Marathon Virgin No More: Oakland Marathon

On Halloween, I secretly and quietly clicked “Register” online. Last Sunday, in Oakland with hundreds of friends and strangers, I lost my marathon virginity.

Born and raised in the South Bay and now a resident of Richmond by way of East Oakland, El Sobrante and San Pablo – tour de East Bay, if you will) I knew that the 5th year of the Oakland Running Festival was bound to be a good place to run my first full marathon. I fell in love with an Oakland man, and in many ways when I married him, I married the Town. Personally, I was very pleased overall with this event. Packet pick-up was a little confusing but once inside was super fast; digital race handbooks seemed only fitting for a Bay Area race. The quarter-zip longsleeve shirt the marathoners received was heavily embroidered but still wearable. The excitement was building – bib in hand, shit was a little too real!

Admittedly, in true Christina fashion, I did not get as far into or as go as aggressively at my training as I would have liked. While I knew I would absolutely finish the mileage come race day, I did not feel confident at first as to what state I would be be in when I did. (Notably mister told me that the poor first-time-pacer who lead the 5:00 group came in late around 5:05 and spewed a little water after she crossed the line. I feel terrible for her, but let’s all be honest: even when we want to push ourselves, no one wants to be that person. I do hope she’s recovered well.)

Thankfully, the aforementioned advice had settled deep inside me. In order for anyone to believe in me, I had to believe in myself. It amazed me heading in just how confident others were about how the race would go for me. It was almost as though we were talking about someone else. I began to let go of the ifs and maybes and instead focused on channeling the Little Engine That Could.

763066-1001-0019sBefore I knew it, mister and I were planning out what time we would wake up, where to park, where I would see him on the course. We went through logistics of how long I could stay after the race before we had to go home to the dogs. I loaded up my Hydraquiver with packets of Skratch Hydration and bags of ENERGYbits. My phone and Garmin were charging, flat me race day outfit ready to put on.

It was go time.

Mister was – can I just say – THE man on race day. (Sorry babe, I love you and this picture, so I had to share it and brag about you a little.) He got me there with plenty of time, stayed with me till I corralled and watched me start. He met me in Montclair with encouragement and a reminder that I was on pace – and he was right at the finish line when I crossed. He spent the rest of the day trying to feed and hydrate me, constantly asking if there was anything he could do to help my recovery. Thanks to him I had a killer smoothie, the most glorious plain bean burrito of my life and a salt bath that felt like heaven. Thanks babe. You take good care of me.

The corrals seemed all too small to me, but maybe that’s because I have been running giant runDisney events where the number of folks in any one corral is close to the number of folks who ran the marathon option at Oakland. Really there were no organized corrals – folks just queued up wherever they personally saw fit. As I stood debating whether or not to hop in with everyone else to wait, the two gals I knew who were running together passed me. It seemed like a sign. We took a few pictures, wished each other well and all smiled with nervous excitement.

I remember distinctly telling Noelle, “The next time we see each other, we’ll be marathoners!”

Three, two, one… We were off and running. My plan was to try to stick to a pace slower than my half pace, and to stick with it through the hills and beyond. In case you’ve never seen the course, it looks like this (red line) on paper:

And like this to your Garmin:

Miles five through 13 were… yeah. They were not easy cruising miles, but having done a Brazen Racing trail event with no training I knew they were also not the worst hills we could have encountered. Through mile 13 I actually felt fairly solid and strong. Sure, I was moving slowly, but I was moving confidently still. It became apparent after a while that my hill training had paid off but there was a huge difference in trail hills and road hills, and the lack of longer training runs likely also played a part. After mile 17, my hips and pelvic floor sent me a reasonable warning: we can keep going, they said, but check yourself before you wreck yourself.

And I actually listened. In my head I told myself I had another 12 miles to go. Yes, I could try to gut it out and aim at my ‘hopeful not goal’ time — but at what cost? Thrashing my body would take all the joy out of my first full marathon, and this was one race I was determined to enjoy the entire ride.

As you can see, I fell way, way off after mile 17. Some UltraSlide cross-training work definitely was showing its benefits, as who knows what sort of shape I would have been in otherwise. While my hips were talking, we were working together still. Sticking with my physical therapy exercises was paying off.

Out on the course, all I can say was that the mix of participants, bystanders, random running fans and volunteers was very Bay Area – a little bit of everything. There were organized groups performing on course, random citizens DJing in their garages and setting up aid stations. There was a lot of clapping, some high-fives, a reassuring sort of police presence throughout and some great characters out there. Shout out to the gent in the orange RUN365 shirt who I played tag with, taller gent in the raceday shirt with a knee brace who was friendly and the very nice lady who I even hugged after the race. (Oh! And fellow first-timer I talked to around mile 6 or so — hope you were able to run the whole course as you had planned.)

I held onto a run-walk with a big smile for the remainder of the race. Sure, I’m not a fast one, but I made it through the finish upright, under my own power and with a genuine smile. And yes, yet again, the announcer had some colorful things to say about my wild outfit: yet another reason to always rock a little sparkle.

What can I say? Three days removed from my first 26.2 I was already day dreaming about the next one. Thanks, Oakland.


Official results:
Net time: 5:14:12
Division: 58
Gender: 240
Overall: 692
Total Marathon Finishers: 820


And credit to my gear and fuel because I had zero – yes zero – problems any of it:
Visor – Headsweats (Sparkle Athletic exclusive)
Sports bra – Moving Comfort Jubralee
Singlet – Brooks Race Day SingletPack – Orange Mud Hydraquiver
Shorts – Moving Comfort 4″ Compression Short (older version)
Skirt and sleeves – Sparkle Athletic
Calf sleeves – ProCompression Marathon Calf Sleeves
Socks – Injini RUN 2.0 Original Weight No-Show Socks
Shoes – Mizuno WaveRider 16
BodyGlide for Her stick
Fueled by ENERGYbits and pineapple SkratchLabs Exercise Hydration Mix

Originally published on

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