The Westside hosts the ASICS L.A. Marathon and seventh annual Race for Success 5k this weekend

By Michael Aushenker

If ever there was a weekend for a run, this is it.

On Saturday, Loyola Marymount University hosts the seventh annual Race for Success 5k — a charity event that involves participants from 14 schools and several businesses throughout the Playa Vista, Playa del Rey and Westchester area.

On Sunday, Santa Monica hosts the finish line of the ASICS L.A. Marathon, with more than 25,000 runners taking starting off at Dodger Stadium along a 26.2-mile trek ending steps away from the pier.

Not to be overshadowed by the big show, Race for Success has swelled from 250 participants and 12 sponsors in 2007 to 1,800 participants and more than 50 booths this year, with proceeds going to local public schools.

Local parents Mathu Matthews and Christine Ayala initially organized the 5k, which this year includes a companion 1-kiddie race, to create “an umbrella entity that could bring all these community schools together and help raise funds on a larger scale,” Matthews said.

“Smaller cities have educational foundations that raise hundreds of thousands to make sure programs are not cut. Each of these schools has their own parent/teacher organizations struggling to get community entities to give,” he continued.

Pointing up the obstacles public schools face in raising funds, the Race for Success nearly hit the end of its road five years ago before LMU officials embraced the event.

“We used to run the event on the streets and end at LMU for the expo, but after the first two years, with city budget cuts, they were no longer able to give street closures for free. That is when LMU stepped up to host the event on their campus. [College officials] provide the public safety officers, audio/video equipment, parking, and tables and chairs for the booths,” Matthews said.

LMU also determines the scheduling of the race.

Schools participating this year include Kentwood Elementary, Loyola Village Elementary, Paseo del Rey Elementary, Westport Heights Elementary, Orville Wright STEAM Magnet Middle, Westchester Enriched Sciences Magnet High School, St. Bernard High School, St. Anastasia, St. Jerome, Westchester Lutheran, Open School Magnet Charter, WISH Charter and Playa Vista Elementary.

The organizers stress Race for Success 5K is more than just your typical school booster.

“It’s really become a big community event,” Ayala said. “We have a lot of schools participating for the first time. They’re all working together. It’s nice to see them reach out to the community as a whole.”

For 67-year-old Santa Monica resident Stephanie Singer, Sunday’s L.A. Marathon is an occasion both for personal achievement and family bonding.

Until she turned 60, Singer had only cheered for her sons from the sidelines during races, but now the running shoe is on the other foot. Her two adult boys (and LAPD detective husband, who has also run the marathon) will be cheering on mom.

Singer, a former high school counselor, takes cardio and weightlifting classes through the Santa Monica College Emeritus program and trains with the volunteer organization L.A. Leggers.

“It empowers me that I can do anything I put my mind to,” she said. “Your body is not really supposed to do this. You have to convince yourself ‘I’ve done the training, I can get through this.’”

Singer said she chose the L.A. Marathon for a simple reason: “What’s better than to have people cheer as you end the race right at home?”

The seventh annual Race for Success 5k begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at Loyola Marymount University in Westchester. Call (310) 216-0890 or visit

The ASICS L.A. Marathon begins at 6:50 a.m. Sunday at Dodger Stadium and will prompt a temporary closure of Ocean Boulevard. Visit for details.