The last time I ran the East Bay 510k, it was an entirely different race. Then, it was called the Let’s Go 510k, and the course was pretty different, as well: beginning and ending at the horse race track in Berkeley, with some miles along the Bay Trail (I think?) sandwiched in between. In 2015, I approached the 10k with no expectations or goals because just a few days earlier, I had surgery to fetch a runaway IUD that had perforated my uterus (and while I was under, my surgeon noticed that my appendix was “on its way out,” so he went ahead and took that out, as well). Plus, in 2015, I was freshly postpartum, and if memory serves, that might have been my first race post-G. At any rate, even with the weird extenuating factors, including arriving to the race late and starting DFL — so late that the timing mats switched from “start” to “finish” mode — it was a fantastic morning, even though everything about my run that day was kinda a wash.
Fast forward a couple years, to Sunday, and I ran what’s now called the East Bay 510k, a 10k that began somewhat near the old course, in Berkeley, and ended in downtown Emeryville, on Bay St. The East Bay 510k is the last in the series of Run the Bay events, put on by Represent Running, and the race name signifies its connection to the East Bay (with 510 being an area code for East Bay residents). Earlier in the year, RR hosted the San Jose 408k (my fav road race in SJ) and the Across the Bay 415k in SF. This was my third year being a social media ambassador for RR, but unfortunately, illness and travel kept me away from the other two Run the Bay events this year. I was pleased to finally run a RR event, and I was curious to see how different things would be or feel from the last time I did this event in ‘15.
Coach Lisa gave me pretty specific instructions for this race: namely, that it’d be part of the LR for the day and that it wouldn’t be a “race race” as much as a solid progression, beginning around marathon pace (~7:30) and cutting down ~10 seconds each mile. She, Andy (another Wolfpack teammate), and I carpooled up north for the race, and with Lisa being the lead bike for the 5k and Andy running the 5k — which had a 30-minute earlier start time than the 10k — we dropped Andy off at the start line and parked at the finish line in Emeryville. I was planning on running 5-6 miles as a warm-up — basically just running to the start and then meandering for a while — and if all went well, I’d finish my warm-up just about 5 minutes before the start of the 10k and would hop in, ready to roll.
I quickly learned during my warm-up that while running north was wonderful, running south was going to be a bit hairy. Temps felt nice and almost autumnal, with thick and emo-y cloud cover (and perhaps a bit of humidity for Bay Area standards), but the wind out of the south was intense. I was glad that I noticed it during my warm-up because it blew. Momjoke game strong! No, really, I could tell right away that running south was going to be unnecessarily challenging. I chatted with some RR ambassador buddies, like Christina, Bertrand, and Brian, as well as my Wolfpack teammate Ida, on the start line, and before long, we crossed under the starting arch that had minutes earlier been live-graffitied by an East Bay graffiti artist.
While very little of the ‘17 race was similar to the ‘15 iteration, the first two miles seemed to feature some of the original ‘15 course. Immediately off the line, we hung a right and did a loop around a couple little parks, first Eastshore State Park and then Cesar Chavez Park. There were teeny tiny undulations in the first park, as well as some periodic loose gravel/trail “lite” terrain, but with the overcast day and the reprieve from heading south, it was actually pretty nice. It was hard to not fly off the starting line, but I kept telling myself let them go, let them go as racers kept passing me. I tried not to clockwatch, but after my first mile came in at 7:11, I told myself that I just had to stay there — and not go faster — for at least another mile.
Once we exited Cesar Chavez Park, around mile 2, Coach Lisa had made her way back on bike and was riding along the course cheering for runners. (Andy won the 5k open, and another teammate, Leilani, was the third woman!). I checked in with Lisa, telling her that I had started faster than she wanted me to, but that I was trying to hang at the same pace before really trying to cut down. I’m sure I must have also muttered something about the ferocious wind, too, because I remember her telling me to go by effort and not pace for the southbound miles — basically the rest of the race — and thus, softly giving me permission to ignore the workout as prescribed. It happens. It was windy enough that even while wearing sunglasses for protection, I could feel the tears being literally sucked out of my eyes when we were going south. Yeah. Slightly unpleasant. Oh well though, right? You can’t control the weather. Don’t waste your mental energy on it.
After Eastshore Park, circa mile 3, the 10k runners did a quick OAB on the frontage road/Bay Trail, just like we do on the back half of the Berkeley Half Marathon (and maybe even on the same stretch of the path, if I recall correctly). I saw that I had moved up to 2nd woman, after passing a few women around miles 2.5-3. Once we began the “back” portion of this OAB, that’d be the last time during the 10k where we wouldn’t be heading into the wind, so I tried to use the elements advantageously. The lead woman, Stephanie — who was 3rd at the Race to the End of Summer half a couple weeks before — wasn’t far ahead of me, and she looked great. Earlier in the morning, we chatted on the start line, and I was trying to recruit her to our team (standing invite, gal!). Anyway, I saw Lisa again right as I began my “back” portion, and I just focused on picking up the pace ever-so-slightly, knowing that I was about to run the final 5k of this 10k directly into a tear-sucking headwind.
