Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Fun and Hilly Oakland Marathon

On Sunday, I had the great pleasure of joining 12,000 runners for the inaugural Oakland Running Festival in Oakland, CA. We had perfect weather for a marathon, 1/2 marathon, or 5k fun run, and a challenging course that took us through many diverse and beautiful areas of Oakland. Judging by the number of smiles that filled the downtown courtyards at the finish, the race was a huge hit and destined to return for many years to come. 

This race wasn't on my calendar originally, but "long hilly run of 28 miles" was. When I saw that the Oakland Marathon course went through the hills of Rockridge and Montclair, as well as tour through a bunch of Oakland I had never seen, I just had to go! Plus there's Fairyland for Sophie, so it can't be beat. So I figured I would hit the hills hard (1st half), then either coast the second half or keep going hard if my legs gave me permission. Plus I was thrilled to show my support for the City of Oakland, who clearly put a lot of thought and work into this race.

I arrived early on Sunday morning to ample parking, and a cozy slightly-overcast sky. About 1,000 runners were doing the marathon (solo or team relay), and we got to go an hour ahead of the 10,000 half marathoners. I saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd, no surprise. It appears the organizers had tapped the ultrarunning community to run the pace groups, and Mark Tanaka, Mark Gilligan, my friend Phil Grant, and other sign-toting runners were ready to try and keep an even pace on this hilly course. Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums gave me some pointers - he used to be an avid runner, but "now that he's 70 he just sticks to martial arts". How cool is that?   

 (Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums gives me some last minute pointers)

(Lining up at the start)

In a classic Dunlap move, I lined up at the front and took off with the leaders, only to realize 100 yards into the race that my shoe was untied. Nice! I made a quick stop, then paced along with Ed Vasquez (back from a few injuries in 2009) and Marathon Maniac Rudy Montoya (fresh off the hilly Atlanta Marathon) as we watched Ivan Medina, Tony Torres, and Thomas Weiler pull away from us in the distance. The Women's front runner Michelle Meyer was right with us, clocking 6:30 min/miles, with a few other fast Women keeping her in sight. As we tackled some short hills and hit Telegraph Ave (mile 2.5), we were spread out pretty good. 
 (The marathon relay teams stuck close, watching for the breakaway)

(Alexander Sebastian sets a solid pace in the first mile)

I picked up the pace to pull up into 8th place, right behind a runner named Billy. He knew the area pretty well, and we both laughed about how fun it is to run right down the middle of the street in areas you usually can't find parking. The neighbors were all out to cheer, complete with bells, bongos, and noise-makers.

We did an out-and-back on College Ave, past Zachary's Pizza (arguably the best in the Bay), before charging up into the hills. Ivan Medina and Tony Torres were so far in front we didn't really see them, and my guess is that they were going sub-2:30 marathon pace. Wow! 

(Rudy reaches out for the high five while cruising down College Ave)

(Eventual Women's winner Michelle Meyer pulls away from her competition at mile 4, although her name was pulled from the results)

I thought I would slow down through the hills, but after a fire engine passed within 10 feet of me on a stretch of road with no sidewalk, I had more than enough adrenaline to charge fast. 

(On your left!)

The hills were pretty tough, particularly once we turned past Lake Temascal onto some bike path and into the Montclair area. Heartbreak Hill has nothing on Fernwood Road, that's for sure. But the houses were gorgeous, and the neighbors were all really friendly and encouraging. I had never seen so many cameras or designer dogs in a single five mile stretch! Just when your legs were ready to give out, there was a nice section of downhill to get your stride back, so you could keep a pretty good pace. 

(Self portait just past Lake Temascal...and no, I did NOT turn up the vibrance on this photo - it's that pretty!)

(Montclair residents welcoming runners to their neighborhood)

I knew I was trucking along, but wasn't really watching the time until I got to the Mormon Temple (mile 10). Sixty-two minutes?!? Good Lord, Scott, what are you doing? Perhaps I should stop and give a quick prayer for my glutes which will certainly be screaming by mile 20. 

(Every town had great support)


(Oakland Temple means "all downhill from here")

The descent was steep, almost too steep not to brake, and I got a chance to look for the runners in front and behind me in the long straightaways. Nada y nada...I was running solo in 5th place. Hey, where are my 1,000 running buddies? No worries, there were so many nice people on the course I barely noticed. In fact, most of them were shouting out "thank you for running Oakland!". Are you kidding? Thanks for having the race!

(Cruising through town, photo courtesy of talented 9-year-old Daniela Sebastian)

As the course routed through Fruitvale, I really got the sense of how diverse the population of Oakland is. The streets had cheering neighbors from every nationality you can imagine, and the smells of BBQ, Farmers Markets, and deep-fried goodness were around every corner. The music along the course, both live and boom box-powered, had folk, hip-hop, Japanese, big kettle drums, Pink Floyd-inspired rock, country, and more. It was really cool.

