Oakland Running Festival/Oakland Marathon 2014 weekend: the non-race

Oakland Running Festival/Oakland Marathon 2014 weekend: the non-race

…and now, round two of my Oakland Running Festival/Oakland Marathon 2014 race weekend recap! When I wrote my recaps for Chicago & NYC ’13, ultimately, I ended up writing the recaps as several separate entities because there was so much I wanted to talk about for each race, both stuff that was strictly running related–like my pacing, my goals, my race day execution, that sort of thing–and stuff that totally wasn’t–like the opportunity to spend lots of QT with friends I hadn’t seen in a long time and why that’s just awesome.

Think of the previous paragraph then as a soft disclaimer. If you want to know specifics about my performance at the marathon, jump back to my earlier 5,000+ word diatribe post about it. Anything you’d want to know is there. If you’re interested in the warm and fuzzy stuff, the non-running stuff that made me so happy, read on, sister! (or brother!)

Race Weekend

As I’ve probably belabored by now, my family and I moved somewhat surprisingly, and somewhat suddenly, from Chicago, our home of over a decade, to Silicon Valley (San Jose), in December 2013. Prior to moving here, I knew exactly three people in northern California, and two of them lived in San Francisco proper, a good hour, hour and change drive from SJ. Making a cross-country move, and especially with a toddler in tow, can be intimidating for all the obvious reasons, but at the very least, I knew that I had at least a couple people in my back pocket to turn to once I got here… and even better, they are runners. What I didn’t expect about the Oakland race weekend was that it would ultimately be like separate chapters of my life converging.

Midhun

Midhun, one of my first friends I met in undergrad in 2002, has been living out here since our graduation in 2006, and typically, I see him once a year, if that, for a couple hours…again, if that. Prior to race weekend, when he so graciously set me up in his place 15 minutes away from Oakland, I hadn’t seen him since 2012 (I think), even though he had come to Chicago to run in ’13 (not sure how I missed that! bad Erin!!).

pretty sure the last time I saw Midhun (top L) was at this little DePaul rendezvous in my basement, circa Dec '12
pretty sure the last time I saw Midhun (top L) was at this little DePaul rendezvous in my basement in Chicago, circa Dec ’12

I’m not exaggerating when I say that within the first two or three hours of him picking me up from Oakland on Saturday afternoon, my face already hurt from smiling and laughing so damn much. Best type of pain ever.

After fetching me from the expo, he and I chilled at his place for a bit before driving around Berkeley–SO PRETTY, holy moly–as well as the UC-Berkeley campus and surrounding hills (wherein I tried very hard to appreciate the beauty of being so high up… without getting vertigo-y and wanting to spew all over his fiance’s car).

Noble Laureate parking at Berkeley. The institution has produced more Laureates than anywhere else, and you get a parking spot for life at the university once you're named. NBD.
Noble Laureate parking at Berkeley. The institution has produced more Laureates than anywhere else, and you get a parking spot for life at the university once you’re named. NBD.

 

the view from one of the many hills surrounding campus and the town. It's a bit foggy, but you get the idea. swooooooon
the view from one of the many hills surrounding campus and the town. It’s a bit foggy, but you get the idea. On a clear day, you can see San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area. swooooooon

After our little tour de Berkeley, we grabbed dinner (al fresco, on March 22, again… NBD) at Jupiter, a local pizza and brewery place, caught up some more about his forthcoming wedding in November, and shortly thereafter, went home to crash early.

As I had mentioned in my RR, Midhun was also kind enough to drive my ass back to Oakland in the morning, before the race, and then reconnected with my other friends and me in Snow Park, once we were all done. Without this sounding like a laundry list of “first we did this, then we did this, and then we did this,” which it already does, I can’t adequately describe how happy I was to finally get some QT with one of the only folks whom I knew living out here before my family and I made the big jump. I am ridiculously excited for Midhun’s wedding this November, just a couple days shy of my own wedding anniversary, and I’m looking forward to seeing him lots more, now that we’re in the same state (and soon, on the same side of the Bay).

