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You Can’t Miss Them

Since 2012 this fun-loving group has done the 10k “swimming upstream”, meaning they run the course in reverse in their salmon costumes. We thought you’d enjoy hearing how they came to be with the 4 OG Salmon: Rob Himmler, Eric Schneider, Mike Litsey, and Mike Guerrero!

What’s the origin story of the salmon? 

It all started one week after the 2011 race.  A group of us were gathered at Eric’s house in Manhattan Beach for dinner. We all had run and the discussion turned to the 10k and whether we would ever run in costume. Ryan had been to the Bay to Breakers fun run in San Francisco previously and was telling the story of how people dress up for that race and mentioned that some people “even dress up like salmon and run the race in reverse.”  That was it. A moment later someone at dinner said, “We should dress up like salmon and run the Redondo 10k in reverse next year!” And the idea was born. We didn’t really have to choose the Redondo race, it was already a perfect race: people already dressed up in costume and the course was a loop. 

We spent the next 12 months working on this idea and on the day of the 2012 race, we all were super nervous if we would be allowed to do it. We had a fear that we would be stopped by someone in the interest of public safety. We were still unsure until we turned onto the Esplanade heading south. While we were running, a police officer on a motorcycle was heading towards us. He moved from the other side of the road to our side and I think we all thought he was going to put the kibosh on our fun. Instead, he raised his hand and high-fived all of us, and honked his horn as he rode away.  We all breathed a collective sigh of relief and we knew we had been given the green light, per se. 

From that point on, it was just a thing that we did and I think we all realized we can’t go back to running the course “the right way”. That day, Eric, Mike, Katie, John, myself, and eight others ran the course in the opposite direction for the first time. We had 13 people that first year. We’ve had as many as 22 and as few as 5 or 6 (2021-Covid) but it has been run every year since 2012 and we’re going to keep swimming upstream. We’ve had to buy our own foam material and engineer more suits moving forward. We’ve had many sewing and painting parties and repair parties and many of the suits are re-sewn, taped, or stapled at this point.  All the salmon suits look similar but they all have unique characteristics (hats, eyewear, hair, neckties, glitter, etc).  

We gather the night before at a local Italian restaurant to “carb-load” and we gather at someone’s house after the race for brunch.  We have a lot of fun with it and there’s a ton of camaraderie. 

Ryan from that first night? He didn’t run as a salmon but that first year, he dressed in a full bear costume ran “the right way” and met us in the middle. We had a spontaneous sparring match with the bear somewhere near the halfway mark of the course and the spectators got a one-time-only show.  Ryan never ran in the bear suit after that day.

How do you recruit new members?  

Basically, word of mouth. The first year we had 13 Salmon. We reached out to friends of ours in the weeks and months leading up to the first race in 2012 and since then, it’s been more of the same. People have approached us during the race or in the beer garden to inquire but mostly, it’s our friends and friends of friends that have been the runners. 

Do you ever train as a group?  

Definitely! We like to get a weekend run or two in on The Strand in the weeks leading up to the race to get the group in shape but more importantly, for the camaraderie.   

What’s it like to swim upstream at the Redondo Beach Super Bowl Sunday Race?  

Exciting at first when we gather near the starting line. You can hear runners nudge their friends and say things like, “There’s the salmon, they run the course every year in reverse”.  Then some high-fives as we work our way backwards through the starting line but then it’s pretty quiet for a bit. We’re running by ourselves along the course (and surprising the volunteers at the water stations who aren’t expecting someone approaching from the opposite direction). (Fun fact – we run DOWN Torrance Blvd instead of up so that’s a bonus.) 

Then the fun begins – the elite come zipping past us and we know that soon we’ll be getting more high-fives from hundreds of runners. People go out of their way to high-five us in the middle of the race while spectators will cheer us on running the opposite way. It’s pretty crazy for a while – we probably are high-fiving runners of various pace for 15 – 20 minutes.  Then we are back to running by ourselves again until we’ve reached the finish (start) line but since the restructuring of the events, with the 5K starting at 8:30, we now get to swim upstream of them as well, making for a near completely eventful race for us.  All in all, it’s hilarious and ridiculous and we all have a whole lot of fun swimming upstream.  

What’s your favorite part of the course? 

For me, the Esplanade.  There’s the view of PV and we get to see the elite runners come trickling by and then build to the flood of thousands. 

How did you come up with a costume design that works for running?  

In the beginning, we consulted a professional. We found a seamstress who was a friend of a friend who helped create the design for the suits. It all started with a meeting at a bar in Downtown L.A. where ideas were shared and a rough sketch was drawn of what might work.  That turned into a paper model and then a foam material was chosen for the finished product. The foam is light enough to easily take on and off, doesn’t restrict airflow too much, and isn’t too heavy to wear for 6.2 miles. The first 13 Salmon suits were custom-made.  We all individually drove to the seamstress’s house in Van Nuys where she measured our shoulders, height, etc. We really had so much fun with it that first year but I think we all will admit it also was a lot of work.   

Are you giving out Swedish fish this year or a different treat?  

Ha!  We have given out Swedish Fish a few times! We haven’t done that in a couple of years but maybe we bring it back. Also, we are open to the option of another fish-themed treat to toss! The crowd does love the Swedish Fish. 

Who has run the most Super Bowl races out of your group?  

This year is the 13th running for the group. OG Mike Litsey was in South Africa and missed one year. OG Eric Schneider missed one year when he was in Germany. OG Mike Guerrero missed two years – one year he was at the big game!  I’ve missed three years.I used to live in Hermosa but moved “back” to Pittsburgh PA in 2017 so I now fly in for the event each year.  

Out of the 13 original runners that first year 2012, only Mike L, Mike G, Eric, and myself are still actively participating.  People move away, stop running, get married, start families, relationships come and go, etc so we are always looking for new runners to keep our numbers. I believe we will have 12-14 runners this year.   

Have you ever won the Costume Contest?

We entered the costume contest in 2013 and won “Best Large Group”.  We entered the year after and had an entire choreographed routine with a baby salmon and everything and were runners up or second place.  We did enter one more time but did not place. It was then that we decided the costume contest was not our main area of interest and welcomed the additional sleep in the morning!