2018 LA Marathon Course Preview

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2018 LA Marathon Course Preview


Is this your first time running the LA Marathon? Need a refresher on some of the basic details of the race? Want to get a feel for what the course might be like? Interested in knowing to expect in terms of the elevation profile and landmarks you’ll run by? Then keep reading below!

Fast Facts

– The 2018 edition of the LA Marathon is the 33rd year of the event!
– The current version of the “Stadium to the Sea” course has been run since 2011.
– Last year’s LA Marathon (2017) had 18,916 finishers.
– No qualifying standard (unlike races like the Boston Marathon).
– 6.5-hour time limit.
– Inspired by the 1984 Summer Olympic Games (held in Los Angeles, CA).
– Historically, and, on average, about 53% who run the LA Marathon make it their first-ever marathon.


I’ll keep the history lesson short. The LA Marathon began in 1986, and has been run every year since. This year (2018) represents the 33rd running of the LA Marathon! Over the years, there have been some changes. The most notable changes deal with the course. Those who’ve followed the LA Marathon in more recent years might recognize that it has a “Stadium to the Sea” course concept, but it wasn’t always that way. Prior to 2010, the LA Marathon was run within city limits (and even went through multiple course revisions in the previous years).

In 2010, the “Stadium to the Sea” concept was implemented. This new course took runners from Dodger Stadium (start line) to Santa Monica (finish line). The course was revised once more the following year, keeping the start and finish locations (Dodger Stadium and Santa Monica, respectively) but featuring some tweaks in between.

In recent years, the typical number of finishers has hovered around 20,000 people (give or take, a couple thousand). In terms of the number of finishers, this ranks the LA Marathon comfortably in the top 10 largest marathons in the United States. Depending on which source(s) you refer to and/or which specific year you look at, the LA Marathon can rank as high as top 4 or 5!

If you’re a bit of a history buff and want a deeper dive into the background of the LA Marathon, you can spend about five minutes reading about it here.

Elevation Profile

The good news about the LA Marathon course is that it has a “net elevation loss.” The course will have a few notable uphills and downhills, along with some rolling hills in between. At the end of the day, though, you will have actually run a little downhill in the overall sense (after factoring in all of the elevation changes)!

But, maybe you’re more of a visual learner and need an elevation chart. Here is the course map and elevation chart from the official LA Marathon website. I have also posted it right below:

Based on the chart, there are probably a few elevation changes that caught your eye (mileages are approximate and could be off by up to a few tenths of a mile).

Mile 0.25 – 3.42: Major downhill. The steepest downhill portion of this segment is running away from Dodger Stadium, down Vin Scully Avenue. As you make a left on Sunset Boulevard and run down that street for about a good mile or so, it’ll continue to be a gradual downhill. Every year, people try to fly down this portion. It’s somewhat understandable because it’s early on in the race, and the downhill momentum naturally makes you run faster. However, I think getting off to a super fast start is usually to the detriment of many a marathoner (especially for first-timers). Don’t completely stop your momentum on this downhill portion, but run a nice and relaxed pace. I usually think running at no more than an 80% effort of what I perceive to be my goal pace effort.

Mile 3.42 – 4.47: Major uphill. In terms of your biggest uphill challenge throughout the entire course, this is probably your first mental test. In terms of landmarks, the toughest segment here for most people is between when you pass LA City Hall and reach the Walt Disney Concert Hall (before making a right turn on Grand Avenue). Expect to lose some time here, but don’t lose heart. Better to conserve your energy for later rather than to burn it too early and too quickly. If want to hear an auditory cue of when this brutal uphill stretch will occur, listen for the rhythmic beating of drums. Every year, there are “taiko drummers” who are stationed near Walt Disney Concert Hall. I’ve always thought this was neat on-course entertainment, and the beat keeps some people going (including myself)!

Mile 13.69 – 15.79: Mostly downhill. This is the portion that begins around the Sunset Strip area (maybe a couple of miles after the major Hollywood landmarks) and ends right before you hit the heart of Beverly Hills.

Mile 23.42 – 26.2 (finish line): Gradual downhill. As much as the last three miles or so of the course are downhill, your body might not acknowledge that fact. After all, your body might be weary from all the running you’ve done for a few hours up to this point. What was weird the first time I ran the LA Marathon (back in 2012) was that I actually felt that certain stretches of this segment were uphill. As I look back, though, it just felt that way because I had been dealing with major calf and hamstring cramps at this point. There could have been a water slide there and I’m sure it would’ve still felt uphill, given the constant cramping I was going through.


Keep in mind that the above four segments are the elevation changes that stand out the most from a visual perspective when looking at the elevation profile chart. If you’re mindful of only those four segments, you will fall into a false sense of confidence and think that the rest of the course is basically flat as a pancake. I can assure you that isn’t the case!

A good example of this are rolling hills throughout the course. On the elevation profile chart, these will look relatively flat when you compare them to the segments that have more pronounced uphills and downhills. However, these rolling hills can consist of relatively quick elevation changes that measure tens of feet. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of change, but I can assure you that your legs and body will feel those smaller uphills and downhills… especially later on in the race.

Conclusion: On a “net” basis, the LA Marathon course is flat (in fact, there’s a net elevation loss). However, a “net flat” course does not equate to “the whole course is flat.” Be generally aware of the major elevation changes throughout the course, but don’t let the smaller elevation changes take you by surprise.


