For the 4th year in a row, I ran the Oakland Running Festival. This would be my 3rd attempt at this marathon course, with my previous attempts all including me going out WAY too fast.

First up, fun at the EXPO:

Picking up the bib and shirt are always super easy with ORF. I walk in, show them my printed out e-reg card (contains all my race vitals) and have my bib and shirt in less than 5-minutes.

That of course leaves me more time to do things like this:

Official Oakland Running Festival Merchandise! New designs and “favorites” from previous years.

Check out the latest additions to the official Oakland Running Festival Merchandise.

or pick up classics from previous years. This one is always a favorite.

Meet up with friends!

Paulette, Natalie, Kevin, Me, Paul and Scott

Paulette, Natalie, Kevin, Me, Paul and Scott

Brent and I... or otherwise known as TWO WILD AND CRAZY RUNNERS.

Brent and I… or otherwise known as TWO WILD AND CRAZY RUNNERS.


Race morning:

Found parking pretty quickly and was at the start line a half-hour before the start. That left me the perfect amount of time to get situated and just enough time to wish luck to some friends that were also running.


Met up with my friend Brian (in the American Flag bandana) who I’ve run into at several races. Also met two of his friends. Brett (far left) was running his very first marathon.


Also had a chance to talk with Jason who I met at the two preview runs. Super fast runner… yes, that is the 6 min. pace sign behind us. I think he was aiming for around 3:10.


Met up with Jana just before the National Anthem. I hadn’t seen her since last year’s event and it was great to catch up and wish each other luck (updated). She gave me the super secret trick of having a Starbucks Frap the day before a race… I’m not gonna lie. That ‘ish works. Don’t believe me? Keep reading. Oh ya, ummm, we got photo-bombed by this dude’s fingers. LOL.

Race Strategy:

Quoted from my preview post: “The plan will be to keep it consistent 9 minutes for the first 3 miles, move to 9:30 on the uphill to 11, bank a couple of seconds on the 3 miles (8:30-8:45) downhill, then cruise back into 9 minutes.”

Unannounced walking plan: Take a walk break (:30 sec. to 1 min.) at mile 7, 14 and 21, then burn rubber to the finish line.

Race begins:

Mile 1: 8:57
Mile 2: 8:56
Mile 3: 9:01

On plan. Check.

Mile 4: 8:42
Mile 5: 8:58
Mile 6: 8:55

I thought these three miles would be more of a climb, but it was gradual enough for me to keep my pace at 9 without exerting myself.

Note: Passed Dean Karnazes at mile 3. He was chatting with a couple of runners… he pulled even and passed me a half-mile later. I said “Have a good race, Dean.” He said “You too” and threw me a peace sign. Yep. Dean chucks the deuces.


Mile 7: 9:40
Mile 8: 9:48
Mile 9: 9:21
Mile 10: 9:24
Mile 11: 9:55

Okay, here are the hills. Kept it conservative and held the average pretty close to my predicted 9:30 pace. Decided to skip the walk break.

Mile 12: 8:53
Mile 13: 8:38

Half-way mark: 2:00-2:01

Perfect. There was no 13.1 timing mat, but I looked at my watch and it was within this window. Legs felt good and the hard part of the course was behind me.

Note: Up to this point, I had not taken a walk break. Legs felt good, so I just kept them moving. With the climb and decent behind me, I wanted to try and get back to my 9-minute pace.

Mile 14: 8:42
Mile 15: 8:48
Mile 16: 8:57
Mile 17: 8:51
Mile 18: 8:45

Okay, this is crazy. I’m hitting my marks like clock-work. I’m seriously looking at my watch after each mile expecting see a spike or a dip. I still have not walked and thought about it after mile 18 as I started to feel some minor fatigue. It crosses my mind to see if I can run this whole thing WITHOUT WALKING. I decide to keep running and reevaluate at mile 22.

Mile 19: 8:48
Mile 20: 8:48
Mile 21: 8:52
Mile 22: 8:48

Tough miles. It’s starting to get warm and I’m drinking more and more fluids to make sure I don’t get dehydrated. I know the portion around the lake is coming up and that segment always gives me trouble.

Mile 23: 8:48
Mile 24: 8:42

Holy crap. This is gonna happen.

I caught up to Jana between 24 and 25. I gave her a hello and a “come with me” arm motion and said something along the lines of “LET’S DO THIS.” We both had sub-4 on the brain. She looked strong, but she gave me the wave to go on ahead and she would keep up.

Mile 25: 8:15

I FEEL WONDERFUL! Probably smiling from ear-to-ear. I’m giving it all I have and leaving nothing in the tank. I know exactly where I am and how far I have to go. 

Mile 26: 7:47

I wasn’t looking at how fast I was going, only the overall time… could I break 3:55?

The last .2 miles are uphill. No joke. It’s cruel, but I know it is there and I’m mentally prepared to storm the hill LIKE A BOSS. I’m at 3:53-54 and am running as FAST as I can….

I cross the line, stop my watch.

Unofficial time of 3:55:02.

Screen grab from Friday's "Preview Post." I hit my predicted splits PERFECT.

Screen grab from Friday’s “Preview Post.” I hit my predicted splits PERFECT.

I can’t believe that just happened. These thoughts quickly run through my brain:

  • Third times a charm. You finally learned to run this course, hills and all.
  • You just ran 26.2 miles without a walk break.
  • You broke the 4-hour mark on a hilly course.
    Remember I tried sub-4 on the flat Two Cities (5:09) race in November.
  • You executed the plan to (the better side of) precision.

Jana crossed the finish line quickly after me and we celebrated our improvements from last year’s race and grabbed a couple of photos. We both agreed it was great to have a familiar face out there. We started together and also saw each other near the mile 5/6 out and back. I was trying to catch up to her yellow for 24 miles and she was “keeping sight of my white hat” for the last 2.


I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. I know I have been running a lot and yes, I feel stronger. I was confident in the plan, but I never execute the plan. There is always a random variable and it never arrived on Sunday.

I may have just ran the perfect race for my current level of fitness. If you take away the hilly miles where I hit 9’s and the last 2 “all-out” miles, it leaves 18 miles all within 20 seconds of each other. I’m not that consistent. Never have been.

I was happy. The smile on my face says it all.

Oh ya. Official time? 3:54:59

(left to right) 2010 Full, 2011 Half, 2012 Full, 2013 Full

(left-to-right) 2010 Full, 2011 Half, 2012 Full, 2013 Full


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