Oakland Running Festival: Recap

Oakland Running Festival, Half Marathon, 3/27/2011

After realizing that my training milage was not high enough for me to attack the full, I decided to run the half... dressed as the Incredible Hulk.

I've been wanting to do it for over a year, run as the hulk I mean. I already had the muscle suit and gloves from a previous Halloween, so it was an easy costume to piece together. Please forgive the absence of face paint, I just wasn't that committed to the costume to sweat green paint for 2 hours.

The expo this year was much larger than in 2010. A good sign that this race is gaining popularity and support from vendors/sponsors. Organization was great, just as it was last year. Plenty of volunteers to guide you and answer any questions.

Race Start
I met up with four other friends running the half about 45 mins prior to the race. We all started together and eased into our individual paces after a couple miles. I slowed down a bit first, I mean the Hulk is a big dude, so he gets distracted by wanting to smash things.

Crowd Support
The crowd support was phenomenal, like it was last year. I can't say it enough: the community really comes out to support the runners and more specifically, the city. You can see the city pride on each person. You get used to seeing people come out to cheer on individuals in the race that they know... this isn't the case in Oakland — complete strangers are cheering on EVERYONE.

Nice Gloves
Dressing in costume is fun. But those hands are heavy. I thought the muscle suit was going to be restricting, but it was the hands that caused the chaos. Once the weight in the gloves kicked in, my natural running arm swing was rendered useless. So I walked more than usual and interacted with the crowd and fellow runners. I had a couple conversations with others walking or people at a similar pace.

Photo Opp
Yes, I posed for all the cameras. Why not? I wasn't going to win the race, so why not look INCREDIBLE?

Hulk Fist Bump
The cool thing about having giant green hands... FIST BUMPS! With kids, other runners, the crowd, Raider Fans, A's Fan's chanting: "Let's Go Oakland" and the police blocking off streets. There were lots of mom's saying to their kids: "look, the hulk" then I'd strike a pose, Hulk style. Although there was one kid dressed as batman that was mean muggin' me. Funny, right?

I came in just under 2:30, about 15 mins slower than I expected and nowhere near my sub 2-hour PR, but I had fun! I got to experience the race at my own desired pace, interacted with people that I wouldn't have had the chance to if i was running at race pace with music. It's a different way to experience a race. I had an INCREDIBLE time and looking forward to doing it again in 2012, costume or not.


Oakland Running Festival — 2011

Last year I ran the Inaugural Oakland Running Festival finishing within 2 minutes of setting a PR (on a hilly course). It was the first marathon in 25 years for the city of Oakland, making it an enormous opportunity for the city and the community. I was lucky enough to participate as a runner/blogger in 2010 and am fortunate to be returning again this year, participating in the Half. I also got another chance to interview Gene Brtalik, the Event Director, but this time with a successful 2010 event in his pocket. Enjoy.

1. With the success of last year's inaugural event and the event looking to sell out this year, what can we expect as a follow up for 2011?

I think we can expect to see more fans along the course this year as well as more buzz. Last year, I think we took quite a few people by surprise even though we promoted the event quite well. Now with a year under our belt, we have definitely had more people talking about it which should equate to more Oakland pride being on display.

2. As part of the training build up, the ORF organized preview runs along the actual course. It's a great idea that doesn't seem to be common among other races, how did the idea form?
The local running store back in Baltimore organizes three of those types of runs to get people ready for the hills of the Baltimore Running Festival (a hillier course than Oakland) and a few years ago we started doing it with our Frederick event. We noticed that people really enjoyed them and when we started Oakland last year I wanted to give the idea a try. Last year, we had roughly 200 and I was a little floored since that was more than we usually had in Baltimore and I did very little publicity for it. We expanded to two runs this year and was more shocked at the last one that 300 people showed up to run in a constant drizzle. Our goal is to be a runner friendly event and this is one way for all the runners to be mentally prepared for what they see on race day, minus cars on the course obviously. So far it's been a huge success.

3. You also did it last year, was there positive feedback from 2010 finishers attributed to having run sections of the actual course? A boost in confidence for 2011 runners?
I think a lot of people last year realized the "dreaded" hills weren't that bad and gave them some extra confidence on race day. A few people hadn't trained enough on hills so they learned that the half may be a better option. We did receive a ton of feedback from people last year that they loved the preview runs. One of the funny things is that people are shocked that a) it's free and b) we don't care if you aren't signed up. We would prefer they were signed up, but maybe the preview gives them that nudge to register for our race.

4. City Hall, Montclair, Jack London Square, Lake Merritt. Is the course mixed with the crowd support from the community a large part of the Running Festival's success?
I would have to say community support is a huge part of the success. As runners, we know how important seeing a smiling face is on race day whether it's a complete stranger or a loved one. I tell a lot of people we could have the seven wonders of the world on the course but if there aren't fans it doesn't make any difference because at mile 23 I would rather someone yell my name than look at the Great Pyramid. Now if a race had the Eighth Wonder of the World Andre the Giant (RIP) cheering me own, it would probably be the best course ever.

5. Oakland native Mark Curry (of televisions Hangin' with Mr. Cooper) was at last year's marathon starting line cheering on runners. Can we expect him to lace up his running shoes for 2011? There has also been some chatter on twitter about another Oakland native and inspirational figure, MC Hammer, being encouraged to participate. Any word on that becoming a reality?
Unfortunately, both Mark and MC Hammer are out for 2011 unless something changes at the last minute. Both have prior work commitments that are outside California which will make it hard for them to get back in time for the race. KNBR's Dan Dibley and CBS' Roberta Gonzalez are on a relay team together and there may be a few other celebrities that haven't come forward yet.

6. If you had one word of advice for someone that is "on the fence" about registering, what would it be?
My own piece of advice is that you've run in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and maybe even Napa give Oakland a try. If you don't like it, then you don't have to run again. But don't be scared off by the image that the media portrays Oakland to be. There's a reason 90% of our runners left Oakland with a positive view of the city last year and a bigger reason why 98% of runners would recommend it to a friend. We treat our runners like family. If you don't like something, we'll fix it for next year. You are our biggest advertisers.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions Gene. Looking forward to year two. Registration will be available Expo weekened, however there is no registration on race day. Come join us!

Leave a comment below (and email me at pavementrunner@gmail.com) and  I'll send you a FREE iTunes download code for the single, Rumour Has It, off of Adele's latest album '21.' — It could be the next song you add to your playlist. (7 download codes available)


Dear Yoga,

Dear Yoga,

It's me, your old friend... hopefully you didn't forget about me. We used to be so close and over time started to drift. We used to enjoy each other’s company early in the mornings. I’d show up sleepy and tired, but by the end of it, I’d be revitalized and ready to start the day with some much needed pep in my step. On Sunday you’d help me stretch and workout any soreness generated from the previous day’s long run. Those were some good times with me and you.

I’m hoping that not too much time has passed and we can downward dog right into a smooth routine. I may not be the person I was last year, but over time, I’m sure I can get back into my groove and Vinyasa with the best of them. Heck, pretty soon my posture will be better, my center of balance more... ummm... centered and perhaps a new outlook on daily tasks. I’ll be breathing better, which is always a plus in my book and be more flexible. Yep, that will be me: a centered-flexible-breathing-runner that stands up straight.



20 Miles and a Decision is Made

The glory of a 20 mile run is in how many thoughts can go through your head as you approach such a significant number of miles. If you don't believe me, check out a recent post by a friend (who writes and runs much better than I do).

The past weekend was my venture into the realm of 20 miles. I chose to take part in an organized run put on by the Oakland Running Festival. For those running the full, you could run the first 20 miles of the course. For those running the half, you could run the entire course. By far a great opportunity to gauge your readiness before race day and a fantastic (and out of the box) idea by the event. Take note other races.

Nearly 300+ people came out and we were sent out in waves according to pace. It was a rainy morning, so they also provided laminated routes (bonus points for preparedness). I on the other hand showed up late AND right on time to join the 10-10:30 group.

I wasn't sure if I was ready for the full distance and I was about to find out. The first 10 miles flew by pretty quickly. I was moving smoothly and my recently updated playlist was bringing life to my legs. I started to think that perhaps I was going to do fine. Heck, I was right on pace and this was over a hilly course. Look at me go. I might be ready to PR in three weeks.

