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Mayor Jean Quan (right) listens while Lee Corrigan (President of Corrigan Sports Enterprises) elaborates on the second Oakland Running Festival.

Street closures, new courses as Oakland hosts Running Festival this weekend

on March 25, 2011

After a successful return of the Oakland Marathon last year after a 25-year hiatus, Oakland is ready to host the second edition of the city’s Running Festival this weekend. “The revival of the Oakland Running Festival is one of the many signs of Oakland looking more forward,” Mayor Jean Quan said at a press conference on Thursday. She hopes that the festival will introduce the projected 7,300 runners to Oakland’s diverse neighborhoods and scenic beauty.

This Saturday and Sunday, a field of runners from 33 states and 6 countries will make its way through Oakland in five races: the marathon, half-marathon, 4-person relay, 5K, and kids’ fun run.

The 5K race kicks off this year’s Running Festival on Saturday at 6:30 pm. The race will begin and end at Jack London Square near Scott’s Seafood Grill and Bar and Miss Pearl’s Jam House. After last year, this race was relocated to the Oakland Estuary bank in order to enable runners to discover more of Oakland’s waterfront.

The festival’s prime event, the marathon, will start Sunday at 7:30 am at City Hall, wind its way up through the Montclair area, pass by the Mormon Temple, and head back toward downtown through Fruitvale. The last 10 miles of the course are shared with the half-marathon, which starts at 9 am at City Hall. After passing by historic Jack London Square and running around Lake Merritt, runners in both races will finish at Oakland’s City Hall.

Lee Corrigan, president of Corrigan Sports, the company that is organizing the festival, hopes that it will change people’s perception of Oakland. “The city is an underappreciated neighborhood in the shadow of San Francisco,” Corrigan said. “People out there don’t realize what kind of charming neighborhoods Oakland has.”

He said he also hopes that a lot of residents will get involved in the festival. Along the course, numerous neighborhood communities are organizing “cheer zones” and in downtown Oakland bands will be performing on a stage in front of the City Hall. Corrigan encourages all residents to come out to these venues to help making the festival a success. “Everyone can help fly the flag of Oakland,” he said.

After gaining an estimated $1.95 million in revenue last year from visitors in town paying for hotel rooms, transportation, entertainment and restaurants, the city also hopes to profit from the running festival this year. Major Quan emphasized that no taxpayers’ money has been spent for the event. The festival is hosted by the City of Oakland but produced and fully funded by Corrigan Sports. Both Quan and Corrigan said they hope that this partnership will last some time.

Organizers hope the festival will grow the way the Baltimore Marathon, another running event organized by Corrigan Sports, has grown. The Baltimore Marathon started 10 years ago with 6,500 runners. Today, 25,000 runners participate in the well-known event—a number that, according to Corrigan, could be a goal for Oakland’s running festival. “The quest is to live up to the Baltimore Marathon,” said Corrigan, adding, “We are currently well on our way.”

Last year’s problems with temporary traffic changes should not reoccur to the same extent, Quan emphasized. The city and the police have been working together with the neighborhood communities to avoid possible traffic snarls and accommodate all neighborhood needs, including making sure the race course does not interfere with Sunday worship. As a result, the race courses have been altered slightly from those used last year.

However, some streets will be temporarily closed as the races advance on Sunday. Residents can use an interactive map to plan ahead. Motorists are advised to plan ahead and either time their travel to avoid street closures or seek alternative routes.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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