Though most waiters and waitresses need only rush a drink-filled tray a few feet to get to their beckoning customers' tables, many of Los Angeles' fastest servers will run around Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard with trays of Perrier balanced on their outstretched palms for 3.1 miles.
Forty to 50 people are expected to compete in the 10-year-old Beverly Hills Waiters and Waitresses International 5K Classic set for Sunday at 8:57 a.m.
Decked in traditional waiting garb of white shirt, black vest, black bow tie, black long pants and white apron, the entrants must concentrate on speed and balance.
"To imagine what this is like, I tell people to carry a tray with a bottle and walk from one end of their house to the other," said defending champion Roger Bourban, general manager at Nicky Blair's. "Then I tell them to imagine doing this for three miles."
"It's a very grueling race," said Daniel Laray of Beverly Hills, assistant race director for four years. "They really aren't dressed appropriately for running a 5K. They can't get any stride because they basically have to hold that tray up in one hand."
Entrant Dina DeSantis will wear her more comfortable Beef 'n' Barrel uniform of tuxedo shirt and shorts, but still finds balancing the tray and 23-ounce bottle of Perrier (if it topples, one gets disqualified) a real challenge. "Your concentration is on the tray, not on going as fast as you can. But I guess you get used to it after waitressing," said DeSantis, 22, in her fourth year of waitress racing.
First Race in 1977
Beverly Hills staged its first race in 1977, including 1-, 5- and 10K divisions. Bourban won all three races and was the only waiter to finish the 10K that year. Long Beach, Malibu, San Francisco, San Diego and Palm Springs also sponsor similar races--with the tray load being various combinations of opened bottles and filled glasses--often depending on the product offered by the sponsors.
The Sunday race starts and ends at Beverly Hills High School, 241 S. Moreno Drive, looping through Beverly Hills streets between Santa Monica and Wilshire boulevards.
Three minutes after the start of the race, a 10K run (open to everyone) will begin at the high school and take a different route.