Race Recap & Review: Berkeley Half Marathon

Berkeley

#17 / 13 of the 2013 Half Marathons
Last Half Marathon of 2013!

I know, I know. I’m late. This is a rather delayed post due to Thanksgiving and lots of things going on in my non-racing life. The weather here in the Bay Area has been freezing lately (25 degrees when I ran this morning) so I was more focused on keeping warm than writing blog posts.

But a late post is better than no post! I’ll post what I can remember; the race was pretty long ago and I’ll summarize just the race itself.

I’m glad that a race finally happened at Berkeley. I started running long distances at Berkeley, from Crossroads (southeast of Cal) to the Berkeley Pier and back. I will never forget the first couple people I ran with, and to finally have a race where I first began really means a lot to me and brings back memories of my earlier time in college.

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Used to be here twice a week!

I heard about the Berkeley Half Marathon when I was at the expo for the San Francisco Marathon way back in June, since the SF Marathon’s organizers were also organizing this race. At the time, I had no idea what I’d be doing in November, so I was on the fence on registering until they finally sent me a coupon code I couldn’t refuse.

Packet Pickup

Bib pickup was held in two places: Sports Basement in the Mission District, and at a brewery in North Berkeley. Since this race was held the weekend before Thanksgiving, I got off work early to make the long drive up to SF to pick up my bib.

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A small race meant no “swag bag” á la Rock n’ Roll, and strictly a clear bag, pins, bib, and the shirt. I love the design of the bib and shirt!

The Race

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I stayed in Downtown Berkeley for a night before getting up at 7am to run. The start time was at 8am, and I was off in Corral 1 (surprisingly!). It was a cool morning and the sun was just rising over the hills.

The Course

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The course heavily resembled parts of my old 15 mile run in Berkeley, where I would run to the Emeryville Pier, the Berkeley Pier, and then back to the Cal campus.

Mile 1: 7:37
Mile 2: 7:10
Mile 3: 7:25
With the first 3.5 miles or so on University Ave, which is a very gradual downhill grade, I was flying down the road. This was my first ever running route! Lots of shops and buildings in Berkeley have changed since I ran these streets nearly three years ago. I passed streets I was once extremely familiar with (Bonar St. :D).

The downhill gains would quickly stop at the University Ave. Bridge over the 80/580 freeway. It wasn’t too steep, but after nearly a 5K of straight downhill it was a change of pace.

Mile 4: 7:31
Mile 5: 7:48
Mile 5.4 (official): 41:23
Mile 6: 7:50
Mile 7: 7:45
Here, the course pretty much follows the freeway past Ashby into Emeryville, with the Bay on one side and the heavily traversed freeway on the other. I’m sure many drivers were wondering why there were so many runners alongside them.

It was a beautiful view of the Bay, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge, but with the constant freeway noise it wasn’t as nice as it could’ve been.

Once at Emeryville, the course turns around and goes back to University Ave. the same exact way.

Mile 8: 7:44
Mile 9: 8:00
Mile 9.1 (official): 1:10:04
Mile 10: 7:56
This part of the course was on very uneven road. Since the Marina isn’t a high traffic area, much of the roads were unpaved or in horrible condition, and potholes were everywhere. But, once entering the Dog Park on the northern end of the Marina, there were some (again) very picturesque views of the Bay and you’re essentially running as close as you can get to the waters.

At around mile 9.4 or so, the finish line festival was audible and you could barely make it out back on the Mainland.

Mile 11: 8:03
Mile 11.2 (official): 1:26:33
Mile 12: 8:12
Mile 13: 8:28
This part of the course I’d title,  “We didn’t know how to get to 13.1 miles so we just looped around as much as we could.”

Indeed that was the case. This was pretty much the biggest beef I have with this race. The course simply did an out-and-back, ran around a soccer field of some sort, then did a  bunch of loops within a reasonably small parking lot before making its way to Golden Gate Fields in Northwest Berkeley.

But! Before getting to the finish line, there was the steepest hill in the course. I estimated it to be at a 6% grade, and runners around me groaned after seeing that hill. It was a painful ascent, but the other side had an equally steep descent right into the finish line!

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Surprisingly, I finished at 1:42:19or 7:49 / mile. Roughly 30 seconds slower than my PR in LA back in October, which suggests more room for improvement.
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As I ran the SF Marathon back in June, I qualified and got the SF/Berkeley Challenge as well. Both medals were really neat, and I loved the design for both medals!

Simply put, I am glad Berkeley was the last marathon I ran for 2013. What better way to end a year long racing tour around the country than at the place where it all began?

I will definitely be doing this again next year provided they change the course so it doesn’t result in U-turns all around the marina, and hope they focus more on the city of Berkeley and UC Berkeley!

Some random bits:
1. While it was great to have a packet pickup in SF and at Berkeley, it would’ve been great to follow what the US Half did in 2012 and have one in the South Bay too.
2. U-Turns are simply the worst in races. To have this many was very tiring and got boring.
3. Airbnb is quite nice and I hope to use it again in the future.
4. This was probably the best inaugural race I’ve experienced, second only to Rock n’ Roll SF which doesn’t even count as an inaugural race.

This closes my 2013 half marathons, and my next 13.1 mile run will be in the new year! Woo hoo I finished!

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3 thoughts on “Race Recap & Review: Berkeley Half Marathon

  1. Agreed that those U-turns were tough – on the mind and the legs! But great race (impressive time) & glad you had a good experience overall. Thanks for the shout out, too!

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