(The Oakland Police were amazing the whole race)

At one point along 8th Ave (mile 16), a homeless guy came out on the course and started flagging me down. Was this guy going to stop me, a la Vanderlei de Lima at the 2004 Athens Olympics? Or was it going to be an awesome picture possibility? I didn't have to find out, since two of the Oakland Police force quickly sped by on their motorcycles and cleared the way. One cop pulled up next to me and said, "sorry about that...we'll ride with you up to Jack London" and gave me an escort for the next mile. It wasn't needed, but I felt like such a rock star.Make way for the dude in 5th! ;-)

Jack London Square (mile 18) was another cool area I hadn't seen, and after cruising by I found myself getting passed by the 1/2 marathon front runners. They ran so smoothly! And my legs were headed in the other direction. But I found myself subconsciously (and foolishly) trying to keep pace. Perhaps genetically, we are pack runners.

(Lots of colorful characters, and the first signs of a smudge on my lens that would ruin most of my photos from here on out...oops)

(The wild gorillas of Oakland - the smudge doesn't do these guys justice, since their costumes were awesome)

At mile 20, the famous psychological wall, my legs started to bargain with me. If you want to continue training hard to run fast at Boston, ease up now or PAY THE CONSEQUENCES. Hmmm, not much of a bargain! I looked at my watch - 2:08, still ridiculously fast for a training run - so I eased up a bit to enjoy the sites of Fairyland, Lake Merritt, and the final stretch near downtown. Before I knew it, I crossed the finish line in 2:49:30, holding on to 5th place overall (results). Comedian/Actor Mark Curry and the Oakland Raider cheerleaders were there to congratulate me! Apparently I was "in the money" by finishing top 5, good for $100. Mark and I were quick to quote Chevy Chase in Caddyshack, "I feel like $100.".

(Comedian Mark Curry says congrats, photo courtesy of talented 9-year-old Daniela Sebastian)

(Comedian Mark Curry greets me at the finish...sorry about the smudge, Mark!)

I asked about the winning time, and sure enough, 40-year-old Tony Torres had crushed it in 2:31:38. That is crazy fast for a hilly course! The next five runners each came in 4-5 minutes apart, and 11 made it under 3 hours. I congratulated Michelle Meyers on winning the Women's division in 2:59, although her name was pulled from the results a day later (and then added back - what up?), with Aracelly Clouse (3:06) from Cameron Park, CA, coming in second. I'm sure there's a story there.

I got some food, a massage, met some new friends, and went through all my beer coupons before 11am rolled around. One great thing about finishing early - no lines! I changed my clothes and then came back to watch the courtyard fill up with music, laughter, and tales of adventure. Those who knew me said my fitness is officially out of control, and Mark Gilligan said he was going to start the dunlapisonsteroids.com Web site. Ha! No, just lots of good quality training combined with a lucky streak of health. I'll put it to the test at Boston and see if there is one more gear.

(Party at the courtyard!)

(Ed Vasquez enjoys a moment with his fiancee)

(The Relay runners definitely had the most fun during and after the race - try one next year!)

Everything was so right about this race - fun and eager volunteers, local cheering squads, awesome pacers, impeccable work by the Oakland Police, great shwag and medals, and two beers per runner at the end. Nice work for an inaugural event! My thanks to the everyone for putting it together, and starting what is surely to be an annual event for years to come.

Cheers, SD


  1. Very cool running pictures! Thanks for posting. :)

  2. Great pictures and recap! I ran it, but I'm not fast or a pro like you so I did not have the energy to take the pictures. But, it was a great course and I loved the community support.

  3. great to see you at the start (and might I add, only at the start). sub-2:50 WITH the camera, slick and impressive.

  4. Dude Montoya ran Napa a few weeks ago also.

  5. Funny about the smudge. I've lost hundreds of photos due to a the lense cover not opening completely. Sucks that you find out at the end of the day.

  6. Thanks for the post. I ran the relay, wish I'd known you were there I would've introduced myself (I'm just on the edge of some of your starting line photos). Great result for you!
    Curious to find out what happened to Ms. Meyer. I was waiting at the 2->3 relay point, and the first female that I saw was Ms. Breen. She told me at the end that she finished third, and I did find that puzzling... so we'll see.

  7. Sounds like a great race Scott and your recap makes me want to run it. Running is one of the best ways to see a city and you are definitely taking advantage of it. Congrats on 5th!

  8. Great photos and write up! I had previously written in Facebook that the alp horn blowers were in full Swiss alp regalia—I guess I just saw what I wanted to see in my running-induced delusion. Too bad you didn't get a shot of the goats climbing the rainbow... don't tell me I imagined that too!

  9. You captured the race very well. I ran it and didn't PR like I wanted, but it was a very enjoyable race. I liked the challenge of the hills and the support in each of the neighborhoods.I'm putting this one on my "must-do" list every year. It was that fun, and I think it has the potential to be a quirky race that's also loads of fun for runners and spectators.

  10. Great job and another great race report! Love the pictures!

  11. I recognize that elevation graphic :) You're welcome to use it of course. Great photos and write up as usual.

  12. Cool write up of the Oakland Marathon.. I felt like I ran it again. I did ran my first 1/2 marathon on Sunday... Loved your post and the pictures...

