Early Sunday morning, thousands of runners and spectators alike crowded a sold-out starting line at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park as part of this year’s Berkeley Half Marathon.
More than 7,500 runners registered for the event, which was hosted by Jumping Fences in collaboration with the Downtown Berkeley Association. According to Michelle LaFrance, Jumping Fences’ marketing director, this year’s race was revamped with the addition of a 10K run and a half-marathon relay.
“We have 250 teams participating in the relay,” LaFrance said. “It’s fun to see mothers and daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends pair up to participate and enjoy the weekend in our event.”
Kim Williams, a Berkeley resident, said that she went to the first marathon but that after missing last year’s race, she was thrilled to be back.
“The course changed a lot actually — there is far less back and forth,” Williams said. “It it much better now. It is more scenic, and I love the part where we run through campus.”
The 13.1-mile loop wound through the heart of Berkeley — down Telegraph Avenue, through the Berkeley campus, through neighborhoods and out along the waterfront. Williams said she was excited to see a little bit of everything that Berkeley has to offer.
UC Berkeley sophomore Sunny Xu said that this was her first half marathon and that she had a fantastic time.
“This is the longest I’ve run without stopping. I really enjoyed people, especially cute little kids with wigs and face paint, cheering you on from the side,” Xu said. “I think it’s another aspect (of the community) that shows how vibrant and lively people are.”
Local businesses were present near the finish line in booths, congratulating runners and handing out flyers. Runners, after finishing the marathon, could be spotted picnicking and dancing to live music.
A UC Berkeley student dance group, TrueLement, also performed for the event at the finish-line festival before the announcement of the winners of the marathon.
Sam Robinson from Oakland won the half-marathon men’s race with a time of 1:12:22, while Anna Bretan of Berkeley won the women’s side with a time of 1:18:34. Berkeley resident Brice Winkler won the 10K with a time of 36:08, and Dave Winnacker of Albany took home the 5K with a first-place time of 15:33.
Funds raised by the Berkeley Half Marathon helped the Berkeley Public Schools Fund reach its goal of $1 million last year, and LaFrance said she anticipates even better results this year. These efforts have supported much-needed educational programs in fields such as art, math and science at Berkeley public schools.
Riya Young, a legacy runner in her third Berkeley Half Marathon, said she intends to come back again next year.
“This brings the whole community together,” Young said. “It is more than a marathon but a social gathering.”
Contact Danwei Ma at [email protected].