A 5k fun run departing Santa Monica Pier would seem like nothing out of the ordinary, only this Saturday all participants will be wearing the same number: 420.
And they’ll be running, jogging, walking or skating a 4.20-mile course down the boardwalk to Venice and back to make a point about people who use pot.
“We don’t do it just to be kitschy,” says Jim McAlpine, founder of the cannabis advocacy event dubbed the 420 Games. “We actually run a mile over what a 5K is. … We run that extra 1.1 [miles] to just really hammer home that we’re not lazy.”
This is the impetus for the entire 420 Games, created in 2016 by McAlpine and now touring cities including San Francisco, Denver and even Pittsburgh, Penn. Also incorporating yoga sessions, Jiu-Jitsu, arm wrestling and even a three-on-three basketball tournament, this athletic event is intended to showcase the wellness benefits of cannabis and highlight the growing community of consumers who incorporate weed into a healthy lifestyle.
McAlpine hopes to de-stigmatize cannabis and demonstrate that consuming it doesn’t inherently equate to being unmotivated.
“Sometimes people immediately raise their eyebrows and ask if it’s like joint-smoking contests or bong hit contests,” he says of stereotypes that have lingered beyond legalization.
L.A.’s second annual 420 Games actually spans two days, incorporating a skating competition on Sunday at the Venice Skate Park, and includes a social component. Over the course of the weekend, attendees can also hit up food trucks and a beer garden, watch a rap battle, get a CBD oil massage, visit vendor booths, catch a comedy show and even hang out with 420-friendly celebrity athletes.
With a “Bay to Breakers-esque” vibe (expect to see more than a few weed-themed costumes), the 420 Games is also family-friendly, said McAlpine, showcasing a drastically different perspective than the “Just Say No” or “This is Your Brain on Drugs” campaigns. He expects to attract a “really cool tribe of people” — thousands of them — that includes parents, corporate executives and other walks of life that don’t fit the outdated stoner stereotype.
Former pro football players Ricky Williams and Eben Britton will also be on-hand to share their own experiences with cannabis and help dispel preconceived notions that all tokers are couch potatoes. Williams will also be leading a yoga class, free to attend as space allows.
“When you see a Heisman Trophy winner and someone who’s that athletic, you have to realize that maybe cannabis is part of a healthy-and-fit possible lifestyle,” McAlpine argues.
McAlpine talks about using marijuana in his own exercise regime, often ingesting a potent edible before starting his swimming workout so he can stay focused throughout. Weed helps him battle attention deficit disorder (ADD), he says, and explains that in college he began using the drug medicinally — although he didn’t quite realize it at the time —to stay alert, engaged and help him complete his term papers.
“Rather than Ritalin or anything else, cannabis really helped me,” he says.
However, much like McAlpine doesn’t like to consume caffeine because it makes him jittery, he doesn’t recommend cannabis to every adult; it’s simply one option to enhance a workout or the recovery. Know your limits and use cannabis for “elevation” not intoxication, he advises.
“I look at cannabis like a supplement,” says McAlpine. “You should know what you’re putting in your body, know how it affects you.”
McAlpine feels so strongly about the role cannabis can play in an overall healthy lifestyle that he’s currently in the painstaking process of trying to open the first “cannabis gym” in San Francisco, which he’s tentatively calling Power Plant Fitness.
420 Games participants, however, won’t be allowed to smoke weed (or technically, consume cannabis of any kind) on the site of the event. While it would seem like the legalization of marijuana in California would have opened the floodgates for group smoke-a-thons, the opposite is actually true.
“Legalization has caused havoc in California,” says McAlpine. “Over the last couple years there was a lot of … ‘gray area’… and more liberality in what we could do at these events. Now that it’s fully legal, there’s a lot of laws and bureaucracy that are making things really hard to do and understand.”
The 420 Games happen from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday (March 31) and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday (April 1) at Santa Monica Pier Parking Lot 1. The skate park competition in Venice starts at 1 p.m. Sunday. Ticket prices range from $20 to access the event village to $100 for an after-party on the beach. Visit 420games.org for more information.
By: Hayley Fox, Argonaut News