I haven’t enjoyed a road marathon as much as last Sunday’s Oakland Marathon in a long time. It wasn’t just the community spirit that carried me along the way. It was the city itself—its historic landmarks, diverse streetscapes and distinctive shopping districts. Oakland is such a cool place, with so much to offer runners and visitors, and yet it gets such a bad rap.
Whenever we travel and people ask where I’m from, I say Oakland, because nobody outside of the Bay Area has heard of Piedmont (the small town I live in next to Oakland). The typical reaction is a look of barely concealed distaste and concern. Several ask, “Is it safe?” They only know the Oakland in the national news: the city with high crime, broken schools and demoralized police. Those chronic problems do exist and can’t be sugarcoated. But they overshadow all the positive things about the city. The bad reputation itself becomes a chronic, self-fulfilling problem.
I thought about writing a race report but decided to take this opportunity instead to spotlight 26 reasons why Oakland is a city that runners—and tourists—would love. Besides, I can boil my race report down to a haiku:
Nice and steady pace
Age-group win, three-twenty-six
Instead of racing hard with a time goal, I approached it as a training run in advance of the April 9 American River 50 Mile. The marathon felt like a party as I spotted friends and neighbors along the course and yakked with other runners.
About 900 finished the full marathon and 3400 ran the half. The well-organized races were part of the two-day Oakland Running Festival.
It would be easy simply to list every mile of the marathon route, since each mile revealed something worthwhile as we ran from Downtown through Uptown, Temescal, Rockridge, Montclair, Dimond Distrcit, East Oakland, Fruitvale, Jack London Square, West Oakland and Lake Merritt, finishing at City Hall. Instead, I came up with 26 other reasons. Here they are, in no particular order:
- Redwood Regional Park‘s trails
- Joaquin Miller Park‘s trails
- Transports running store
- Lake Merritt, where I run at least once/week
- Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders running club and their 4th Sunday races
- Lake Temescal, a nice place to run as well as picnic and swim
- The Skyline 50K through the Oakland hills
- The 9-mile Woodminster XC race
- Speaking of Woodminster, the Woodminster Summer Musical series under the stars
- Seeing local Olympians Magdalena Lewy-Boulet and Regina Jacobs running on the trails
- Seeing Governor Jerry Brown hiking on the trails
- Jack London Square (where my husband just opened his new business) with its warehouse district, wine bars, and restaurants like Yoshi’s, Bocanova and Everett & Jones BBQ
- Uptown with restaurants and bars like Flora, Plum and Luka’s
- Old Oakland around 8th and Broadway with restaurants and bars like The Trappist and Tamarindo
- Montclair Village with its farmers’ market, cafes and Crogan’s
- Temescal District (around 51st and Telegraph) with restaurants like Dona Tomas and Pizzaiola
- Fruitvale District (along International Boulevard) with its Mexican food and culture
- College Avenue for everything and Piedmont Avenue, Grand Avenue and Lakeshore for everything else
- The spiffy Mandela Parkway through West Oakland, developed after the freeway pancaked in the ’89 earthquake
- Not one but two great circus arts training facilities in West Oakland: Kinetic Arts and Trapeze Arts
- The funky, innovative Crucible studio for industrial arts in West Oakland (which set up a flaming archway for marathoners to run under)
- Touchstone in downtown Oakland, my kids’ favorite climbing gym
- Special independent bookstores: Diesel (College Ave), Great Good Place (Montclair), Laurel (MacArthur Boulevard)
- Special independent grocers: Piedmont Grocery, Village Market, Farmer Joe’s
- Special historic theaters: the Fox, the Paramount, the Grand Lake
- The Oakland Zoo (way better than SF’s zoo)
I’m not that into the Raiders, so I left them off the list—but I love taking the kids to A’s games.
What would you add? I realize the list lacks one thing for visitors to Oakland: recommendations on hotels and other lodging options. Can anyone make recommendations in the comments below?
For those of you who came to this blog post looking for a real report on the Oakland Marathon, check out Scott Dunlap’s writeup. He took some great photos while running—and still finished in a blazing 2:53!
For a list of 100 other things to do in Oakland, check out the visitor bureau’s guide.
See you at the start line of the 2012 Oakland Marathon. I definitely plan to put it on next year’s calendar.
(Aeriel image of Lake Merritt and Oakland cityscape reprinted with permission of Aerial Archives.)