It was an atypical Sunday morning for the City of Berkeley. Runners picked up their race gear Friday and Saturday at Memorial Stadium (courtesy of Cal Athletics) and marked their territory Sunday, racing 3.1 or 13.1 miles to support the Berkeley Public School Fund. If you were awake early enough, you may have seen runners clad in a variety of neon colors lining up in Downtown Berkeley at the start line. The event began with a performance by a local a capella group singing “The Star Spangled Banner” (side note: you must listen to this talented 7 year old belt our national anthem) followed by a 3-2-1 countdown for the Elite Runners in the first wave.
The hills began quickly, climbing to International House, where the runners quickly veered left and headed onto campus. A short path past the Campanile, around Memorial Glade and alongside Tollman Hall guided the runners to Shattuck Avenue, where they headed through the Gourmet Ghetto and up into North Berkeley — hills on hills on hills.
After the hamstring-burning climb, an appreciated gift was given in the form of an extended decline, winding down and alongside quaint cafes and local markets. Then, after a quick straight shot through East Berkeley’s Fourth Street shopping district toward the Amtrak station, the runners then headed up and over the bridge toward the Berkeley Marina.
A coastal three miles down and back gave everyone a chance to take in the fresh and salty air, preparing for the final three miles. Up and over the bridge for the second and last time, the runners veered right onto Sixth Street and left onto Bancroft Avenue, headed for the finish with only 2.1 miles to go.
Energy filled the air, with the Berkeley community out on the street corners holding motivational signs, playing music and cheering on the runners. Spirit was in the air, and the finish line was within reach. With a sprint down memory lane — back on Milvia Street, where it all began — the victorious Berkeley runners crossed the finish line in Civic Center Park with a shiny medal, bagels, bananas, hugs and beer awaiting. A productive Sunday, indeed.
The event would not have been made possible without all the wonderful volunteers keeping Berkeley runners safe — including more than 500 local volunteers; Berkeley Police Department; UCPD; the fire departments of Albany, Berkeley and Piedmont, and Paramedics Plus.
Our advice: Challenge your body and experience your city in a whole new way next year by signing up for the Berkeley Half Marathon in 2015. It’s a course worth running and a cause worth running for.
Images:Ira Serkes, loveberkeley-dot-net, Melissa Yahne by Creative Commons