Race Recap: Oakland Running Festival

Race Recap: The Oakland Running Festival

Why run one race when you can run two in one day at the Oakland Running Festival! In 2020, I was supposed to run the Oakland Marathon, but then the world shut down. This year, the Oakland Running Festival was back in all of its glory and it was amazing!

Disclaimer: I received a race entry to the Oakland Running Festival as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!

The Oakland Running Festival Expo

This year’s Oakland Running Festival expo was held in beautiful Snow Park with Lake Merritt in the background. Runners had the option of attending the expo either Friday evening or all day Saturday. I opted to visit the expo on Friday evening to kick off the weekend.

Once I parked in a nearby parking garage, I was able to quickly and easily pick up my bib. There was clear signage as to where the full marathon, half marathon, 10k, 5k, and the Run the Town Challenge (5k & half marathon) bibs were located. Fortunately for me, the race I had registered for, the Run the Town Challenge had the least number of people in line.

After I had my bib and drawstring bag, I walked across the grass to collect my 5k and half marathon shirts. The 5k shirt was a short sleeve shirt and the half-marathon shirt was a long sleeve shirt. I liked how each distance had its own unique shirt color with the distance written vertically on the back of the shirt.

My expo experience came to a glorious conclusion by enjoying a beer from Drake’s Brewing Company. I sat in the sunshine, listened to the live music, and soaked in the full Oakland Running Festival outdoor expo experience.

Race Recap: The Oakland Running Festival

Race Morning

I left my house at 4:15 am to make the two-hour drive down for the race. Since I normally wake up at 4:30 am during the workweek, waking up that early was not too much of a big deal. Plus, I was so excited to see my running friends that I practically jumped out of bed!

Thankfully, I was able to find free street parking less than half a mile from the starting line which was also the finish line village. In dark streets, I made my way to the starting line to meet up with my fellow BibRave Pros.

The first BibRave Pro that I found was Fallon (@slackerrunner). We stood around and chatted before she started the 10k race at 7 am. The full marathon also started at 7 am.

Shortly after Fallon started her run, I found two other BibRave Pros, Val (@runpalval) and Autumn (@simplyautumnnguyen). Meeting my online running friends in real life is the best!

Running with friends is fun at the Oakland Running Festival

The Oakland Running Festival 5k

Going into the 5k I had told myself that I would take it easy since I had a half marathon right after the race. Not to mention, the next weekend following the Oakland Running Festival I was running a full marathon!

When the 5K started, however, my competitive self kicked in. I can’t help but run faster when I’m in a group of people. Plus, I loved that the 5k course went around Lake Merritt, which added fuel to my fire. Two of my favorite things to do while running is running with water views and running over bridges!

Mile one of the 5K I was able to maintain an easy pace of 11 minutes per mile. At about the halfway mark I spotted two gentlemen who appeared to be father and son. They were maintaining a pretty nice pace so I tried to match their pace.

Mile two ticked by and I ran it at about 10 minutes per mile. I ran mile three in about nine minutes per mile! I was able to hold my pace with the father and son which powered me through the second half of the course.

The final quarter of a mile ended on an uphill. My pace slowed by about 30 seconds. I ended the 5k with a time of 33:06, an average pace of 10:17 per mile. Overall, I was pleased with my performance during the 5k but wondered how the half marathon was going to go.

A Lesson in Grit at the Oakland Running Festival

Race Two, the Half Marathon

When I finished the 5k, I had about an hour to kill before the half marathon. My first stop was to pick up my drop bag so I could put back on some layers I had taken off prior to the race. My second stop was to find a bench to sit on while I updated my socials with race day news.

Before I knew it, I had about 10 minutes left until race time. I quickly threw my things back in my drop bag, dropped the bag off, ran to the bathroom, and then the starting line. I’m the kind of person that shows up right at 9 am which something starts at 9 am. If I’m being really honest, sometimes I even show up a few minutes fashionably late.

When I arrived at the starting line I ran into two friends who were pacing the 2:50 half marathon pace. We briefly talked and I told them that I was unsure what my strategy was going to be for the race. Did I want to practice my pacing for the following weekend’s full marathon pacing gig or did I want to run a pace that was a little faster?

In talking with my friends, they told me that the 2:40 pacer was missing her co-pacer so maybe I wanted to go check in with her. In my mind, I wondered if I’d be able to run at a 2:40 pace. Would it be too fast? Should I run regular intervals or take walk breaks whenever I feel I need it?

I weaved my way through the sea of people up to the 2:40 pacer. Somehow the pacer had already secured an alternate pacer, so she didn’t need my assistance. Nonetheless, I decided to stay with the 2:40 pacers. A part of my motivation to run with the pacers was that I wanted to learn from them. Although I have paced a few dozen races, I still feel like a newbie.

A Strong Finish

As the race started and I ran alongside the two pacers, John and Michelle, we talked. I learned that John was also pacing the race that I was pacing the following weekend. We talked about pacing strategies and how they got started running. The miles ticked by; 11:27, 11:42, 12:34, 11:57, etc.

I ran with John and Michelle for the first 9 miles and then fell back a little bit to begin my run 1 minute and 30 seconds, walk 1 minute and 30 seconds. Most, if not all, of my long run training, has been run using intervals. My legs were feeling tired and in need of some walk breaks. Mile 9 and 10 ticked by; 12:23 and 12:29.

Taking the walk breaks proved to be beneficial because my final few miles were run in 11:46, 11:52, 12:21, and 10:31 (the final home stretch which was uphill)! I finished in a time of 2:39:12, right in front of the 2:40 pacers.

Final Thoughts on the Oakland Running Festival

To say I was proud of myself for my performance at the Oakland Running Festival would be an understatement. Although my times were a far cry from any personal records I hold, I was able to show up, run two back-to-back races, and feel strong!

I celebrated my achievements by grabbing my two free beers at the Drake’s Brewery tent and then found a seat in the sunshine. Around me, I met three unique runners who share tales of their favorite races, traveling for races, etc. There was lots of laughter and many smiles.

Overall, I was very impressed by the Oakland Running Festival. The finish line area was well organized and enjoyable, the racecourse was clearly marked, and all aid stations along with finish line food tables were well stocked. I also loved that they had multiple distances to choose from as well as a We Run the Town challenge for those like myself you enjoy a fun challenge!

Mark your March calendars for next year’s Oakland Running Festival. I hope to see you there!

Love Stephanie, your cheerleader for improved mental and physical health
Race Recap: Oakland Half Marathon


Christian, wife, mom/stepmom, no meat athlete, runner, teacher

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