Why: I had 18 miles on the training schedule for race weekend, and tagging a late morning half marathon on the end of it made sense to me. Oakland has always been a logistically easy race. I usually like the swag, the organization, the post-race party, and the community support.
History: before this year’s race, I’ve participated in the Oakland Running Festival 6 times
- 2012- half marathon
- 2013 – half marathon
- 2014 – full marathon
- 2015 – marathon relay
- 2016 – We Run This Town Challenge (5K + half)
- 2018 – half marathon
Goals/strategy: I wanted to maintain a consistent effort, from the warm-up miles to the last mile of the race. I knew it would be my slowest half marathon to-date, but I’d be happy with 11:00/mile average pace, which had been my long run pace. Mostly, I wanted to practice my race day routine, taking fuel and liquids, and pushing through the mental and fatigue.
Pre-race: Since I needed to get 5 miles in before the race, I got to Lake Merritt around 8:10am. The race didn’t start until 9:30, but I knew parking would be a hassle and I didn’t want to be rushed. I ran down to the Lake and saw the last of the 5K finishers coming in, while I ran in the opposite direction. The warm-up was uneventful. This was also my first run with my new Airpods, so I wanted to test them out during the warm up. They worked great and I’m very happy with them.
I met up with BT, who was also running the half, at 9:15. We walked over to the starting corral together. Neither of us were running this as a goal race, so we lined up between the 2:20 and 2:30 pacers.
We didn’t even hear the race start but soon after 9:30 the crowd in front of us started surging forward. BT and I chatted easily for the first 1/2-3/4 of a mile, then she pulled off to the side to take off her outer layer. Unfortunately, this was the last time I saw her (she had quite the dramatic race, detailed here).
Similar to last year, I kinda went into a Zen-like state during the race, just sort of floating through. The mile markers were pretty good up until the last few which seemed to be in the wrong place. The only other criticism I have for the race organization was that there was only one aid station giving out fuel (Gu, Gu chews). I’m glad I brought my own stash of Gu!
The other disappointing thing is that it seems like crowd support has gotten thinner and thinner through the years. It may be due to the course change a few years ago, where there used to be a large crowd at Lake Merritt (old course mile 10), and those spectators could then easily get to the finish line (less than a mile away) while their runners lapped the Lake. The other difference I can think of is that the half starts at 9:30 instead of 9:10, so most of the full marathon crowd has moved on to the finish? There’s still a substantial crowd at the finish line though, and I feel like overall participation is still strong.
There was one group of spectators in Chinatown that really stood out to me: a group of about 12-15 Asian seniors with signs and giving runners high-fives. In all of my years running this race, I’ve never seen any significant participation from the Chinatown community, so this really made an impression. Of course, I went out of my way to high five them and tell them thanks.
I was surprised at how steady I felt the whole time. My left hip started whining about 10 miles into the race (15 miles total) — which is typical. But, I pressed onward. I even had enough for a final kick! 7:47/mile for the last 0.13 miles. Having run the new course twice, I really like it. The start is less congested and straighter than before, and the finish is a straight downhill rather than an uphill slog.
2:21:16 (10:47/mile); 13.13 miles (Garmin)
74/182 AG, 718/1637 F, 1689/3220 overall
Final thoughts: I’m finally getting to the mental state of getting beyond that finish time and seeing the race for what it is. If I look at the time on the clock, it can be depressing — I finished 22 minutes (!!) faster last year. But, if I look at the whole picture — that these 13 miles were part of an 18 mile long run, a distance I haven’t touched since last summer, then it makes me proud. Not to mention steady pacing, consistent fueling, and mental stamina. Yes, it took me a few more days to recover from this than I expected, but I was very happy.
To top it all off, I had a beer and then brunch with BT after the race. What could be better?