Running in the 'Meda: Sunday in the Park

Running in the 'Meda: Sunday in the Park

Marty Beene

Photo courtesy of Marty Beene.

Golden Gate Park was the scene of a large race last Sunday: the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon & 5k. Over 7,000 runners finished one or the other of the races.

Managing the logistics of a big race like this is incredibly complex - especially in this case, where the start and finish are in different places and there is very limited parking for the number of people participating and watching. Everything seemed to work perfectly, from the buses shuttling runners from parking areas along the Great Highway to the start, to the gear check truck, to the Port A Potty setup near the start, to the start itself, to the water stops, course layout, and even having results available online minutes after runners finished.

The courses are excellent. The 5k course stays completely within the park, starting with a slight uphill and finishing with two miles of mostly downhill roads. The half marathon course visited the entire panhandle of the park, cruised all the way down to the ocean, made a trip (almost) to the zoo, then finished with a somewhat cruel uphill over the final few hundred yards back into the park. Combined with the excellent running weather (low 50s, no wind), it made for a most enjoyable and, for many, brisk start to Super Bowl Sunday.

The 5k was the smaller and less competitive event, with 2,252 finishers. I ran well, clocking a 20:30, my best time for a 5k since June of 2001 - that's 6:36 per mile. I finished in 44th place, fourth in my age group. Right behind me at 20:33 (6:37 per mile) was a woman visiting from Connecticut, happy to be away from the 17 degrees she said it was where she lives. Oh, by the way, she happened to mention that she's 60 years old.

Running downhill for two miles was great practice for Bay to Breakers, coming up in mid-May.

The half marathon, sporting 4,801 participants, drew a very competitive field. The more serious runners know that it can be a fast course when there is little or no wind on the Great Highway. To illustrate how competitive it was, I counted seven runners in my age group alone who ran the entire half marathon at a faster pace than I ran the 5k. Yikes.

In addition to my own exploits, I felt like a proud parent watching the other runners. Over the previous few months, I had been training a couple dozen Kaiser employees to run or walk one of the two races as part of one of their fine employee wellness programs. It was inspiring to see some people who had never run before completing an entire half marathon. Most importantly, they had fun, and will likely use this experience as a launching pad to maintain a healthy level of fitness from now on.

Kaiser's approach to employee wellness is excellent, as they encourage people to find a fitness activity that works for them - they often bring in many kinds of fitness professionals like me to enable employees to exercise during their lunch or break periods. The finish line race announcer reported that over 2,000 Kaiser employees were participating in one of the races.

Finally, there was a substantial Alameda contingent at the race: I counted 18 'Medans among the 5k finishers and 26 among the half marathoners in the published results. The fastest Island resident in the 5k was yours truly, while 10-year-old Lili Nix was the first gal from the Island, running a 34:20 time and coming in 889th. In the half marathon, 43-year-old Neil Gilfedder's 1:21:39 brought him to the finish in 78th place overall (seventh in his age group) as the first Alameda resident, while Martha Pamintuan was the first Alameda woman. Martha ran 1:36:24 and was the 94th woman, 26th in her age group. Nice work, everyone!

Coming up, I plan to write about great places to run here in the East Bay, and maybe even a little beyond. If you have favorite routes and/or trails, let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail!

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups, including corporate wellness groups. Marty still wants your opinions about his idea for a running retreat - he created a brief survey that you can complete here to help him out; he can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.