Daniel Mejia ran the half marathon in the Oakland Running Festival last year. The 28-year-old finished the race in two hours and eight minutes.
This year, he smiled and held a pink sign that read, “Do it for the kids,” as he stood on a sidewalk on the outskirts of Lake Merritt. Mejia attended the Fifth Annual Oakland Running Festival on Sunday to improve his time from last year and root for his friends in other events.
“I can’t take credit for this sign,” Mejia said as he held the hot pink sign with black letters. “I’m here to cheer on my friend. She is a teacher in Oakland and is running the 5K race. I am going to run the half marathon later today.”
Mejia was one of about 10,000 runners that participated in the festival. Runners of all ages and abilities from 31 states and three countries gathered at Snow Park near Lake Merritt to compete in a marathon, half marathon, four-person team relay race, 5K run, and kids’ fun run.
In its first four years, the Oakland Running Festival has generated an estimated $12 million for the city of Oakland and close to $1 million for local charities.
About 400 runners signed up to run the half marathon. Many of the competitors in the half marathon and marathon race who recorded the fastest times were from the East Bay.
The female winner of the marathon race was 34-year-old Kris Klotzbach. She moved to Oakland nine months ago. According to Klotzbach, she knew what to expect from the course because she did the training run three weeks ago.
“I just run all year round,” she said moments after crossing the finishing line. “This was my first time running the festival in Oakland. I ran the Colorado marathon and I’ve done an Ironman. I just like to run.”
Spectators took pictures of and high-fived runners as they approached the finish line. The Raiderettes and the Warrior Girls accompanied friends and family members of the participants throughout the entire six-hour event.
Eulogio Rodriguez came in first place in the Oakland marathon, crossing the finish line with a time of two hours and thirty minutes and receiving cheers from the large crowd. Just like Klotzbach, this was his first time competing in Oakland.
“I felt like I was going to get a cramp,” he said. “The course was tough. But, today I was able to pace myself.”
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan congratulated the Whittier resident and So-Cal Running Club member, who posed for photos upon winning the race.
“In running this course, I got to see a lot of the beautiful neighborhoods in Oakland,” he added.
Golden State Warriors’ legend and Hall of Famer Alvin Attles and two-time Olympic gold medalist Jim Hines were among the people that encouraged contestants to complete the course. Oakland singer and percussionist Sheila E. performed her new song “Fiesta,” and brought the winners of every race up on stage to appear in her music video.
Hailing from Richmond, Mejia injured himself a week ago as he was preparing for the festival. He hurt his Achilles tendon, but said he wasn’t going to let this stop him from running on Sunday.
“I beat my time from last year,” he said, as he bent over and placed his hands on his knees after pausing to catch his breath. “My time this year was two hours. I’m ecstatic!”