Stone, aka Erin, aka Crin

Just as Midhun was one of the only three folks I knew out here, Stone was in this trio as well. Like my friendship with Midhun, my friendship with my co-Erin originates in Chicago, where we met through Fleet Feet’s Boston Bound program in 2010. We became fast friends over 800s in the LP Zoo parking lot, those G-D stairs at the Grant Statue, and lakefront and Barrington long runs, the latter of which I always remember her saying the alphabet backwards in German (French? Swedish? I can’t recall) as she scaled the hills mountains of the suburbs.

Immediately after Boston '10, in the Hotel Clarendon.  Stone (top L) and the gaggle of women I trained with for Boston '10 (bottom, L-R: Stacey, Amy, Margaret; top- Stone, me, Chris). Missing is John, our sole male influence.
Immediately after Boston ’10, in the Hotel Clarendon. Stone (top L) and the gaggle of women I trained with for Boston ’10 (bottom, L-R: Stacey, Amy, Margaret; top- Stone, me, Chris). Missing from the pic is John, our sole male influence that winter.

 

Attacking (er, hugging) Stone post-Boston. Another classic shot of me, smelling like ass after a marathon, insisting on bear-hugging someone.
Attacking (er, hugging) Stone post-Boston. Another classic shot of me, smelling like ass after a marathon, insisting on bear-hugging someone. You’re welcome, and I’m sorry.

Erin left Chicago shortly after she ran Chicago ’10–another marathon for which we got to train together–and has been in SF ever since. Once I knew that my family’s relocation to the Bay was a go, she was one of the first people I told, in no small part because she had just done the move herself relatively recently and had also gone through the same slew of emotions.

Anyway, come Oakland weekend, this gal met-up with me at the expo, hauled ass through that as quickly as possible, and then together we noshed our little hearts out at Souley Vegan, a low-key-and-super-awesome-southern-style vegan place near Jack London Square in Oaktown. Go there; it’s wonderful. Bonus: I ran by it the next day during the marathon.

'act natural! it's for the blog!'
‘act natural! it’s for the blog!’

My experience pre-marathon typically is that the less I’m just nervously milling over the race, thinking about running, wondering how the hell (or perhaps more importantly, WHY) I’m going to cover 26.2 miles, the more relaxed I feel, and, understandably, the better I perform. Having some Erin time, which I hadn’t had since the weekend of the Kaiser half marathon in February, gave me that time, and much like my time with Midhun, I reveled in it, and my face hurt. I look forward to having the world’s deepest smile lines in my face here pretty soon.

strategy
strategy for the awesome spectator support
obligatory selfie post-lunch
obligatory selfie post-lunch

And, as I wrote about in detail in my RR, Erin was my gracious sherpa mid-race who supplied me with my mid-run oranges, photographed my ridiculousness, and cowbelled me in. I was and remain so super grateful to have had her out on the course’s backend because, as anyone will tell you, having a ray of sunshine to look forward to during a marathon–and particularly on the back half–can make a huge difference, regardless of how well or poorly your race is going. This girl is going to rock her Boston redux this year, and I am super stoked to stalk her ass from California on Marathon Monday.

Lynton

This fella’s not a stranger  here; you might recall I attributed lots of love to him in both my Chicago and NYC races last fall and got to spend much of my time in NYC with him. For as short a period of time as I’ve known him–eh, since maybe June, July 2013?–he has been incredibly supportive of me and often is like a voice of reason, especially when I misconstrue a workout and make things exponentially more difficult than they need to be, which happens… enough. He was my last friend I ran with in Chicago on 12/20/13, just hours before the closing of my condo, and the one who so graciously put me up after the movers had boxed and shipped our stuff west. To say that he helped me loads in my final days in Chicago, and that I appreciate him, is a laughable, if not also offensive, understatement.

hanging with Corey (L) and Lynton in the starting village at Staten Island before NYC '13
hanging with Corey (L) and Lynton in the starting village at Staten Island before NYC ’13

 

to this day, I Cheshire ridiculously and tear up when I see this pic. Taken about a mile from the NYC finish chute, in 2013, and moments after I learned that Lynton had totally dominated and PRd at NYC.
to this day, I Cheshire ridiculously and tear up when I see this pic. Taken about a mile from the NYC finish chute, in 2013, and moments after I learned that Lynton had totally dominated and PRd at NYC.

