I always joke that it’s possible to run a race every weekend in the Bay Area. The weather is favorable the majority of the year, and the options are plentiful with road and trail races mostly within an hour’s drive. In 2017, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon San Francisco and the Oakland Running Festival fell on back-to-back weekends and the City to Town Challenge was born.
March 27: Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon San Francisco
As a legacy runner (5x finisher), this race is always on my calendar. This year, like last, the #WeRunSocial crew teamed up with Concrete Runners to host a meetup at the expo. Last year, we did a shakeout run and had cupcakes made. This year, we just did the cupcakes. I mean, if you have to choose one, you go with dessert.
Along with a new location for the expo, the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco start line was also moved from next to the beach at the East-end of Golden Gate Park, to closer in the middle of the Park. The ambiance didn’t change much, but it did help lessen the climb we previously faced in the first mile or so.
I was feeling pretty good in the first half of the race. Legs felt good, weather wasn’t too cold, and the energy in the crowd was nice. My pace stayed pretty consistent to mile 6 when we got to the Marin side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I stopped for photos, obviously. I was also doing IG stories and Snapchat for the Rock ‘n’ Roll social channels, so I needed some cool content too. (Shout out to @blingwhore for the photos below)
After that, most of the climb was behind us and we on the return trip to downtown San Francisco. We stopped for some more photos and enjoyed what turned out to be a really amazing day that had originally been slated for potential rain.
I crossed the finish line with @fitfam6 at 2:08:45.
This race continues to be one that I will participate in and enjoy annually. It runs almost an opposite direction of the SF Marathon course, and I’m grateful to experience the hills going up/down both ways.
April 2: Oakland Running Festival, Marathon
Another race that I am legacy for (8x finisher), the Oakland Running Festival always falls on my calendar annually. As I have stated in the past, the Oakland full marathon is one of my favorite full marathons. It’s obviously not going to compete with the energy of NYCM or the sights of Big Sur, but there is something special about the 26.2 in The Town. Just ask a finisher and they’ll tell you. For me, it’s a combination of the different neighborhoods and the people who participate in it.
For the first time, we hosted a #WeRunSocial meetup in Oakland. I partnered with Concrete Runners again to help host and we had some custom shirts made. I was also working with USA TODAY Sports Active Alliance and Mazda throughout the weekend. We hosted the meetup at the Mazda booth, posed for some pictures, and ate some donut holes (provided by @essayareayaitch).
This year I decided to take on the full (having done the half 3x). I knew that I wasn’t going to be goal chasing, so I decided to take my hydration pack with me so I could bring my portable speaker for some music (have kicked the headphone habit). I also bought a new water pouch, nothing could go wrong with that, right?
As is typical for me running the Oakland Running Festival, I went out too fast, averaging sub-8:30 for the first 3-miles when I should have been closer to 9s. I realized I was going out too fast and pulled back, which is a good thing that I realized it early on. The tunes were blasting and I was getting some good compliments for song selection along the way.
Around mile 9, when we begin the biggest climb up towards Lake Temescal, the music goes out. Wait, what?!? You gotta be kidding me. I’m running up this giant hill and my music just up and dies? Ugh. I’m only 80 minutes into the race and I’ve got to lug this portable speaker that isn’t playing music for the next 17 miles? I thought I could get at least 2 hours out of the thing. I brought a portable charger because I knew it wasn’t going to last the 4 hours I needed it to. So I started the charging process and decided it wouldn’t get turned on until that last hour so that I had it going across the finish line.
Oh. And remember when I mentioned the new water pouch? What is it they say? Nothing new on race day? Yep. That spout on this thing sucked. I was working 3x as hard for every little drop I was getting. Not even half way through this thing and I know I’m in for a long day.
The course and energy were just as great as always. I continued getting smiles from the crowd (I think they liked my socks), and although my pace was slowing considerably, the miles just kept in clicking away. Every few miles of the course feels like a new journey. Like you are running a bunch of different 5k’s in different neighborhoods throughout Oakland.
Around mile 21, I decided to put the music back on. Up until this point, I had it playing through the speaker on my iPhone, which obviously has less excitement than my your portable speaker. This bump in volume immediately picked up my spirits and the pace as well. I was getting up there in minutes, longer that I had expected (or wanted to) be, but I was still running with a smile on my face and back to receiving thumbs up and compliments on my song selection.
I crossed the finish line at 4:53, one of my longest elapsed time in years. It wasn’t the finish time I was hoping for, but I never really felt right from the beginning. I had a slight headache that I tried to ignore, and my stomach wasn’t quite right. Nothing that would have resulted in my having a poor race, but I think it was just a combination of a bunch of little things (music, hydration, headache, tummy) that caused me to be out there 30-ish minutes longer than I had expected to be.
See you there?
Oakland Running Festival: March 25, 2018
Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon San Francisco: April 8, 2018
Not on back-to-back weekends, but I wonder if they’ll do the challenge again. Either way, I’ll be at both.