This post is sponsored in partnership with USA TODAY Sports Active Alliance.

This will be my 8th Oakland Running Festival expo. It has been at the same location each year (The Oakland Marriott City Center), and the layout, look, and feel has stayed pretty consistent. They have added some larger vendors, more bells and whistles, but the local feel of this expo in the city known as The Town has stayed familiar to its roots.

The logistics

For races that I have done multiple times, the art of visiting the expo has sort of become perfected. You know what to do when you get there, where to go, where the shirts will be located, how to maneuver through the floor plan, and of course, where to eat before (or after). For this race in particular, there has been a tradition of drinking a Starbucks green tea frappucino the day before the marathon, typically after leaving the expo on the drive home. I mean, I’m kind of a sucker for tradition, so I expect that to happen again this weekend. I also know where there is a great place to grab a beer with friends within walking distance.

The flow of the expo for this race is done well. There is one way in, and it has a natural flow leading you through the vendors. Think of the layout like a snake—you walk in, grab your bib, then your shirts, and just keep moving forward through the vendors. It’s kind of nice not having to do several back and forth to make sure you have seen all you need to see.

The meetup

In 2012, the third year I ran the race, I hosted a “tweetup.” Very similar to what has become common practice for #WeRunSocial meetups—maybe this was the precursor for things to come. We made a graphic, spread the word, and had a group of familiar faces from the local running scene. 5 years later we are doing the same thing, but to a larger scale.

When: Saturday, April 1, 2017 at 3pm
Where: the Mazda booth at the expo
Who: hosted by Pavement Runner and Concrete Runners
SWAG: We’ll be giving away a limited amount of shirts. 
Sponsored by: USA TODAY Sports Active Alliance.


Click to Enlarge

Click to enlarge


At the Expo with Mazda

Mazda will be featured at the Oakland Running Festival all weekend log with a huge footprint at the expo as well as sponsoring the pace vehicle, providing photo opps, and branded shoe tags. There should be a lot of activity at their booth, swing by and grab a selfie with the featured cars: 2017 Mazda CX-5 and 2016 Mazda CX-9


2017 Mazda CX-5


Custom Shoe Tags

Mazda will also have an engraving machine located there to customize shoe tags. They had this at CIM and it was amazing. You can put a motivational message, important medical info, your @ handle, anything. Last time I got something engraved for my daughter’s shoes. My son hasn’t learned to walk yet and is a few years away from laces, so maybe something for me?


Taken at 2016 CIM expo


The Mazda booth is  also be located right next to the USA TODAY Sports Active Alliance booth where you can find out about other race experiences, including the OC Marathon, St. Louis Marathon, Portland Marathon, the California International Marathon, and more.



The Medals (and City to Town Challenge)

The Oakland Running Festival has always had amazing medals (except maybe that sun thing in 2011, not a fan), but it does have one of my favorite medals (2012, the third from the left). They also celebrated those that run 5 times (consecutive or cumulative) and gave them some extra bling (4th from the left, see ribbon).  In 2015 (second from right), I did the Run The Town Challenge (5K + Half on the same day) for a three medal day. I’m looking forward to putting the 2017 medal on and finishing my 5th Oakland Full Marathon.



This will also be the start of possibly a new tradition. This year, the San Francisco Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and the Oakland Running Festival are on back-to-back weekends and the two races have partnered to make the City-to-Town Challenge. Run both races, get a bonus medal. I’m not going to take credit for this idea, but I’m also not going to say that I didn’t play a part in helping to make it happen, as small as my role might have been. 



Good luck!

I look forward to toeing the line with the few tackling the full, as well as coming across the half marathoners mid-way through their journey. I’ll look to you halfers for speedy legs to help motivate me to finish strong.

What is your favorite tradition at an expo?