Running the OC Half

10 May

Jogging is the one activity that consistently makes me appreciate Orange County. Starting in college, I would jog the beaches of OC with my sister during holidays and vacations. When I was stuck in OC for 5 months a few years ago, I ran the hills near my parents’ house every day out of sheer boredom, only needing a glimpse of the Pacific to lift my spirits. Now that I live here, I relish my weekend jogs on the Santa Ana River Trail that literally ends at the beach.

When I moved steps away from Lake Merritt in Oakland, I started a new love affair with jogging that didn’t require a beautiful beach. It was the people, the sense of community, that was beautiful. People of all ages, colors, and sizes would be out at all hours of the day. I had my favorite people I’d greet on my regular 8am jogs. Many heart-to-heart conversations with friends took place around that 3-mile loop.

Oakland hosted its first half marathon in 2010, which I ran with Causa Justa::Just Cause. At first, I balked at the idea of paying to run around my neighborhood, but it was one of the most heartwarming two hours I’ve ever experienced. The love that people have for Oakland was palpable. Grandmas cheering in Chinatown, snacks passed out by kind folks in West Oakland, friendly and familiar faces lining the lake. I didn’t run in 2011, but I spent two hours cheering on friends and neighbors at mile 12.

So when I moved to Orange County feeling lost and out of place, I signed up for the Orange County half marathon, which routes right by where I live. This would help me get to know and love my new community, I hoped.

Although there are many runners here, I only have one good friend who runs. Once the training miles started adding up, thankfully she ran with me every week, getting me race-ready. I tried setting up weekly runs with another friend, but she quickly backed out. I looked into joining a running group, but they all meet before I return from my long LA commute.

In contrast, training in Oakland was very easy. I would just walk outside my door and run around the lake, adding a lap every few weeks. Sometimes I’d run elsewhere with a friend. Nine miles around the Berkeley Marina with Cici, or 8 miles with Stacy around Ashby, or 10 miles in Redwood Park with Heidi.

Unsurprisingly, the OC race route is much prettier than Oakland’s, with ocean views and beautiful homes, and I ran a better race. But I sorely missed the Oakland community. At OC, I was thrilled to know four people running and one person cheering (I had thought I wouldn’t know anyone). Oakland was totally different – I must have known 50 people either running, cheering, or volunteering.

Ironically, after Oakland, I remember walking home and eating an indulgent brunch – alone. After OC, my partner walked me home and we indulged in brunch together. I guess there are some good things about being here.

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