Yesterday, I joined three of the loveliest girls in the Bay Area (Jen, Jess and KP) to run the Oakland Marathon Relay. I ran Oakland two years ago where I blew up quite spectacularly by going out too fast. I didn’t have plans to run it again (so many races, so little time) but the thought of being on a team with these girls had me saying yes in a heartbeat! Our team was the Crazy Cat Ladies as we all are felinely inclined and we had the most awesome tops in the world, made for us by one of my friends.
One of the more annoying things about Oakland is that you need to go to the expo the day before to pick up your bib. This is very frustrating for those of us that are not particularly local, but we made the most of it by kicking off our Team Weekend by going to the USA’s first Cat Cafe! We’d gone to one in Tokyo a few years ago but were VERY excited to go to the Oakland cafe. My little Dude came with us (he had signed up for the 5k). The cat cafe was brilliant – they take cats out of shelters and generally most cats are rehomed within two weeks, what a wonderful initiative. I came away sadly as I had fallen in love with two gingers – a big thug of a ginger and a tiny, adorable one-eyed ginger. I offered my husband the opportunity to do another Ironman in exchange but alas he said no.
The expo was easy enough. Got our numbers, got our humongous ankle-strap for the relay. We managed not to buy anything else and snuck off for lunch.
Race morning dawned bright and early at 5.30 and we were out the door by 6am. The Husband would run with the Dude. Our drive to Oakland was eventful as I desperately needed a ‘bathroom trip’ in San Leandro. The 7/11 we stopped at said ‘no, you can’t use our bathroom, there’s one at a gas station three blocks away’. The gas station said ‘no, you can’t use our bathroom, there’s one at another gas station three blocks away’. The third gas station thankfully let me use their loo before there was a pre-race disaster. So never get caught short in San Leandro.
I was the third runner for the Crazy Cat Ladies. KP would kick us off for 6.2 miles. Jess would woman up and take on the hills in leg 2 for 6.5 miles. I’d run the flattish 7 mile third leg and Jen would bring us home for about 6.5 miles. The race started at 7.30 so I would be starting at roughly 9.15 but the shuttle bus to my exchange left the staging area at 7.30am! I had to kiss my boys goodbye and pile onto the bus before they started running. The skies were grey and a little damp.We got to the exchange at 7.45 and there we waited for an hour and a half, getting increasingly chilly. I made friends with some lovely ladies and so the time passed very pleasantly but we got quite cold and very adrenaline-y and the queue for the portaloo got longer and longer.
The first runners came through, long and lean. It was very exciting. And eventually, at about 9.11, Jess came charging into the exchange. I strapped the timer round my ankle, turned up the music and charged off.
As expected, I went out too fast. I knew this would happen and wasn’t too concerned. I was super-hyped, desperate to warm up, the first mile was downhill and I had Elsa exhorting me to Let it go on my headphones so I charged along passing loads of people. Alas I have no idea of my time because I unfortunately left my Garmin at home. So clearly I was running 6.30 miles :) Eventually the road leveled out and I just settled into my pace, whatever it was, and concentrated on running hard and passing as many people as possible.
My leg was not particularly pretty. Some nice residential streets gave way to a long straight stretch on International Blvd which was more rolling than I’d expected but not problematic. I passed what I assume was some native american dancing, which was awesome, and then at about 3 miles in, my relay leg combined with the half-marathoners. It got VERY busy at this point and I had to slow down somewhat, which annoyed me a little. I dodged people and tried to run as hard as I could, spotting my boys at the Oakland Museum of California. We went under an overpass where two pitbulls from the homeless encampment there were barking and throwing themselves at the wire fence. I ran a little faster. We ran through some of the less exciting streets of Jack London Square and finally I could see the Flaming Iron Archway and Mandela Parkway in the distance. I knew that my exchange, and Jen, were just round the corner. I saw the relay runners lined up, took out my headphones and yelled Jen’s name and she magically appeared, took off the chip, hugged me and sped off into the distance.
Later on, we got our splits and I ran 6.95 miles at 8.26 pace. I am ever so slightly disappointed but I know that I ran as hard as I could. I also realised that 7 miles is very different from a 10k. That extra 0.8 mile is murderous :) Our team’s overall time was 3.45.51 (yay, marathon PR for me) which we thought was excellent but means we still failed to qualify for Boston and we were ONE HOUR slower than the winning women’s team! We did come 7th out of 92 teams though!!!
One of the loveliest things about today’s race was that feeling of being part of a team. I knew KP had PR’d her leg. I knew Jess had run her socks off and I knew Jen was waiting for me, so every time I wanted to slow down, I thought of the girls and pushed a little harder. I really loved being in a team today.
I got BART (like the tube) back to the start line and here the organisers failed a little. They really needed someone outside the station to help non-Oaklanders. I had no idea which BART station I needed to go to and no idea which line I should take. Maps were few and far between and not very helpful. Luckily one of the other relay runners was standing outside looking desperate – she had no cash. So I bought her a ticket in exchange for her putting me on the right train! Teamwork! We both got safely back to the staging area.
I found KP and Jess waiting just before the final 100 yards and we watched the incredible runners coming up the hill to the finish line. And finally we saw Jen in her orange shorts and little cap coming towards us. So we all dashed into the road and ran across the line together! It was pretty awesome.
My boys came to find us afterwards. The Dude had a good 5k and really enjoyed it, which is by far the most important thing.
We collapsed in the grass and the sunshine and drank our free beers and wine. BT found us and then Paulette and her husband and then Dennis, so it was fun hanging out for a bit. But then I ran out of Little Person Goodwill and we decided we should head home. On the way back, I bumped into one of my Underpass Exchange buddies so it was nice to see how she’d done!
Overall…a really cracking morning. This race is really well organised, I can hardly fault it. All I’d suggest is 3 more loos at Exchange 3 and a volunteer at the BART station to help non-locals get back to the finish line. The volunteers were really kind and the Oakland population turned out in droves to support us, which I really appreciated.
Next up? A 5k in Maui next weekend – it’s the Husband’s turn to fly, I’m running it with my favourite little person!