Dana Point's Rudolf Runoff 5K drew 1,000 runners last year, and more are expected for its fifth running Sunday. Its beginnings, however, were something less than auspicious.
"It started as a joke, from my house," recalled event organizer Herb Massinger.
He had planned a little 5K jaunt from his home as part of a Christmas party, handing out photo copies of a hand-drawn flyer to his running buddies. He expected 50 people or so, but word got around.
"About a week out from the event we had about 300 (pre-registered runners) and no permits," Massinger said. He worked things out with the local police, however, and the run was a success.
"We pulled it off," said Massinger, owner of Race Pace Promotions in Dana Point. "The next year, we took it down to the harbor and made it a regular event."
The event is broken down into age and gender fields, and Massinger has striven to keep the atmosphere fun and informal. He shuts his office for two days before the event so he can bake cookies for the runners, and each participant gets a set of bells to tie to shoelaces and what is described in the race flyer as a "cheap wooden ornament" for finishing. Winners get live Christmas trees.
Some runners take to the course in costume.
"We've had reindeer, we've had Santa Clauses, we've had all sorts of things," Massinger said. "People all have a really good time at this event."
For the second year, the Rudolf Runoff is part of the three-race "Saturn Series." Other events were the Halloween-themed Monster Mash Dash and the upcoming Big Game Stampede on Super Bowl Sunday, Jan. 30. For runners who compete in all three, there are awards for best cumulative times; everyone who takes part in any of the three races is eligible to win a new car in a random drawing.
The Rudolf Runoff starts at the Dana Point Marina, at the end of Street of the Golden Lantern. The flat course winds through Doheny State Beach Park before returning.
* What: Rudolf Runoff 5K.
* When: Sunday, Dec. 12, 8:30 a.m. Race-day registration begins at 6:30 a.m.
* Where: Street of the Golden Lantern, Dana Point.
* Whereabouts: From Interstate 5, exit at Camino Las Ramblas and proceed west until it joins with Pacific Coast Highway. Turn left at Street of the Golden Lantern and park near the intersection of Dana Point Harbor Drive.
* Wherewithal: $20.
* Where to call: (714) 661-6062.