Operating on the principle that half a race is better than none, more than 1,500 runners are expected to take part in the San Fernando Valley half-marathon Sunday over a 13.1-mile course that stretches from Woodland Hills to Studio City.
The Boulevard Run is a substitute for the ill-fated Valley Marathon, which was supposed to take place 14 months ago but was canceled for lack of sponsors. Putting together the half-marathon, however, was not a half-hearted effort.
Because 11 miles of the race will be run along the two southern lanes of Ventura Boulevard from Canoga Avenue to Coldwater Canyon, traffic could be a problem even though the race begins at 8 a.m. The two northern lanes, usually one way, will handle both east and west traffic. Intersections will be blocked off until there is a break in the flow of runners.
With the course basically downhill, top finishers should take slightly over an hour to complete the race, but organizers are expecting many senior citizens to walk most of the way. The course, however, will be open only for 2 1/2 hours. Stragglers will have to use the sidewalks.
The organizers of the race have to coordinate the efforts of 14 Los Angeles Police Department officers, 59 members of the city Department of Transportation and dozens of Explorer Scouts and other volunteers. The estimated cost of traffic control alone is $10,000.
The organizers have raised about $15,500 for the race. The major sponsor is Pennysaver, which has donated $5,000. Other sponsors are St. Joseph Medical Center and Anheuser-Busch. The pre-race entry fee was $15 with a T-shirt; day-of-the-race fee is $18, including the shirt. Proceeds go the "Just Say No" anti-drug abuse program at St. Joseph.
The top man and woman finisher will receive a free trip anywhere TWA flies in the United States. Pre-registered entrants range from an 83-year-old grandmother to Chris Schallert, the top local finisher in last year's Los Angeles Marathon.
Organizers say the reason for holding a half-marathon is simple: money. Police costs for a full marathon would be twice as high.
"The whole appeal of the race is running on Ventura Boulevard, and a half-marathon is also appealing to a lot of runners who aren't capable of running a full marathon," said Louise Lovelace, a director of the Boulevard Run along with her husband, Bill, and Ron Scardera.
The half-marathon, she said, should serve as a tuneup for runners competing six weeks later in the L.A. Marathon.
Could the Boulevard Run could blossom into a full-sized marathon?
"Right now we're not even considering the possibility of changing to a full marathon," Louise Lovelace said. "We'd like it be an extremely successful half-marathon and see what feedback we get from runners before changing the format."
Race information can be obtained at (818) 347-1933.