Running in the 'Meda: The R.A.C.E. is on!

Running in the 'Meda: The R.A.C.E. is on!

Marty Beene

I just registered for the Alameda Mayor's July 4th Parade R.A.C.E. (Ralph Appezzato Charity Event). This is a terrific event for everyone. If you don't know about it, here's the scoop.

The race is a 5k (3.1 mile) course that must be one of the flattest and fastest 5k courses in the country. It starts on Park Street next to the Bank of Marin, which is halfway between Central and Santa Clara avenues. The course then follows the route of the Fourth of July parade, which begins shortly after the race is over.

Runners will follow Park Street down to Otis and turn right. Not long after the one-mile mark - which is around Willow Street - the course turns right onto Grand Street for the one "uphill" on the course. Once past the large Victorians on Grand, runners will hang a left onto Encinal Avenue, where they soon reach the two-mile mark. After merging onto Central Avenue, they have a straight shot to Webster, where they will turn right and sprint to the finish near Haight Street.

The best thing about this race for the runners, however, is not the flatness or fastness of it. Instead, it's a rare situation where there are enthusiastic spectators along the ENTIRE course. Sure, you can find that at the New York or Boston marathons, but even some huge races like Bay to Breakers don't have that (most of Golden Gate Park is devoid of spectators). As most of you know, Alamedans get out to the sidewalks early to stake out a prime spot to watch the parade, so many of them are there for the race.

As with the parade itself, many of the runners and spectators know each other, so there is plenty of cheering and encouragement. In years when I'm watching instead of running, there's usually some good-natured ribbing, like if I see my friend Gary MacPherson and shout, "I can run faster than THAT!" which always causes him to lose his focus because he's laughing so hard.

One year I ran it, spectators along Central whom I didn't recognize were shouting, "Go Martin! Lookin' good, Martin!" as I ran by. I was confused because I always go by Marty, not Martin. Then it occurred to me that they were cheering for my friend Martin Kunz, who was gaining on me. Yes, he soon passed me and beat me by a half a minute or so that year.

Another great feature of this race is that it's very low key. In this day and age, it's not always easy to find a race that doesn't include a T-shirt for training, a finisher T-shirt, a participant medal, a subscription to some runner's magazine, a souvenir cap, a pre-race expo, a post-race expo, who knows what else, AND a hefty price tag. But this one comes with a T-shirt if you pre-register early enough - and that's about it. That means they can charge a lot less (I paid $25 plus a few bucks' processing fee online).

Most importantly, though, the vast majority of that entry fee is able to be donated to the charity for this race, which is the Midway Shelter of Alameda. Midway helps women and children who are homeless and who have experienced domestic abuse - a great cause!

If you're watching, be sure to get there before the race starts at 9 a.m. If you hold your hand out, I'll give you a high five as I run by!

Have you signed up yet?

Marty Beene, a USA Track & Field certified coach, is owner of Be The Runner; he coaches adults from beginners to veterans individually and in groups. He can be reached at marty@BeTheRunner.com.