Through My Eyes

Timing was everything.

Oakland Running Festival Participants Stop Dead in Their Tracks to Get Hyphy

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That’s what the title would be if I were contributing an article to The Onion…

Yesterday at 9am, I (along with 3,400 others) ran an inaugural half-marathon on the other side of the bridge in a city not only notorious for its homicide and crime rates, but for its multi-faceted subcultures; the one, the only: Oakland.  It’s the first one held in the ‘hood in 25 years, and there could not have been a better course designed for this race.  Excitement, anticipation, and energy filled the crisp air as we made our way towards the START line and did last-minute stretches before the big countdown.  These minutes are my favorite.  I feel most nervous, yet exhilarated for what lies ahead.  I keep telling myself that I’m not going to do these races anymore.  Who am I kidding?  Being part of an event like this, especially training for a physical goal, has made life more rewarding since I started taking running seriously at the end of ’07.

It was gratifying to know that many out-of state participants were going to make purchases from local businesses, stay in local accommodations, and use the services provided by Oakland residents during this particular weekend.  Running through the various stretches of Oakland reminded me of what many people actually do for a living – work with their hands.  I recall passing various mom and pop restaurants, a number of stores where the word “Craft” was part of the signage – it was evident that the organizers of this race designed it to showcase different economic sectors of the city.  They were able to highlight the business and port districts, residential neighborhoods, small businesses, community colleges – places I had never really seen or had failed to notice in the past.   I think it opened a lot of eyes.

Throughout different points of the race, there were cheering stations where enthusiastic Raiders and A’s fans, talented Taiko organizations, Rastafarians, muscular firemen, jazz & blues musicians set up shop to provide inspiration and make sure we runners were thoroughly entertained, at least enough to keep moving.  There was even a group of people underneath an overpass dressed up in Gorilla suits, wearing masks, getting down to hyphy music bumping from old-school stereos.  Pounding the pavement through parts of West and East Oakland is not a typical route, by any means, for any runner who trains in the Bay Area.  These are sections of the city most people would think twice about passing through on foot.  The design of the course was perfect for those of us who don’t enjoy running hills.  I have to give major cred to the volunteers and members of  Oakland PD who helped navigate flawlessly.

We ran through an ‘arc of fire’ sponsored by an industrial arts education organization midway through the race (talk about something different), were gifted two beer coupons attached to our individual race bibs (I even forgave them for choosing MGD 64 –  runners count carbs, I guess), passed by succulent smells of barbecued meats, and were treated to a clean grassy park in the downtown area where everyone just sat and chilled in the warm sun immediately after consuming banana halves, downing Dixie cups filled with quenching amounts of Powerade, and golfing down nutty samples of Clif bars.

Most compelling thing about the race –  you could see the pride in people’s eyes.  Dads propped little ones up on the back of their shoulders.  Moms, aunts, and grandmothers threw their hands up in the air with signs full of colorful praises and words of encouragement laughing, smiling, showing us how positive their city can be.  I felt like what they were really saying was, “There are still good things happening here.  Good people do live here. ”  It’s unfortunate that this city has such a  negative reputation, partly due to what the media chooses to cover.  The murders, the drugs, the unattractive and extremely high unemployment rate – these are all things that members of the public choose to remember when they watch the 10 ‘clock news.

Throughout the race, I thought to myself – I’m doing this to support Oakland.  I think that can be said of many other runners who participated yesterday.  That thought was the extra push that I needed to help me cross the finish line.  And it felt damn hyphy good.

Corrigan Sports is planning to put on this same event next year.  If you didn’t make it out yesterday, I have nothing to say except DON”T MISS OUT NEXT YEAR!  (Your friends might even give you street cred for running through Oakland without a bullet proof vest.)

Written by winniewongsf

March 29, 2010 at 4:43 pm

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