Remember when I said different thoughts pop in your head throughout 20... well, four miles later things were about to drastically change. My legs started to feel fatigued and the music wasn't doing it. Slowly block after block, my mind and body just quit. I was still a good 5 miles from the end of the training course and I knew it wasn't in me. A sad realization after a spectacular first 10 miles — which happen to be the more challenging section of the course. One thing was for sure, if it wasn't in me today, it wasn't going to be in me in 3-weeks. Face it: I'm not ready.

To remove any doubt, it wasn't just a single bad run. If that were the case then I might be able to convince myself to give it a go, but this would make it 2 weekends in a row that I didn't have more than 14-15 miles in me. That's a sign. My training isn't there and the last thing I want to do is set myself back by pushing too hard.

The good thing is that I know I have 14 miles in me. I had a great time at last year's ORF, so I've decided to give the Half a go. I want to be a part of this wonderful thing that is happening in Oakland. A couple friends are also running the half and having a stress free event might bring my mojo back, cuz it sure has left the building, Elvis style.


26 Day Countdown

With 26 days until the Oakland Running Festival, it seemed appropriate to make a list of what I plan to do over the next three weeks to prepare for the race.

Note: As of right now, I am planning to run the Full Marathon. After a tough couple weeks of training (and my lack of running in Dec. and most of Jan.) I may decide to drop down to the Half Marathon. This weekend's 20-mile preview run will be the deciding factor. 

The Oakland Running Festival helps organize several course-preview or practice runs throughout the months leading up to race day. It's a great way to have an actual "race day" training experience, complete with water stops.

3/2 - Wednesday
Create this list (done)

3/3 - Thursday
Run an 8 miler before work

3/4 - Friday
Make sure I drink plenty of fluids and get a good night sleep. Sleep 36 hrs before a run can be just as key as the night before.

3/5 - Saturday
Try to stay off my feet most of the day. Go see a movie?

3/6 - Sunday
Run the Oakland Running Festival 20-mile preview. Crucial run. Have dinner with some running friends later that night.

3/7 - Monday
Decide if I am ready for the marathon, or the half marathon.

3/8 - Tuesday
Second guess my decision over an 8 mile run before work. Register for Oakland Running Festival

3/9 - Wednesday
Work the foam roller and get a good stretch before bed.

3/10 - Thursday
Look at a picture of Dean Karnazes (below) and imagine he is giving me a pep talk.

3/11 - Friday
Look at picture of Kara Goucher (below) and imagine she is giving me a pep talk AND ask for a hug and kiss.

3/12 - Saturday
Run with a group of friends in San Francisco (either 20-22 or 13-15, depending on race day distance).

3/13 - Sunday
Watch DVR'd episodes on television and imagine it has something to do with running. This helps avoid me being labeled as a couch potato.

3/14 - Monday
Recovery run, distance depending on Saturday's run.

3/15 - Tuesday
Play Bond GoldenEye on the Wii. Code Name: Stolichnaya (seriously)

3/16 - Wednesday
Wake up early and get a run in with Mika, she is always good for a 5-miler.

3/17 - Thursday
St. Patrick's day. Green beer counts as carboloading, right?

3/18 - Friday
Have a Starbucks for breakfast, most likely my usual: Triple Venti Skinny Hazelnut Latte  and 3-pack of Madelines. (Skinny = sugar free syrup and non-fat milk, no whip) 

3/19 - Saturday
Run with a group of friends in San Francisco (either 15-18 or 8-12, depending on race day distance).

3/20 - Sunday
First day of Spring! Finalize race day goals, pace strategy and realize that anything can happen on race day making my goals irrelevant.

3/21 - Monday
Make sure I have everything needed for race day (includes comfortable running clothes, GU, Gatorade, glide... essentially a supplies check)

3/22 - Tuesday
Create my final play-list for race day.

3/23 - Wednesday
Get in possibly my last run (3-5 mi.) before the race (if not, schedule for Thursday)

3/24 - Thursday
Celebrate Prince Thursday by rockin' some bad-ass purple.

3/25 - Friday
Carbo Load - pasta always sounds nice

3/26 - Saturday
Expo Day - pick up race day packet and awesome scwhag!

3/27 - Sunday
Race Day - go out and enjoy a lovely event for 26.2 or 13.1 miles. Either way, have fun, enojy the local scene and bring home a shiny medal.