Despite rain, Oakland Running Festival wraps up with record times and 7,000 runners
on March 28, 2011
Reporter after reporter kept asking 26-year-old Anna Bretan, the female winner of the Oakland Marathon, the same question: “Is this really your first marathon ever?”
“Yes, first ever,” replied the Berkeley mother, still panting from the race. Not only did she win her first marathon, Bretan finished in 2 hours, 53 minutes, almost 10 minutes faster than the second place finisher.
The Oakland Running Festival is in its second year, and 7,284 runners representing 35 states and six countries registered for one of the weekend’s five races – the marathon, half-marathon, 4-person team relay, 5K, and kids’ fun run – up about 20 percent from last year.
San Jose resident Tegenu Beru set a new course record in winning the marathon. Beru finished the 26.2-mile course in 2:30.08, to edge out last year’s winner, Tony Torres, by a little more than a minute.
Originally from Ethiopia, Beru said he came to the United States about a year and a half ago to flee arrest, and was granted asylum.
The Oakland Marathon is the first marathon Beru has won in the United States. But struggling with a leg injury, Beru thought he could have done better. “This course is a very difficult course,” Beru said. “You run close to a half-marathon uphill. When [I come] back in a year, I [will have] prepared myself to get a good time on this course.”
Runners kicked off the marathon Sunday morning, starting at Broadway and 14th, by Frank Ogawa Plaza. The course ran northeast into Temescal and Rockridge, then south to Montclair, southwest to Fruitvale, west to downtown Oakland, north through west Oakland, and back east for a circuit of Lake Merritt before the finish. The course got mixed reviews, with some runners calling it tough because of the elevation change and others, including the women’s winner, enjoying the hilly terrain
“It was a great course,” Bretan said. “My favorite part was the hills. I loved the hills.”
The running festival actually started Saturday night with the Oakland Tribune 5K Twilight Run.
“Anyone just warming up and running the marathon tomorrow morning?” the emcee asked the crowd of runners, which responded with a small cheer. “I believe maybe two of you,” the emcee said.
Although last week’s heavy rain forced a course change, the weather stayed dry long enough to complete the 5K itself. San Jose resident John Van Metre, 29, won the 5K in 15 minutes and 43 seconds. The female winner was 33-year-old Linn Schulte-Sasse of Piedmont, who finished in 17:51.
The sun rose at 7:02 am Sunday morning, but when Oakland mayor Jean Quan took the podium at 7:15 it was still fairly dark. Many of the runners were already wrapped in the shiny silver-metallic warming blankets – typically saved for after the marathon – or had pulled trash bags over their heads in hopes of staying warm before they took off.
“Welcome to Oakland, or as we say here, Oaktown,” Quan said. “I don’t know if they are words of wisdom, but for those of your who are not from Oakland, we hope that you find we are one of the most beautiful, most diverse, greenest cities in the country. And that there will be thousands of Oaklanders along the way to welcome you.”
The festival attracted more participants than organizers expected. While it’s a showcase event for the city, the marathon also brings in about $2 million dollars in revenue.
“We want everyone who runs today to come back next year and bring a friend,” Quan said. “We plan to grow this into maybe being as big as the Boston Marathon. We’ll be the Boston Marathon on the West Coast.”
Whether because of the early time, cold weather, or anxious nerves, both the runners and small crowd were fairly quiet at the start. “You guys are way too quiet for people who are about to run a marathon,” shouted the emcee, Brent Allen.
He led the runners in a countdown to the start, and white confetti shot into the air from two large cannons as the runners burst from the giant red START sign. It took a few minutes for the entire pack to cross the starting line and start to disappear down Broadway. The plaza was suddenly eerily quiet, only a few people milling around the booths and check-in areas.
“When I was a kid I was on the long distance running group,” Quan said as she walked back to City Hall to get some work done before the start of the half-marathon at 9 a.m. “But now, as you know, I’m more of a walker. I haven’t run for a long time. I think I have to lose a little weight first.”
At noon, with many of the runners returned to the plaza, awards were presented to the male and female winners of both the marathon and half-marathon races. Beru and Bretan smiled as they took photos with Quan while holding the giant silver cups they had received.
“I turned 26 this year, so it was time to run 26 miles,” Bretan said about her decision to tackle the race. “This is a great way to start my first marathon.”
The top three winners for each event are as follows:
1. John Van Metre; 0:15:43
2. Dan Stefanisko; 0:17:31
3. Chip Scarinzi; 0:17:44
1. Linn Schulte-Sasse; 0:17:51
2. Savannah Ryder; 0:19:47
3. Janine Aiello; 0:20:22
1. Tegenu Beru; 2:30:08
2. Jesus Campos; 2:37:31
3. Ian Sharman; 2:37:50
1. Anna Bretan; 2:53:19
2. Lori Buratto; 3:02:53
3. Suet-Fei Li; 3:03:25
1. Robert Olivera; 1:10:46
2. Jay Thomson; 1:14:31
3. Chafik Azerki; 1:15:51
1. Verity Breen; 1:21:37
2. Monica Zhuang; 1:28:10
3. Justine Owen; 1:28:55
Text by Abby Baird, photo slideshow by Felix Irmer.
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