Between miles 3 and 4, after the OAB, we crossed over the interstate and headed into what seemed like an industrial section of Emeryville (or maybe Berkeley, not sure), with warehouse after warehouse lining the streets. As we were literally over and then descending from the pedestrian interstate bridge, I kept inching closer to Stephanie (F1), and I finally made a move right at the bottom of the descent and pulled ahead. She looked good and strong, and as much as I was slightly terrified of making a move and exploding over the final 2.2, I just went for it. I feel stupid saying it, but I’m actually somewhat proud of myself for just going for it at this point in my race (or workout, whatevs). I’ve been trying in earnest this year to cultivate some confidence in taking risks more with my running — essentially, getting comfortable with what might sound like ludicrous ideas (you want me to run what!?) and not being afraid of failing tremendously — but it’s (obviously) a lot easier said than done. Comfort zones are comfort zones for a reason. I have no idea what compelled me to pull away when I did, but I had made up my mind that I was going to go for it. YOLO.
By about mile 4, there was now a pretty big chasm between me (first female) and the closest guy, who was ahead of me by at least 20-30 seconds, but he was close enough that I could see where he was and thus, where I needed to be. Lisa was circling back and forth between me, Stephanie, Ida, and the other racers, and “my” lead bike stayed just about smack dab between the closest guy ahead of me and me. Miles 4-6 were essentially a straight shot south — right into that wind — through a series of warehouse-laden streets and a little city park that ran parallel to the interstate. Like the rest of the course, these final 2 miles were flat, save for the tiniest of undulations in just a couple places, and sparse with spectators, pedestrians, or volunteers. Had I not been wearing my singlet or bib, I would have felt like I was just out for a Sunday stroll because everything felt so low-key.
Right after mile 6, we hung a left, and then right, to finish on the upscale shops-lined Bay St, pretty similar to Santana Row and the finish line of the 408k. I ran by myself from mile 4-onward, and right as we approached the finish line, I could peripherally see a guy come up on my left side. I heard the announcers yelling that the first female for the 10k was coming in, and them announcing my name, which was pretty cool. 🙂 It seemed like this guy wanted to race in to the finish (sure), so I gave chase and beat him. Bonus: I got to break tape for the first time ever as first female, which made my little runner heart so happy. (I later found out that Andy also got to break the tape for the first time ever, too, that morning).
I didn’t approach the 510k with a particular time goal simply because I knew it was going to be a workout, so I honestly felt pretty indifferent to my finish time — which was a little weird. My time was literal minutes off the last 10k I ran in May (and PRed), but I felt like I put in a good effort at the 510k, particularly on all the south-bound, windy as hell miles; we’ll call this “mental callusing.” When I kept wanting to dissociate from the discomfort of trying to run hard and fast into what felt like a freaking vacuum, I repeatedly brought myself back to the here and now and tried to stay mentally in it, which isn’t easy for me. I had a blast on the course, though, and definitely think that this course and race experience was a great improvement over the Let’s Go 510k iteration. Having the tie-in to the Warriors was a nice touch, too, what with the blue and gold race tees that said “home of champions” along the back. I’m as fairweather as they come with that type of thing, and even I liked it.
As I finished the race, I was delighted to see that Chicago-turned-Berkeley bud Meredith had made it out to the finish line and got to see me come in. I had somehow managed to not see her since Big Sur (what?!), so we had plenty of catching-up to do. She, Lisa, Ida (who scored a 10k PR, yea!) and I went out for a 4 mile CD along the Bay Trail, putting me at just shy of 16 for the day. It was awesome to get in additional mileage with these ladies because though I saw Ida at RTTEOS a couple weeks back, we didn’t get to run together, and since both she and Lisa are doing NYC, Meredith and I were sharing NYC tips hot and heavy during our miles together. Once we returned, we learned that Ida had notched herself a nice AG placing and that I earned a $75 Athleta GC for winning the women’s open. It was a great morning and an enjoyable way to quietly begin training for CIM.
If you run the East Bay 510k, as well as the other two events in the Run the Bay series, you’re eligible to receive a special medal “I run the bay” medal that recognizes you for your efforts. I think it’s a wonderful idea, especially for people who are into race bling, and I really like the way Represent Running/JT Service, RR’s founder runs his races. JT is all about the idea of “run local” (or running locally, anyway), and he strives to ensure that his races reflect the unique environs where they take place. There isn’t any “big box” element to any RR race I’ve done before, and I think it’s a nice touch that distinguishes it from many other road races out there. I think that this race will grow in popularity over time — particularly if Warriors fever stays high — and I think that more people will begin using it as a tune-up for RNR SJ in October once word gets out that it’s so conducive to fast running. I found it odd that a lot of the stores in Bay St. Emeryville weren’t open early, when the 5k and 10k runners came in, because it seemed like a huge opportunity for them to make a ton of money off hungry runners and their supporters; again, maybe that’ll come in time. I don’t think the 510k course is especially scenic, but if you’re looking for a flat and fast 5k or 10k option, these courses are definitely well-suited for PR opportunities and strong running. I would do this race again.
And with that: we marathon train!