On January 9, about two-and-a-half weeks after I had moved to CA, he forwarded me his Oakland half marathon registration email, saying only “so… this just happened,” and I fuckin’ flipped out, calling him, sending him emails, just going apeshit and being ridiculously excited that he was going to fly out from Chicago to run out here in late March.

Race weekend, after a long and late flight, he still awoke early to drive to my side of the Bay for a measly 4 mile shake-out with me (no pics from the run though, my fail). Come race day morning, it was a blast to hang with him, Midhun, and Rozanne, Lynton’s long-time friend who was running her first race EVER that weekend (!!!), and again, much like hanging with Erin on Saturday, it was just super chill and a way to make me think less about “OHEMGEE I’M GONNA TRY TO PR A 26.2 MILE FOOTRACE IN AN HOUR” and more about “damn, I have awesome friends who just fuckin’ rock, and gah, my face hurts again from smiling. Bring on the lines.”

Like I wrote on my RR, seeing Lynton mid-my race, the beginning of his race, was just cool, and immediately seeing him, Rozanne, and Erin post-marathon–like, minutes after I finished–was perfect. Over the ORF race weekend, having the quality time with Lynton, like Erin, another friend I made through running, and a friendship that formed quickly, was just awesome, and it was as though a small part of Chicago and everything that I loved about the city, about running there, and about my friends there was just dropped in northern California for 48 hours. For as much as I miss Chicago, which is a lot, daily, this was just… wonderful. I’m running out of superlatives here, but I think you get the idea. No doubt he is going to rock his marathonS this year. No. Doubt.

As I try to think of some sort of revelatory conclusion to this seemingly disparate post about some of my wonderful friends, and how my disparate friendship worlds from 2002-2013 collided on a weekend in late March 2014, in a park in Oakland, on the heels of yet another marathon, I’m again struck by how my running has evolved from this solitary venture, something I just did to do, more or less, to something that remains this thing that I do, of course, but also grounds for many new friendships and ways to sustain old ones. For a long time, I’d do marathon after marathon mostly on my own, and having a race be a backdrop to just a good time with friends, who also happened to be running, wasn’t really normal. Now, it is. And it fuckin rules.

I think people often ascribe the “loneliness of the long distance runner” image to our community, this idea that if you run, particularly if your unicorns of choice to chase are the ones in the 13.1 or  26.2+ camp, you’re at it alone, every day, all day. And of course, for some people, I think that’s absolutely true. However, I think it’s very much a choice, that if you want to use your running to be your own island, you can… yet I’d also argue that doing so pretty much negates so many amazing opportunities to meet some pretty fantastic people and some really interesting ways of sustaining friendships. Of course, not all my friends run, nor would I expect (or necessarily want) that to be the case, but I’m finding that the more I run marathons–and especially, the more I fervently race marathons and chase down some goals in the process and let the whole fuckin’ world know, in the process, what I’m after–the more enjoyable this whole business becomes… and the more special and meaningful “yet another marathon” becomes to me.

While the marathon is still about me, and what I want to accomplish, and the training I put in before I toed the line to chase down whatever my goal was for the day, it’s also not. The marathon, and running, in general, is about the community I keep, the people in my pocket who enable and encourage and push me to be better than I was yesterday and who can convince me that my lofty or crazy-ass dreams aren’t nearly as crazy-ass as I think they might be.

Suffice it to say that in a year’s time, or even in a couple months from now, when you ask me about Oakland, what will stand out more to me is the memory of the quality time with my old and new friends and less so the actual race itself.

The race was the rainbow, but I was surrounded by unicorns all weekend long.

just a love fest with Lynton, Erin, Midhun, and Rozanne
just a love fest with Lynton, Erin, Midhun, and Rozanne

 

What'cha thinkin?