The beautiful runners. I had seen them from my car window before, huddled happily on Wilshire Blvd in front of Top to Top. Tan, blonde, athletic, happy. True, this is only an embellished description of the runners who gather in front of the Santa Monica store every Wednesday night. But when glancing from my car after a long day at work, anyone running, or about to run, looks pretty good from where I'm sitting.
Today, I finally planned on joining Top to Top for a Wednesday night group run. I had chatted with fellow LA Legger Leslie earlier today about trying it out. She has run with them before and likes it. So had another girl from our group. I like Top to Top. They have good running shorts, and they give Leggers a 10% discount. But adding another running club to the one I finally committed to this training season was a tall order. Ultimately, I knew I needed extra mileage this week, so I decided to commit. If I can mentally commit to getting there, then I will get my run in. Otherwise, it's a night on the couch catching up on Seinfeld reruns...for the fifth time. So off to the store I went.
Once I get there, a large group of people were chatting, stretching, and getting ready. Standing amongst them, it turns out that they all looked, really, just like me. They were just happy to run. Besides, aren't all runners beautiful?
I signed in, grabbed free Gu (bonus!) and took a little browse through the store. Outside, there were a few exhibitors including Saucony who had loaner running shoes available. As I waited for the "go", or however they planned to coral everyone into the 5k, 5 mile, and 10k groups, I spotted a familiar face from La Leggers. Good!
6:30pm came and went, 6:35pm, 6:40pm. Our start time was delayed by sales (which in the retail world is always #1 priority). The store rep gave a longish report of sponsors and other promotional tie-ins. Then, he started sending groups out like spitfire, first with the 10k group: "14 minute/mile, go!...13 minute/mile, go!" I looked around. No one was going. Was there a store representative supposed to lead them? Apparently not. I waited for the start for the 5 mile group. Before I knew it, my familiar face from Leggers grabbed my arm and commandeered me to join her friends in the 10K. I didn't want to do the 10K since I knew I would be stuck running in the dark with no light or reflective gear. But at this point, she took no excuses, besides "this way, you get to see the ocean!". So we started running north bound on a small incline. The group expanded from there, and soon about 12 people were spread out across the street. The familiar face pumped her arms telling me she likes to run hills fast to get them over with. So I let her. My mid-week run was about to become a 10K race! 14 mile/hour runners these folks were not! Runners slowly passed me as I kept to my roughly 11 mile/hour pace. I was just about 5-6 seconds behind the nearest group when they crossed a major street, or rather "jayran", to the other side. Oh oh. This group just committed my biggest pet peeve. I decided to continue in a different direction. My once upon a time running buddy Salome can tell you that I believe strongly in adhering to traffic laws. Run on a crosswalk, avoid jay walking, and wait for the appropriate cross signal. This is not only important safety wise, but it also gives runners the respect they deserve. If a runner doesn't abide by traffic laws when running, then that's one more person who thinks runners shoudn't be on the road, period.
So I detached myself from the group and went on my own familar route and back to the store for a little over 4 miles. night had already fallen, and numerous runners were navigating the dark streets, many of them solo. I later learned from Leslie that she too often ran on her own but simply adhered to the route set out by the store.
So my impression of the Top to Top running group? It's a good place to meet up with your friends, grab some free gu and be a beautiful runner adored by the passerbys driving on Wilshire Blvd. It is not an organized club with leaders and set pace groups. If you are looking for something structured, I would suggest looking elsewhere first.
For runners who do run the Top to Top run and for store managers as well, I advise two things: First, mind traffic laws, and second, wear reflective clothing or carry headlamps/lights. And please don't cross the street unsafely in the dark, now that would not be a beautiful runner.