OAKLAND -- Among Sunday's finishers in the third annual Oakland Running Festival were a man with a broken leg, a woman who gave birth six weeks ago, a homeless Iraq War veteran and an 11-year-old girl.
All four completed either a full 26.2-mile marathon or a half-marathon, and they made a fitting sample of participants in a race that gave runners a full tour of Oakland's diversity. The new course, which began and ended near Snow Park rather than Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, wove through most of the city's major neighborhoods, from boutiquey Piedmont Avenue up into the forested hills around Lake Temescal and down through the East Oakland flats and Fruitvale.
The first-place finisher was Chris Mocko, a 26-year-old San Francisco resident who broke the course record with a time of 2 hours, 28 minutes and 9 seconds. Though he said he'd been surprised by how hilly the course turned out to be, Mocko was fresh-faced and exuberant at the finish line, smiling and waving to the huge cheering crowd and slowing to do a limbo dance under the tape.
Mocko took an early lead at the race's start but second-place finisher Phillip Shaw, a 26-year-old Oakland resident, kept the pressure on by following close behind. Starting around the 3-mile mark, the two ran side-by-side for a few miles.
"It can get lonely running out there by yourself for two-and-a-half hours, so it was nice to have the company," Mocko said, brightly smiling. "We chatted for a couple
Meanwhile, delivery nurse and Berkeley resident Anna Bretan, 27, was on the way to repeating her first-place finish after setting a new festival women's marathon record last year.
Though Bretan fell short of beating her own record, she was welcomed at the finish line by her family -- including her two sons and daughter Tatum Rose, who was born just six weeks ago.
Bretan said that after giving birth in February, she ran seven miles later that day.
"I had to cram all my training in quickly," she said, smiling widely and cradling her newborn. During her pregnancy, she said, she ran about 40 miles a week. "And I did it all without sleep. I knew if I could finish this, it would feel so awesome!"
Bretan's husband, John Mullen, said he was thrilled for his wife's accomplishment, adding with a laugh, "It was embarrassing enough running behind a jogging stroller. But it's even more embarrassing being outrun by an eight-months-pregnant woman."
Gene Alba, 60, raced the full marathon in a four-wheeled cycle powered by hand crank, which became necessary when he broke his left leg and the toes on his left foot while training.
"This is my third marathon in three months," the Redding resident said. "I have nine more to go: I'm doing one marathon a month for 12 months, and then Boston."
The hand crank became too hard to use as he was trekking up a long stretch of hills, Alba said, and he had to get out of the cycle and pull it up on foot.
How did he do it with his broken leg and toes in a leg brace?
"I struggled!" Alba said, and burst into laughter. He said he'll be doing his next marathon on foot.
Nathan Hoang, 28, served two combat tours in Iraq. He said he's struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse since returning home six years ago, and eventually fell into homelessness after his relationship with his wife crumbled. He's getting back on his feet now and is four months sober with the help of a veterans program in Menlo Park, he said.
Hoang ran a half-marathon in an effort to raise awareness of the struggles facing veterans and the homeless and was sponsored by the Berkeley-based nonprofit Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency.
He said he used to live in downtown Oakland and that memories of that time helped push him forward in the run.
"Every little place around the neighborhood would bring up a memory, and I'd get a flashback and use that as my motivation to keep running," he said. "I'd think, 'I used to go to the park there and play with my kids.' And then I wanted to get to the next place we used to play."
Also finishing a half-marathon was 11-year-old Avalon Bruno, a fifth-grader at The East Bay Waldorf School, sponsored by her Lululemon running club.
Avalon said her favorite part of the run was the crowds that gathered on the sides of the track and cheered her on, and she said she wanted to thank everybody who braved the morning cold to come out and encourage the runners.
The festival, which includes the full and half-marathons, a 5K run, a relay race and a kids fun run, tallied 8,211 registered runners this year, which marks two years in a row of increased turnout, spokesman Dave Gell said. The inaugural festival drew 6,300 runners and last year saw 7,500.
That increase, Gell said, combined with new sponsorships from Lucky Supermarkets, Hawaiian Airlines and the Oakland Tribune, was enough that Corrigan Sports -- the Baltimore company that launched the Oakland festival in 2010 -- expected to turn a small profit this year, another landmark for the event.
Registration will soon open for the 2013 festival, which is scheduled for March 24. More information is online at www.oaklandmarathon.com.
Contact Sean Maher at 925-779-7189. Follow him on Twitter at @OneSeanMaher.
Men's full marathon:
1. Chris Mocko, 26, of San Francisco, 2:28:09
2. Phillip Shaw, 26, of Oakland, 2:37:13
3. Tony Torres, 42, of Cedar Glen, 2:38:05
4. Steven Moreno, 34, of Oakland, 2:41:18
5. Christopher Gurney, 25, of Oakland, 2:43:29
Women's full marathon:
1. Anna Bretan, 27, of Berkeley, 2:57:33
2. Monica Zhuang, 38, of Belmont, 3:06:17
3. Penny Macphail, 44, of San Anselmo, 3:12:18
4. Justine Owen, 33, of Kensington, 3:16:45
5. Sarah Lavender Smith, 42, of Piedmont, 3:17:39.
More information is online at www.oaklandmarathon.com
1. Ivan Median, 26, of Hayward. 1:13:44
2. Jaime Alvarez, 39, of San Francisco. 1:16:53
3. Noah Morrison, 31, of Walnut Creek. 1:16:53
1. Rachel Neihuus, 26, of Berkeley. 1:18:16
2. Madeline Kramer, 25, of Berkeley. 1:19:06
3. Emily Bates, 35, of San Francisco. 1:23:54