After two years hosting virtual running festivals, the Oakland Marathon is back this year with its first live race since 2019. The annual Oakland Running Festival, now in its 13th year, includes a full and half marathon along with a 10k, 5k, and kids run.
After two years without in-person events, race director Lena Zentgraf said the motto for this year’s race, held March 20, “could be, ‘It’s so good to see your face.’”
“It’s been a long time,” she said, “and it isn’t just the runners who miss one another, it’s also the musicians and the companies we rent tents from,” as well as small businesses along the route.
The running festival, to Zentgraf, is as much about celebrating Oakland as it is about running.
Over the years, she said, the course has “touched nearly every part of Oakland, from the hills to the flats.” Their last live marathon in 2019 was the first running event in Oakland to include the Bay Bridge in its course, using the new span’s pedestrian path to cross to Treasure Island and back again. A highlight of that year’s event, her team had hoped to include the bridge crossing again in this year’s marathon, but due to regionwide shortages of police officers and first responders, they consolidated the route to include fewer intersections.
“While this is not what we wanted to occur, we understand the challenges that Oakland city services are currently experiencing,” said Lee Corrigan, president of race organizer Corrigan Sports Enterprises. By mapping a marathon route that includes two loops of the half-marathon course, their team was able to create a race with more centralized staffing and course support and less stress on city resources. It remains a qualifying event for the Boston Marathon and is sanctioned by USA Track and Field.
The 2022 course, which starts and finishes at Lake Merritt and takes runners around the lake and through Old Oakland, downtown and uptown, the Jack London Square district, and along Broadway to Oakland Technical High School and back again, is for Zentgraf one that is “decorated with memories” from before Covid and that celebrates the abundance the city continues to offer in its recovery.
“The lake continues to be the home track and the backyard and the energy field of this town” she said. “It’s where people go and where we can see each other’s faces.” Passing Fairyland, taco trucks, various neighborhoods and local favorite restaurants and businesses, she said, the new course is “interesting and authentic. We’re confident the weekend will be filled with good times, community engagement, awesome running, and new memories.”
As the race date nears, she said, she receives dozens of calls a day from runners, volunteers, sponsors, restaurants, artists and businesses gearing up to participate. “They are excited,” she said, and tell her, “Yes, let’s do this. We love this town. We remember.”
The Oakland Running Festival is March 20. For more information visit oaklandmarathon.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. This year’s kids run, hosted in partnership with Stephen and Ayesha Curry’s Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation, is March 19 in Snow Park.