OAKLAND -- For the first time in the Oakland Running Festival's now four-year history, runners, volunteers, musicians and crowds of supporters will enjoy clear skies and a sunny day during Sunday's big race.
That's great for race organizers who say all 26 bands and DJs that have signed up to line the course will likely show up. Bad weather is terrible for instruments and music equipment, forcing many to turn away in years past. Organizers also expect more people to come out to cheer the runners, and runners will enjoy the 5k and half and full marathons without getting soaked.
"It's what we want. Crowds along the course show community spirit and that makes the race," Oakland Running Festival race director Gene Brtalik said at a news conference held Thursday to thank race partners and hand out donations to charitable Oakland organizations.
The Oakland Running Festival starts 7:30 a.m. Sunday, and the course touches almost every part of the city. Race participant numbers are impressive for a four-year event like this one. There will be 1,500 runners in the full marathon hailing from 33 states and nine countries. The half marathon will ¿have 4,500 runners, and the 5K has attracted 2,100 participants. Hundreds of kids will run the kids fun run, and hundreds more will participate in a four-person relay.
Runners can still register for the festival until Saturday.
Mayor Jean Quan said she expects about 10,000 runners by Sunday and even more residents and fans crowding the edges of the course to see the racers pass by. She said the race really highlights the best parts of Oakland.
"What runners have told me over the years is they didn't know how beautiful Oakland is, how diverse the city is and how friendly the people are," she said.
The Oakland Running Festival is also a financial boon to the city. It brings in $4 million in hotel tax fees, sales tax and general spending by racers and their families.
"The race helps restore our community ties, helps us hire more police officers. It brings people to the city and really does help the economy," she said.
More than 400 volunteers are expected to usher the race along. There are 70 course marshals and 13 cheer stations. Highland Hospital is the official medical sponsor of the event and will have more than 250 medical personnel to help with heat stroke, dehydration, blisters and abrasions.
Race executive director Lee Corrigan said that 97 percent of the racers polled after previous festivals said they would recommend the Oakland Running Festival to their friends. Racers always look forward to running under The Crucible's flaming arch, passing by Lake Merritt and challenging themselves climbing up the Oakland hills.
"A marathon unites," Corrigan said. "It's a way to bring people together, the community together, to celebrate one thing and that's running."
Dean Karnazes, who once ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, will participate in the race. A Marin County resident sponsored by Zico water, he said the race shows the best sides of Oakland.
"Oakland has been a hard hit area because of the economy and the level of crime here," he said. "A marathon can bring a lot to the community and promotes healthy, active living."
Race officials passed out at total of $13,000 at Thursday's news conference giving $1,500 each to Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, CALICO, an organization that provides housing to sexually exploited and homeless kids, Alameda County Medical Center and The Crucible. Youth Uprising received $2,000 and Running for a Better Oakland and the Art & Soul Festival each received $2,500.
"I am ecstatic about this," Lesley Podesta of Running for a Better Oakland said. The organization provides running training to hundreds of kids on Saturday mornings. Podesta expects 391 kids and volunteers to participate Sunday. "We feel like running is a really accessible sport for anybody. We're looking forward to the festival."
What: About 10,000 runners from 30 states and eight countries will compete in the fourth annual marathon
When: Sunday; marathon starts at 7:30 a.m.; 5K 7:45 a.m.; half marathon 9:15 a.m.; kids run 9:20 a.m.
Where: Races start and finish at Snow Park, 19th and Harrison streets
Info: Saturday is the deadline to register. Go to www.oaklandmarathon.com