[This article was contributed by club member Len Goldman]
Oakland seems to be under-going a revitalization in more ways than one and that includes the road racing scene too. After years of languishing without any "marquee" running events, there seems to be a new race announced with increasing frequency. It was all jump-started by the Oakland Running Festival (ORF) in 2010 which will be kicking off its 6th year in 2015 and approaching 10,000 total runners. The newest race to take place was "The Town's Half Marathon" on August 16. Sponsored by Project Sport, an Oakland based organization, this race attracted almost 1,700 runners and delivered a quality experience. On the horizon, is the first Oakland Triathlon scheduled for August 31. All of a sudden Oakland has become "race central" for some high profile athletic events which hopefully will continue on an on-going basis.
LMJS, as it did with ORF, partnered with The Town's Half in several areas. This included promoting the race to its members, having an information table at the expo, and staffing a water stop. The club's role may expand in the future but that depends on what the Board decides is in the club's best interests.
The course chosen by the race organizers was similar in many respects to the route of the ill-fated Oakland Millenthon held about 12 years ago. The Town's Half Marathon included many of Oakland's up and coming districts including Old Town, Jack London/Produce/Loft area, Uptown, Piedmont Ave., Temescal, Grand Ave., Lake Merritt, and Downtown. The course appealed to me because it is flat, with only modest gains in elevation and a nice downhill section starting at about mile 7.5 where Pleasant Valley turns into Grand Ave. The water stops were frequent, every two miles: the one at mile 8 was staffed by the Piedmont High cross country team and at mile 12 was the LMJS team. I also liked the early 7:00 a.m. start time which I hoped would translate to cool temperatures. Race day did turn out to be an overcast morning, temperatures in the low 60's and a slight wind from the west, which made for very nice running conditions, unlike this year's SF Marathon which was warm and sunny.
In recent years, I have confined myself mostly to short distance road and cross country races. The exceptions were the occasional 4th Sunday 15K, a 10-mile race in Sacramento a few years ago and my last half in the inaugural ORF race in 2010. For the Town's Half, I embarked on a minimalist training program, not really starting to train for it until early July with several long runs leading up to race day. I wanted to see how it would go ramping up quickly rather than spending two or more months doing half marathon training runs. In addition, I did a couple of track workouts at my hoped for goal pace of 7:20 per mile and felt a time under 1:40 would be attainable. This also was the longest time I spent on any of my training runs.
Things leading up to the race went well and I was looking forward to seeing some of my running friends at the race, including Jim Buck and his girlfriend Jane Macfarlane. Alas, the cruel fates of running struck Jim down, as he fractured a bone in his left foot the week before the Oakland race in a DSE cross county event. But Jane made it to the start line and finished well. Jim was at the race, but in a walking boot and was confined to spectator duty, but we had a nice breakfast afterwards in Rockridge.
I wasn't sure about parking on race morning, but easily found street parking (non-metered) a few blocks away and could have slept-in an extra 30 minutes had I known it would be so easy. I jogged/walked to the start area, planning to use the "gear check" but encountered some runners who said not to bother, the line was too long an it was very disorganized. This is where Jim served a useful purpose, my own personal gear check. About 10 minutes before the race, I worked my way up to the front of the start line to check things out. The runners were very courteous and there was plenty of room on the front line. I didn't really recognize any of the other runners except for my friend, Milton. He was carrying a large water bottle to hydrate during the race. It was filled with beer--to each his own.
In my personal experience and I go through several phases during a race of this distance. There is the initial excitement at the start and the general feeling that the pace is too slow. Then after 3-4 miles of pushing the pace, reality hits: Oh my, there are still 10 miles to go. This will not be so easy. About half way through the race, mile 6 or so, doubt comes to the front of your consciousness and you start to feel more uncomfortable. How the heck am I going to get through this with my dignity intact? The next phase is anxiousness as the doubt has receded somewhat. The so-called "2nd wind" rises up and you think you can do it. But the happiness is short-lived. It’s in the race’s final stages when the pain from different parts of the body comes to the fore. The mental checklist begins. Is this something that could cause just temporary damage or could this lead to be a more long-term injury? Finally, the last mile, euphoria! You can make it and will finish the race upright.
During the race, I experienced all the above mentioned emotions and it reminded me why I haven't attempted a half marathon in a few years. Despite the roller-coaster of feelings, I felt good after the race; was glad to have gone the distance. My time of 1:37:43 was under my goal and within the range that I thought was possible. I don't think I will be doing another half marathon any time soon, but maybe the hiatus won't be as long as the 4 1/2 years that I took this go round. Finally, kudos to the race organizers for having the determination and wherewithal to put on the race, I hope this will be part of the Oakland running scene for many years to come. To view a brief video of the race, the link is: