Berkeley holds first-ever half-marathon Sunday morning

Carlos Caceres/Staff
Competitors race beside Interstate 80 during the Berkeley Half Marathon, the first held in the city. About 8,000 took part in the race, which began Downtown and ended at Golden Gate Fields.

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As music blared from speakers at the starting line, thousands of runners waited anxiously behind a strip of yellow tape early Sunday morning. In a few seconds, they would be sprinting down the streets of Berkeley in the city’s first-ever half-marathon.

The Berkeley Half Marathon, hosted by the city of Berkeley and Jumping Fences, the organization that planned the San Francisco Marathon, drew nearly 8,000 runners from all over the Bay Area. The 13.1-mile race started in Downtown Berkeley by Civic Center Park and ended at Golden Gate Fields.

In addition to the half-marathon, participants had the alternative of running a 10-mile or 10-kilometer race. UC Berkeley student J.P. Slater won the men’s division of the half-marathon. Berkeley resident Anna Bretan, who also won the San Francisco Marathon, took first place in the women’s division.

Runners were treated to musical performances and scenic views of the Berkeley Marina along the route, as well as a finish-line festival at the end of the race that included food, a beer garden and massages for the runners.

“We always make sure the experience is as good for an elite runner as it is for a new runner,” said Berkeley Half Marathon Marketing Director Sabine Gillert. “We wanted to focus on the community at large.”

A few charities, including the Berkeley Public Schools Fund and Berkeley Partners for Parks, were at the festival.

According to charity-program coordinator Ciara Viehweg, Jumping Fences raised more than $62,000, a portion of which will go to the several charities that supported the race.

Lark Ryan, the race’s marketing and outreach coordinator, said the course depended on the permits the organization was able to settle with the city. She said she hopes to cooperate with the city to get better permits and, consequently, a better course for potential future races.

Race organizers took possible traffic disturbances into account when designing the course. Jumping Fences cooperated with the city to send out notices to the community warning of the potential for delays.

“Obviously, it could (have been) a much longer route,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin. “The fact that it was limited (to certain streets) minimized some of the traffic impacts. My hope is that despite the disruptions, the influx of people will hopefully boost our local economy.”

Event Development Manager Jason Beck said Jumping Fences sent out nearly 5,000 letters to businesses and residences along the route and in the Downtown area warning of road shutdowns and traffic delays.

Overall, Beck said, the race was better than organizers could have hoped.

“The collaboration (with the city) was great,” he said. “I’ve worked with a lot of different cities and a lot of different events, and Berkeley was right there at the top.”

Contact Tahmina Achekzai at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @tahminachekzai.