Race Review: Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon March 24, 2013
Three weeks after running my first full marathon I participated in the Oakland Running Festival Half Marathon. I had heard that this was a very fun event and didn’t want to miss out! I signed up at the last minute and was very happy I decided to run. This is a relatively new event and was created as a day to bring celebration and pride into the city of Oakland. There are several race lengths to choose, from a 5K to a full marathon. I have not spent a lot of time in Oakland and after running the race I have a new appreciation of this great little city 🙂
Expo: The expo was held at the Oakland Marriott City Center. I wasn’t able to stay long but made my way through the vendors quickly and collected my free Zico Coconut Water (who sponsored the marathon!). It was relatively uncrowded and I had no wait to pick up my bib. There was a terribly long line, however, for those who were unable to print out their e-registration form before coming to the expo. The organizers asked us to bring a printed copy of this form so I’m glad I did ahead of time. There were a fair number of vendors but it was not a huge expo.
The tech shirt reflected the course’s tour of Oakland. And now you’ve seen the awesome medal twice. It’s the biggest one I have and I love the tree of life design.
The Race: The course was designed to highlight some of the best of Oakland-landmarks, buildings, sports teams, the city skyline-you name it. The event was very festive as the name would imply, with bands, DJ’s, dancers, Raiderettes cheerleaders, food..lots of good stuff. It has been a few months so I can’t remember everything that I saw, but most of the course was very unique. Sadly, I can’t find my pictures from this day on my computer but I encountered a lot of surprising things along the course (A dubstep DJ atop a fire-breathing horse??)
(as best as I can remember!)
The start: Wow so I was really late getting here, I was bartending on Saturday night so even a 9:15 am start time is early for me. To give you a feel of how celebratory this race is, the Oakland Running Festival posted a video of the half marathon start line. I was one of the people on the other side of the sidewalk racing in the opposite direction to line up. It was actually kinda fun to see the runners take off from the front side of the start line:
Miles 1-3: The course snaked around the downtown area for a great warm up. (And I mean warm. I made the mistake of wearing a long-sleeved shirt forgetting that the East Bay is much warmer than San Francisco and I was burning up within minutes). I saw a lot of cool buildings and apartments but I hardly remember without my photos. I do remember people emptying out of a church to cheer for and high-five runners.
Around mile 4: This was the only boring part of the course I remember. We ran past a dingy looking Bed Bath & Beyond and I was feeling sluggish.
Miles 5 or 6-10: There was a lot of really random, fun entertainment every so often. I saw DJs, dancers, a fire-breathing horse (see above), taiko drummers, Raidernation. We even ran through a burning ring of fire!
Miles 10-13.1: This portion of the race was probably my favorite. We ran around Lake Merritt and the crowd support was at it’s best. I didn’t even know Oakland had a beautiful, Sunday picnic-ready lake to visit. My favorite view of the day was from the opposite side of the lake of the Oakland skyline. The sun was shining bright over the water and the tall buildings of downtown radiated. If I ever find my pictures I will update this for sure.
The finish line was over the only hill I can recall on the run. I thought it was a nice challenge to end on an uphill (we are endurance runners after all!) There was plenty of support from the crowd cheering runners up the steep hill. And seeing the finish line at the top was a welcome sight. I sprinted to the end, hot and ready for some more coconut water!
Why did I wear that shirt??
The ORF organizers are really focused on making this the best event possible, with much success. Communication is very often and open via email or the ORF facebook page. The cost was only $90 the week before festival, which is a lot less money than I’ve paid for other races. I’ve also seen plenty of opportunities to save money with coupon codes and at other race expos. Access to public transportation is incredible. The start and finish of the half marathon was within a couple blocks of a BART station so I didn’t even need to worry about traffic and parking! My review is a little vague because my memory of the day is a blur, but if you want to experience a great race full of uniqueness, fun and surprises sign up and run it 🙂