Since the LA Marathon is held in mid-March this year, one would think that a late winter month would provide some pleasant running conditions. Lest we forget, we are talking about LA. Los Angeles. For those who live in Southern California, might I remind you that the high temperatures even in the winter can reach into the 90s! The 2015 LA Marathon is memorable for me, but not necessarily in a good way. It was really, really hot that year. I remember thinking to myself that it was hot… even at the start line. On the flip side, the 2011 LA Marathon was a wet one. I did not run that one, but I had a couple of friends who did. Let’s just say that running in puddles and the possibility of hypothermia were very real things that year. And then, you can end up with a relatively perfect day of running conditions. I think back to the 2013 LA Marathon, when the weather was fairly cool and overcast for the most part. Although I didn’t run my best time in 2013 (my training was quite lacking that year), I remember thinking that it would’ve been a good “PR” year for anyone in decent marathon shape.

But enough of my narrative! You probably want data and numbers of what you might be able to expect, am I correct? Utilizing data points from various weather websites that have historical temperatures, here is a look at the weather since 2011. Although the course runs through more than just the city of Los Angeles, I will use Los Angeles as a general reference point.

  Race Day Temperatures Race Start Conditions
2017 High: 72; Low: 54 56 degrees; partly cloudy
2016 High: 79; Low: 48 49 degrees; clear
2015 High: 91; Low: 66 69 degrees; clear
2014 High: 83; Low: 52 54 degrees; mostly clear
2013 High: 61; Low: 53 54 degrees; mostly cloudy
2012 High: 58, Low: 44 46 degrees; overcast
2011 High: 56, Low: 50 56 degrees; light rain

Source: FindMyMarathon.Com

Conclusion: As you can see, you just never really know what kind of weather you’re going to get on race day! Nonetheless, the above chart gives you a possible range of weather.

Course Support (Aid Stations, Medical Stations, Etc.)

Aid (water/Gatorade) stations: According to the LA Marathon website, “twenty two (22) fully-staffed aid stations will feature both water and Gatorade…“. Water and Gatorade is available roughly every mile or so (with a few exceptions, such as Mile 1 not having this station).

Medical stations: If you’re in any sort of pain and need medical attention, there’s help available at the start line, Mile 6 (and every 2 miles thereafter until Mile 24), and the finish line. If you need any medical assistance whatsoever, make sure you get the help you need. When I ran the LA Marathon in 2015, I actually had to check in to a medical station a couple of times because I was suffering through some heat exhaustion and cramping in my calves/hamstrings. The volunteers are phenomenal and do their very best to help you out however they can!

Restrooms: There are several porta potties (portable restrooms) available near the start line. However, my experience is that the lines for these get ridiculously long (especially as you get closer to the start time of the race). From what I remember, I recall some of the bathrooms at Dodger Stadium also being open. If you need to go use the bathroom, do it early so that you can avoid super long lines. There are porta potties available throughout the entire course, with most (if not, all) of them immediately following the aid stations. Even on the course, you might have to wait to use the porta potty.

Energy gels: CLIF-brand energy gels will be provided at Miles 12 and 19. Ideally, you should have gels/nutrition on you that you know your stomach can handle. After all, the last thing you want to deal with while running the marathon is an upset stomach. That being said, here are your two opportunities for free energy gels on the course!

Conclusion: Nothing to add here, as I believe the above information is self-explanatory.

Clif Bar Pace Team

Do you need someone to help you keep pace for your time goal? Are you looking to complete the marathon within a certain amount of time, say, four-and-a-half hours? Well, you’re in luck! There are multiple “pace groups” available for runners!

Corral B 3:05 3:15 3:25 3:35 3:45
Corral C 4:00        
Corral D 4:15 4:30      
Corral E 4:45        
Open 4:30 4:45 5:00 5:30  

The one caveat I’ll mention here is that certain pace groups have a designated “corral” that they start in. For example, let’s say that you want to run a 3:45 (3 hours, 45 minutes) marathon. There’s only one 3:45 pace group, and it starts the race in Corral B. Unless you have qualified for Corral B (based on submitting a previous marathon time which qualifies you for that corral), you won’t be able to start with the 3:45 pace group. If you’re in an “Open Corral,” your options are limited to the following pace groups – 4:30, 4:45, 5:00, 5:30.

That one caveat aside, these pace groups are pretty cool because there’s a sense of camaraderie as you run not only with the pace group leader but with at least a few others who have the same time goal as you.  The wolf pack mentality can be a powerful one, especially when you might otherwise give up if you were just running by yourself.

If you’re interested in being part of a “pace group,” there’s no registration required. Within your corral, look for people holding a small stick with a paper sign and red/white balloons. The paper sign should indicate the pace that they’re going to run (for example, 4:45). Don’t be shy; approach the pace group leader and introduce yourself! Let them know that you’d like to join them to help you reach your time goal. You’ll probably meet a few others who have the same time goal and end up exchanging introductions and pleasantries!

Conclusion: If you have a time goal in mind, consider running with one of these pace groups. Each of these pace group team leaders has plenty of experience helping many people reach their time goals. Plus, there’s something very empowering about running in a pack.

Concluding Remarks

The “Stadium to the Sea” course is justification enough to run the LA Marathon. Although the course is mostly flat in overall terms, you will definitely feel the elevation changes (especially those I noted in the above “Elevation Profile” section). The weather has been all over the place in recent years, so there is no consistency in knowing what to expect. There’s plenty of support (in many senses of the word) to get you to the finish line, so put your best foot forward and hope for the best result! See you at the finish line! 🙂

Have you ever run the LA Marathon? Will this be your first one? Or, would you like to run it one day? Feel free to leave a comment!

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– Runner Investor

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