  13. I like your elevation profile comparison between oakland and sfm...

    It's also a funny coincidence that they both climb up hills to about mile 10 and then shoot downhill on a street named Lincoln. ;)

  14. Wonderful story. Very inspiring. You documented it really well while being a participant! I enjoyed the graphs showing the elevation changes of your recent marathons.

    James Reno

  15. Peter -

    Is that graphic yours? I grabbed it off of Google Images, but honestly thought it was from the Oakland Marathon web site. Thanks for letting me use it. Very clever to match the two elevations!


  16. Yeah, I made it when my running club LMJS was about to start training 100+ runners for the marathon last fall. It definitely illustrates that it's not your usual road course. As a result the trainees ran so many East Bay hills over the winter they were fearless come race day.

  17. Scott, thanks for a great post. I have been following your blog for a few mpnths now and am inspired by your attitude (and results!). A few years ago I did my first marathon and vowed to do one a year (and a bunch of shorter races and tri's) until I am old... I have kept to that and have managed thus far to complete a PB every year. I am sure that this will plateau pretty soon, but the one thing that has helped me every year so far is that I feel I am getting better and better at managing my nutrition and hydration. In a race like Oakland, would you mind sharing your hydration/nutrition schedule?

  18. Hi Scott - Great report and photos! You might want to enter the photos in the OaklandCVB's photo contest - top prize is $1,000. www.flickr.com/groups/destinationoakland

    Cheers, Elisa

  19. Re: Michele Meyer...she is back in the results.

    Congrats on a strong time on your "training run". Oakland has a much worse rep than it deserves. It has many beautiful sections, and I'm glad the race showed this off.

    Finally, Cheeseboard is the best pizza in the Bay Area. :)

  20. Michelle is back...and sub-3! Glad to see it.

    Rob - Thanks for leaving the comment. Isn't it great to keep getting PB's? It's like a fountain of youth! Here was my race day hydration/nutrition:

    2-3 hrs prior - Usually a cup of oatmeal and a banana, but I was running late on Sunday so I just had pop tarts. I usually drink a fair amount of water too (12 oz), plus my daily Optygen HP.

    45 min prior - One Vespa.

    20 min prior - One Powerbar double latte gel, with caffeine, before my warm up.

    During race - One gel every 30 minutes, often alternating between Hammer Gel plain and Powerbar double latte (caffeine).

    Hydration during race - I shoot for 20-24 oz of water/hour, which is two cups per aid station. I know that sounds like a lot, but I found this is my ideal intake after a lot of weighing before and after long workouts. Any more and it gets too sloshy. If I fall behind this rate, I tend to get more tired than usual in the last six miles, will twitch and cramp more, and sometimes have issues digesting gels. For this, I will often slow at the aid station to make sure I take it all in. I also take one S!Cap pill every hour. For the ultras, I stick to 20-24 oz/hour unless it's really hot, and tend to use a combo of S!Caps and Nuun electrolytes. I drink only water, for I don't seem to have the stomach for fluid-based calories.

    Post-race - Immediately drink 12 oz of gatorade and 12 oz of coconut water, and eat a small meal of bagels and bananas. Do NOT skip the massage. If my stomach feels good in the next 15 minutes, I move onto beer (probably not recommended, but it tastes so good when it hits your lips!). Protein and carbs for dinner, and definitely a milkshake before heading to bed. All in all, I'm probably gaining weight on race days. ;-)


  21. Congrats on a super run! The women's "winner" appears to have a walkman or iPOD on in your photo and it is stated in the rules for the race that they are not allowed to be worn by anyone placing in the prize money, similar to what happened at that race in the midwest last year where the top two women were DQd for wearing headphones.

  22. A police Escort! Very cool! Yes, look out for #5!!!

  23. Way to go, Scott! You're amazing! That was fun chatting with you after the race. I just posted the picture I took of us on my blog.
    Best of luck in Boston!

  24. Alex Sebastian4/04/2010 09:06:00 AM

    Hey Scott - I'm the guy in the 4th picture. Wish I was feeling quick that day and could have kept up with you to have a conversation. What a great event, wasn't it! My daughter took three good photos of you if you'd like them. I tried to post them in the comments but couldn't figure it out (I'm not technologically-inclined) so you may have a suggestion.

  25. Alex - Great chatting with you! Your daughter can send the photos to scottdunlap [at] yahoo.com. Thanks for doing so!


  26. I ran this race, too, and absolutely loved it! I love the graph you made of SFM and Oakland. Mind if I post a picture of it on my blog (will link back to yours, of course)?

    I actually have been a part-time lurker here for a few years and recognized you at the finish area. Was too shy to introduce myself, though :) Figured you'd think I was a stalker. Ha ha.

    Congratulations on a wicked fast time on a really tough course!

  27. Very cool. By chance came across your site searching for today's SF marathon results. I ran this race too, but only the half. Oakland is the red headed step child to SF. They can change that with more events like this.

  28. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Thank you so much for this great post! I'm running Oakland this year, and your RR here has been enormously helpful (and especially your course profile pic comparing Oakland to SF). I'm linking to that pic from my blog :) & what an awesome race you had! Congrats, and happy running endeavors to you :) --Erin


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