My thoughts on the Oakland marathon

29 Mar

I had such an amazing Sunday at the Oakland Running Festival! I had hoped to write a lengthy post about it that evening because it was so inspiring and made me proud to be an Oaklander, but alas, life got in the way. I decided to share a few thoughts and photos today, even though you’ve no doubt heard or read much about the marathon already.

On Sunday morning I woke up much later than usual, as I had been traveling and not sleeping enough. I rapidly got ready and rushed out the door. When I reached Broadway, I could already tell it was not a usual Sunday. It was quieter, with less traffic. I stopped at 27th and Broadway and cheered some of the runners on, but soon moved on further into downtown.

Broadway was almost entirely empty and quieter than I’ve ever heard it, but soon that silence was filled with sounds from the distance – music and cheering. It started as a hum and grew louder, as I quickened my pace to catch up with it. It reminded me so much of Burning Man, walking out to a burn or a performance, hearing or seeing my destination in the distance, filled with anticipation, and wishing I was on a bike.

The wait was worth it, as I arrived at 14th and Broadway, the finish line, as hundreds of runners were reaching it and hundreds of onlookers were cheering them on.

I cheered for a while and listened to names being called off. I was amazed at how many runners were from out of town – from all over California and other states. I hope they enjoyed Oakland that day as much as I did that day.

I then sat down in Frank Ogawa Plaza for a while and listened to the blues band that was playing. It was perfectly sunny for a few moments, and though I’m used to seeing the Plaza nearly empty, it seemed as if this was the Plaza’s natural state – filled with smiling people.

I went back and cheered about a block from the finish line for probably an hour or so and ran into a couple of friends who had just ran the half marathon.

I was amazed by all of the people I saw running the marathon. People of all ages, sizes, ethnicities, and physical conditions. I saw a few parents running with their children. One man did the half marathon in a wheelchair. Someone who had clearly injured himself along the route hopped along for that last block with the help of another runner.

Once the running crowd thinned out, I headed down the street to Somar for the Ella Baker Center after party, where I watched the Cougar Cadets Drumline play. They’re a super talented group of middle school students!

I then relaxed inside with bloggers dto510, Vsmoothe, and Gene, and many other friends.

It was one of my favorite days in Oakland in a long time, and I can’t wait to be more involved next year. No, I’m not going to run, but I do plan to volunteer at a water station. And instead of using my hands to cheer, I’m going to bring a cowbell.

3 Responses to “My thoughts on the Oakland marathon”

  1. Bruce Nye March 29, 2011 at 9:35 pm #


    So here’s some perspective from a runner. My last marathon was ten years ago, and the last before that was 24 years ago. I had this goofy idea that I’d do this because it seemed like a really cool Oakland thing to do.

    I had no idea. The people who turned out to cheer were fabulous. The police and fire department folks were among the best cheerleaders. It was a really good picture of the Oakland that we’d like to have all the time.

    While I’m not sure I’ll run the marathon again next year (it’s an awful lot of work), I’ll never forget the experience, and I look forward to being a part of it somehow, someway every year.

  2. Tim Anderson March 30, 2011 at 10:03 am #

    I’ll second Bruce’s comments about the people along the course – fabulous! I’d add that it’s such a treat to experience the vibe in different neighborhoods and to have folks out proudly welcoming us runners to their space in our beautiful city.

    Non-Oaklanders are noticing too. From some comments on the Oakland Running Festival facebook page include:
    – “awesome time. Never knew Oaktown had SO many nice neighborhoods!”
    – “I came away with a new appreciation for Oakland and its beautiful people.”
    – “Thank you for showcasing all of the diverse neighborhoods of Oakland.”
    – “The race really demonstrated that Oakland residents have a passion for their city which surpasses anything that I have ever witnessed. I will definitely visit more often.”


    I ran the half last year and did the full this year. The race is so well organized and so much fun, I will definitely be back for the full next year. The wave of Oakland pride that rushes over me is the reward for the 10 mile uphill climb.

  3. Andy K April 5, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Inspired. Great write up, and great comments.

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