Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Oakland, California - Marathon

The first few months of 2013 were difficult for running.  After taking a break from training in December, I resumed my regular running routine in early January with medium distance runs during the week and long runs on the weekends.  Last winter I was able to wear shorts and a heavy shirt for the majority of my runs, but this January was particularly cold and I found myself wearing multiple layers and a face mask to stay comfortable.  Darkness, ice, and snow on the Jordan River trail made for slow, difficult running.  When the warmer weather arrived and the ice disappeared, my running pace jumped more than I expected.

I decided to run the Oakland Running Festival Marathon on March 24 for two reasons.  First, the marathon received excellent reviews last year and has gained a reputation in the Bay Area for being a top notch event.  Second, Oakland is an inexpensive and fast trip from Salt Lake and I've never spent any time in the city despite many trips to the San Francisco.

I arrived in Oakland on Saturday afternoon with just enough time to pick up my race packet, grab some food, and walk along the Jack London Square waterfront area before heading to bed.

Jack London Square Waterfront

Sunset over San Francisco from my hotel

As I walked to the start line from my hotel in the dark on Sunday morning, I realized that it had been seven months since my last marathon at Pikes Peak in Colorado.  After four great races in 2012, that seemed like a long gap to me.  Winters are too long!  With sunny skies and a perfect temperature, the race started at 7.30 am and we headed north and east into the hills of Oakland.

Heading to the start line

The first few miles of the race were flat and took us through the quiet, deserted streets of uptown Oakland.  As we reached Temescal, the crowd support grew as we passed cafes and restaurants with their early morning patrons.  The hills began as we left Temescal and headed into the gorgeous Rockridge and Montclair neighborhoods east of downtown.  The area around Monclair was particularly enjoyable despite the difficult and seemingly endless hills.  At mile 11 we reached the Mormon Temple and the beginning of the gradual descent, the uphill portion of the race officially over.  The view looking down into Oakland and across the Bay was stunning.  My time goal for this race was a 3:30 and I comfortably kept up with the 3:20 pace group through the hills and the descent.

Oakland Marathon

Oakland Marathon

Around mile 14 the course became flat and passed through Fruitvale before turning west and heading back toward downtown Oakland.  At mile 18 we passed the Jack London Square Waterfront area and rejoined the half-marathon route before looping through West Oakland and returning to the downtown area.  The crowds and support were great as we entered downtown Oakland and the last few miles took us on a scenic loop around Lake Merritt.  My pace slowed and I fell behind the 3:20 pace group at mile 22, but I was excited knowing that I would break 3:30 by maintaining a slow and steady pace for the last 4 miles.

Lake Merritt Loop

Finish line in sight

I crossed the finish line at 3:23, well ahead of my goal and almost 13 minutes faster than my previous best marathon time.  The Oakland Running Festival delivered and excellent marathon with great organization and support.  The running tour through the scenic neighborhoods of Oakland was fantastic.


Finish line celebration

I spent the afternoon and evening with an old friend who I haven't seen much since high school.  Nico lives in Oakland and was kind enough to celebrate my marathon finish with some food and beer along the waterfront.  It was the perfect way to end a great race weekend in Oakland.