At the Redondo Beach Super Bowl Sunday 10K run two years ago, a female runner flipped up her coattails and revealed a large, plastic derriere.
A man ran the breezy, ocean-side course in a Playboy bunny outfit while another trudged the 6.2 miles in the full uniform of a team playing in the Super Bowl that day.
Runners entered in groups, and one unit of six called itself the Yuffies (Young Urban Failures).
When a race annually attracts the unusual costumes and entry names that are attached to this 10-kilometer run--which leaves North Harbor Drive and Beryl Street at 8 a.m. Sunday--observers can be sure of only one rule: Expect the unexpected.
The event, which will celebrate its 10th anniversary with a field of more than 8,000, has grown in part because it runs along a challenging course with a cool, refreshing backstretch along the ocean. But it has also developed because it has a reputation for festivity and lightheartedness, runners say.
"It's like a mini Bay to Breakers," said Ann Christensen of Hermosa Beach, comparing the Redondo Beach run to the famous 7.5-mile San Francisco race. "It's real festive. There're lots of costumes. There's lots of energy. Because of that, it seems as if the crowd pulls you along and you don't have to put much effort into running."
Another competitor, Bryan Rasmussen of Torrance, also compared the Redondo Beach run with the Bay to Breakers. "People have the same attitudes, the same emotions," said Rasmussen, who with his wife, Alicia, plans to push their 2-month-old son, Erik, through the race in a stroller if the going is not too bumpy.
Among the rare sights the Rasmussens will see as they push the stroller will be groups of eight or more runners competing in a new "centipede" category. What kind of costumes centipede contestants will wear is anybody's guess, said Ernie O'Dell, executive director of the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the race. But last year eight men ran the course carrying an abbreviated green, canvas football field with white markings.
Other entrants will run in groups of six in the "six-pack" category, O'Dell said. Two years ago, six men surrounded themselves with cardboard trash barrels, covered the barrels with beer labels and ran as beer bottles.
O'Dell said the festive atmosphere of the race developed as a preface to Super Bowl celebrations. "We've always tried to make it a happy, fun, party occasion as a kickoff for Super Bowl day," he said. "It's a morning party to get exercise before you lounge back on the couch during the game and eat and drink."
Of course the race is not only for the lighthearted. Many serious runners will use it for different purposes and will take aim at the course records of 28:53 for men and 32:49 for women.
Orlando Pizzolato of Italy, a two-time winner of the New York Marathon, uses the race to tune up for the Boston Marathon in April. Pizzolato needs a good mark at Boston to insure himself of a spot on the Italian Olympic marathon team this year.
Among the top female runners will be Ruth Wysocki, who beat Mary Decker in the 1,500-meter trials for the 1984 U.S. Olympic team and finished eighth in the event in the Games. Wysocki also came in sixth in the 800 meters.
"For the better runners, it's the first opportunity to get a little competition in an Olympic year," said Deke Houlgate, a race publicist. "Not that they go out to kill each other. . . . (But) a lot of guys want to know what kind of shape they're in to find out how to build their training."
After the costumed and world-class runners start with a series of turns leading to a westward jog on Diamond Street, the course heads straight south on Catalina Avenue for more than two miles.
The runners make a sharp right from Catalina onto little Palos Verdes Boulevard, and O'Dell said the shopping village at that intersection will be empty early Sunday morning and will provide a good spectator vantage point.
The runners make two more quick turns before heading north with a view of the ocean for more than a mile on the Redondo Beach Esplanade.
Past the Esplanade, the route changes slightly from previous years. Storm damage to the Redondo Beach Pier and the surrounding area makes it too dangerous for runners, so race directors rerouted the competitors east on Torrance Boulevard and north on Catalina Avenue toward the finish at Pacific Avenue.
O'Dell urges those who have not registered early to sign up from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at 320 Knob Hill Ave. in South Redondo Beach. He said those who must register Sunday morning should sign up at 6 a.m. at the starting point.
A short time later, at 7:15 a.m., judges will pick the winners in the contests for best costume and the best-looking centipede and six-pack groups. Wheelchair entrants will leave the starting point at 7:45 a.m., and those who will run pushing a baby buggy will depart at 7:50.
After the race, runners can attend a party with live music near the finish line.
To reach the race, take the 405 Freeway to the Crenshaw Boulevard off-ramp and head south. Drive to 190th Street and turn right or west. Go to Pacific Coast Highway and turn left. Turn right immediately on Catalina Avenue, look for a parking place and walk--or run--to the starting point.