DOWNTOWN — When Josh Johnson participates in the L.A. Marathon next year, he can look forward to a short trip home at the end of a long 26.2 miles.

If the Santa Monica resident is up for it by then, he can even run there.

Marathon officials are planning a new route for the 2010 race, starting the course for its 25th anniversary at Dodger Stadium and ending it in Santa Monica, hoping to breathe life into an event that in years past has lost some of its luster.

“The New York Marathon finishes in Central Park and travels through all five boroughs,” Peter Abraham, the creative director for the L.A. Marathon, said. “If you want to really experience New York as a runner, what better way is there?

“The L.A. Marathon should similarly reflect all the things great about the Los Angeles area and travel to many different neighborhoods and end up at the beach.”

This year, which marked the first under new owner Frank McCourt, the race featured a loop course, starting and ending in Downtown, passing through Crenshaw, Mid-City and Koreatown.

The race was also held later than usual — Memorial Day — after traditionally being on a Sunday in March, drawing about 17,000 participants, fewer than usual.

“I think (the runners) felt the course was not particularly inspiring,” Abraham said. “When we created a mission statement for the marathon, it was to inspire athletes and connect communities and we feel like the course should reflect that.”

The marathon’s course has never included Santa Monica or Dodger Stadium.

Abraham is in the process of meeting with various organizations in Santa Monica to rally support for the proposed route, most recently presenting the idea to the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Corp. on Wednesday. The exact route has yet to be finalized and Abraham said he isn’t sure if it will conclude at the world famous pier.

“The course is the foundation of any running event,” he said. “To have a great L.A. Marathon, we have to start with a great course.”

The idea has already drawn interest from frequent marathon participants, including Johnson, who has ran in every race since 2005.

“I think it would be a beautiful run and it would get cooler at the end,” he said. “It would be nice to finish in Santa Monica of course, since I’m living in Santa Monica.”

Johnson does most of his training for marathons in the city, going out to the boardwalk as much as four to six days a week in the months leading up to the big event.

Jonathan Vakneen, also known as Dr. J, said he believes the proposed route would allow the marathon to showcase the Los Angeles area and capture what it’s all about — the vastness, beauty and diverse neighborhoods.

Vakneen ran in the marathon every year from 1991 to 2007, taking a break the past two years to recover from foot surgery. He is planning on participating in 2010.

“I think this will not only increase (participation) but will really show off the city in a way that no sporting event can except for … the Olympics,” he said.

melodyh@smdp.com

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