Oakland Marathon 2012

This was the second time I paced this race, again leading the 3:40 group. The first time was two years ago, and after carefully following the official terrain-corrected pace band, the group lost all its members anyway. This is not unusual, particularly on a hilly course. I have been marking the long runs for the LMJS marathon training group this year and so have had a marathon cycle of sorts, with not as many miles as I would run for a goal race.
I signed up to pace 3:40 again, but with two weeks to go I pulled an adductor muscle while at the furthest extremity of a 15 mile group run. Fortunately my marking duties were complete. I walked to the aid station and got a ride back to my car (Thanks Susan). After three days off and a very cautious return I was able to mark the 10 miler the following week. Phew!
We had the luxury of two other pacers in this group. Colin and Justinia were a young boyfriend/girlfriend team from the ultra-running world, and they showed up without pace bands. I was somewhat relieved by this, since I had created a custom band that differed from the “official” terrain-corrected bands. I would not now have to justify it since the alternative was a loosey-goosey Garmin average pace approach. Here is the course profile, courtesy of mapmyrun.com:

Only one hill...

We tell our trainees “The good news is that there is only one hill. The bad news is that it’s 600 feet high.” But that is only half true. The profile above is smoothed, and conceals quite a few short rollers. My pace band had us reaching halfway in 1:51:05, a 2:10 negative split, twice as much as the official band.

Off we went, crossing the start line just a few seconds after the horn. Thanks to the tall buildings here, our Garmins gave some wild readings, so we just winged it for the time being. in the event, our pacing in the early miles was about right. As we started to go uphill, we gauged our pace to how hard our pacees seemed to be working. This may have been a mistake, as we started to fall behind the pace band. as we got to Lake Temescal about mile 6, a runner asked me: “Is this the top?”

“If I was evil I would say yes, but it isn’t. It does get more gentle for a while.”

So on we went. Colin took an amazingly quick pit stop and was back with us. The group seemed to have thinned out somewhat, and we were not even to 10 miles yet. My co-pacers were unfamiliar with the course, so I was briefing them too. Soon after a couple of miles of rolling hills we were  going up another steepish one. “OK, theres a sharp turn to the right,and a little steep bit, then that’s the top”. This was duly accomplished, and we briefly admired the view across the flatlands to the bay as we started downhill. I had two things to worry about now. The group was looking beat already, and we were now more than two minutes behind my pace schedule. The coddling would now have to cease, and we needed to get within striking distance of the schedule before we merged with the half marathoners at mile 17. We ran four consecutive sub-8 miles on the downhill. My friend Suzette who was with the group later commented that she realized at this point that she was not going to finish with us. We passed through reached halfway in 1:52:59. Oh dear, this was going to be a deep negative split, about six minutes. Time to boogie. We mostly ran low 8′s from then on. Justinia took a pit stop and did not catch up again.

We still had a group of sorts when we got to mile 17 and merged with the half marathoners. Their race had been going for around half an hour at that point, so the people we merged with were going quite a bit slower than us. We did not have much trouble running past them, but it was crowded enough that we could not keep track of the people following us.   I was keeping an eye on the pace band and it looked like we were going to just catch up with it by the finish. The half marathoners were getting faster as we moved up their field, and received us warmly, saying things like “Wow, go 3:40!”. The marathoners we passed would  greet up with something like “Oh crap, 3:40″. Nice to see you, too. We did pick up one woman who was targeting 3:40 but had been running ahead of us. She confessed she was now dying, but we chatted to her and she hung with us most of the way, managing a 3:40:xx finish time.

We didn’t match the pace band until mile 25, and by 26 we were 10 seconds ahead of it. There is a pronounced uphill the last two blocks, and we figured that would slow us down. Um, not really. Mt finish time was 3:39:42, so 18 seconds ahead. Well within the bounds of accuracy. I’m wishing I had gone a little faster up the big hill though. Amusingly, I finished second in my age group, just 17 seconds back from the age group winner.

2 Responses to “Oakland Marathon 2012”


  1. 1 Flo April 13, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Great job as always, Jim. I think my heart would have been in my mouth with the 2min difference but with a ginormous hill like that, it’s not that far off bounds. Always love your pacer stories btw, I imagine you leading a collection of eager ducklings safely making it to the finish.

  2. 2 aewills May 3, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Hey there from an Oakland half marathoner! I have a huge amount of respect/gratitude for pace group leaders, and admiration for anyone who can lead a group to 3:40 success over that huge hill (this is why I keep running the half!). I would be thrilled to run 3:40 even at CIM (maybe this year). Great recap.


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Race PRs

5K20:43 (LMJS 6/28/09
10K43:44
12K54:36 (Across Bay 3/21/10)
15K1:09:51 (LMJS 19/27/09)
Half1:31:28 (Kaiser 2012
Marathon 3;13:14 (CIM '11)

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