occurs.”
Members of the USC Keck School of Medicine will be on hand to help any runners with medical issues.
Participants can also take steps to keep themselves healthy, said Garrett Hamilton, manager at Top to Top, a specialty running store on Wilshire Boulevard.
“You’re going to get wet, it’s inevitable,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people, when it’s their first time, don’t know what to expect. You can try to stay cooler, or warmer or drier.”
Low-tech solutions are the first line of defense.
Hamilton, a rainy marathon veteran, suggested wearing a trash bag with slits for the head and arms to keep off the worst of the rain.
Two layers of synthetic clothing with an inner layer that wicks moisture away to the outer one will help keep the runner as dry as possible.
Keep popping pills — electrolyte pills, that is, to prevent cramps and other race related injuries.
Finally, if you’re up to it, keep an extra pair of socks in a ziplock bag.
“Have fun, get to the finish line so you can warm up and dry off,” Hamilton said.
The finish line will be lined with food, beverages and other things for runners.
Gone, however, is the festival at the end of the race. In 2010, it took place in the beach parking lot north of the Santa Monica Pier, which had plenty of space but was also at the bottom of a steep incline.
Exhausted runners did not relish the uphill march after the race. The 2011 spot, next to the RAND Corp. building, became a mud pit in the torrential rain.
“We did not have a location that was large enough to assign them,” Polachek said. “We can’t do it.”
Beyond race logistics, city officials are working to improve communications by connecting people to race information using social media like Twitter and the text message and e-mail software SM Alerts.
Family, friends and other observers can keep an eye on road closures, reopenings, parking tips and transit updates by Twitter following @santamonicacity or on a special marathon web page at http://www.smgov.net/lamarathon.
CityTV will broadcast marathon information continuously beginning March 17, the day before the race.
Residents and visitors should keep an eye out — roads will begin to close as early as 10 p.m. Saturday night, and police are not planning to reopen the roads until 5 p.m. Sunday, said interim Police Chief Al Venegas.
Road closures will affect San Vicente Boulevard, Ocean Avenue, Main Street and the California Incline. More information on street closures is available at City Hall’s website.
Despite the fact that 25,000 runners, their friends and their family members will be coming to the city as early as Friday and Saturday night, Venegas is not concerned.
“Santa Monica is a tourist community,” he said. “We’re well accustomed to having pedestrian and vehicular traffic.”
According to the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, more hotel rooms were booked through the marathon this year than last despite the fact that several participating hotels required a two-night stay.
Local businesses will be offering carbo-load specials and massages in preparation for and after the big race. More information is available at http://www.santamonica.com.