OAKLAND -- A homegrown, first-time marathon runner was the first woman to finish the marathon in Sunday's second annual Oakland Running Festival.
Anna Bretan, a delivery nurse who lives with her husband and two children in Berkeley, beamed with delight when her 3- and 5-year-olds ran up to congratulate her after the run.
"This is a good way to start," Bretan said. "I turned 26 in December and I decided it was time to run 26 miles."
She finished the race in 2 hours, 53 minutes, 19 seconds, followed nearly 10 minutes later by Lori Buratto, of Spokane Valley, Wash., and Suet-Fei Li, of Sunnyvale.
The Oakland community was supportive and carried her through the toughest parts of the run, Bretan said.
"Everywhere you went, somebody was cheering for you," she said. "It keeps you going."
Though she's never ran a marathon before, Bretan is a regular runner and her husband, John Mullen, said he knew she'd do well.
"She'll push our 3-year-old in a running stroller and I'll still be way behind her," Mullen said, smiling. "I have to pretend I'm not with her so it's not so embarrassing."
"The amazing thing," he said, "is we went out in our car to drive the marathon course last week, and she said, 'I'm feeling carsick, can we just go home?' She couldn't ride it in a car but she ran it faster than anybody."
The first man across the finish line was Tegenu Beru, 29, an Ethiopian career marathoner who spent five years running in Japan before moving to San Jose in 2009. His wife and five children -- two biological and three adopted -- couldn't be at the race Sunday, so Beru drove himself to the city and ran the 26.2 miles in 2:30.08. It was his first time running in Oakland.
"I'm a stranger here," Beru said, "and it's not as flat as where I run, so the first 10 miles were very difficult. This is a very challenging course."
Despite facing some steep hills and coping with a strained muscle in his left leg, Beru pulled ahead early in the race and by the halfway mark no other runners were in sight. His nearest competitors, Jesus Campos, of King City, and Ian Sharman, also of San Jose, finished more than seven minutes behind him.
Beru recently got his work permit and will be looking for a job as he trains for a half marathon in San Jose in the fall.
Baltimore-based Corrigan Sports Enterprises brought the Oakland Running Festival to the city last year. The same company runs the Baltimore Marathon, which started a decade ago and now draws 25,000 runners every year.
Though the inaugural event -- which includes full and half marathons along with a relay and a 5K -- cost more money than it brought in and drew about 6,300 runners, this year's festival saw improvements on both counts, Lee Corrigan said.
"We're up about 20 percent in sponsorships, and we sold out at around 7,500 runners," he said. "I also think the city and the residents are embracing it more. We're talking with the police and it sounds like they're getting a lot fewer complaints than last year about disruption."
The festival is still seeking a major sponsor to boost the event and offer a substantial purse, Corrigan said. "I think a lot of the attitude around here is, 'Prove it to me. Prove you're going to be here.' And I'm committed to keep this event going for the foreseeable future."
Next year's running festival is already scheduled, he said. Organizers are considering changes to the 5K route. Heavy rains last week forced some last-minute changes to the course to ensure runners stayed safe, and a permanent, rainproof solution is in the works.
Northern California is a haven for elite runners, Corrigan said, and while Oakland faces some similar challenges to Baltimore, including some public image struggles, he sees immense opportunity.
"Folks that take their events to San Francisco or San Jose are starting to realize, 'Oh, we messed up. We should have gone to Oakland,' " Corrigan said. "You know, the reputation is tough but in reality it's a really nice place."
Contact Sean Maher at 510-208-6430
MEN: 1. Tegenu Beru, 29, San Jose, 2:30:08; 2. Jesus Campos, 26, King City, 2:37:31; 3. Ian Sharman, 30, San Jose, 2:37:50
WOMEN: 1. Anna Bretan, 26, Berkeley, 2:53:19; 2. Lori Buratto, unknown age, Spokane Valley, Wash, 3:02:53; 3. Suet-Fei Li, 35, Sunnyvale, 3:03:25
MEN: 1. Robert Olivera, 24, Ventura, 1:10:46; 2. Jay Thomson, 31, Santa Cruz, 1:14:31; 3. Chafik Azerki, 37, Alameda, 1:15:51
WOMEN: 1. Verity Breen, 44, Burlingame, 1:21:37; 2. Monica Zhuang, 37, Belmont, 1:28:10; 3. Justine Owen, 32, Kensington, 1:28:55