The RBR Interview: Oakland Running Festival Race Director, Gene Brtalik, on building a new tradition, Interview by Larry Eder



March 27-28, 2010


The logo of the Oakland Running Festival, resurrecting a great running tradition in Oakland....

I first ran the marathon in Oakland in 1981, taking twenty-one minutes off my best. In 1983, I broke three hours for the marathon there. And in 1984, I ran 1:15.45, breaking my half marathon best by over a minute. I loved the Oakland Marathon, the course, the competition, the timing! The race disappeared a few years later, and the running community missed it...

Gene Brtalik, Oakland's race director, is a new transplant to the Bay Area. Breathing in the air in the Bay Area, checking out some of the successful events, Gene had some ideas, and now, after a twenty-five year hiatus, the Oakland Running Festival is happening in March 2010! RBR caught up with Gene, after meeting him at the Nike marathon start giving out applications, and asked him to provide our readers with his thoughts on the race, and linking back to such a great tradition.....

What is fascinating to me is that both LA and Oakland look to be back with energy, March will be a busy month in California!

RBR, 1. What got the Oakland distance festival started?

Gene Brtalik: I relocated to the area in January of 2009 and noticed that Oakland was without a major road race. After some research and discussion with the city, myself along with Corrigan Sports Enterprises decided that we wanted to bring our successful model to the Bay Area.

RBR, 2. The marathon and half were institutions, how do you get that support back?

Gene Brtalik: We will get support back through grass roots marketing in addition to traditional marketing. We have reached out to the local running clubs and made appearances at the community organization meetings to spread the word about the Oakland Running Festival and how much it means to the city.

RBR, 3. Tell us about the marathon course?

Gene Brtalik: The marathon course will give runners almost a complete tour of the city. After starting out at City Hall, Runners will begin on Broadway, race along Piedmont and College Avenues, pass through beautiful Lake Temescal and then tackle the hills of Montclair. After a breath taking view of the Cities by the Bay, runners will journey throughout the vibrant neighborhoods of Fruitvale, Chinatown and historic Jack London Square. Then it's a final lap around sparkling Lake Merritt and a sprint to the finish at City Hall.

RBR, 4. Tell us about the half marathon course?

Gene Brtalik: Runners will begin outside City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza on Broadway and continue until making a left onto West Grand Avenue. From there, runners will go down Martin Luther King Jr. Way before turning left on 9th Street. After a run up Harrison Street and a right onto 14th followed by a right turn to Madison Street, participants make a left onto 10th Street. Runners will then turn on to East 5th Avenue and merge with the marathon and relay participants at the corner of 5th and 8th Streets to complete the remaining 10 miles of the race.

RBR, 5. How do you see the changes in the sport? Has running Changed much since the last Oakland marathon?

Gene Brtalik: I wasn't here for the last one, I can get someone else to answer that if you want.

RBR, 6. Many of your runners will care more about finishing than running a fast time, how do you deal with that?

Gene Brtalik: We make our course very walker friendly as the marathon course will stay open for 7 hours and the half-marathon course will be open for 6 hours. At all our events, we have a large party to celebrate people's accomplishments as we don't want anyone to be prevented from enjoying the Oakland Running Festival.

RBR, 7. Are you working with charities ?

Gene Brtalik: Currently, we are working with Team in Training and the American Cancer Society as our Official Charity Partners, but we expect a few more to sign on.

RBR, 8. How did you get started in our sport?

Gene Brtalik: I applied for a job with Corrigan Sports five years ago as the Director of Media Relations and then a few months later I started running. My passion for running has helped me learn more and more about the running industry and how to put on successful events.

RBR,9. What other events have you done?

Gene Brtalik: Corrigan Sports also does the Baltimore Running Festival, the Oakland Running Festival and the Baltimore 10-Miler in addition to the non-running related events we manage throughout the year.

RBR, 10. How important is the Oakland Distance Festival to the local running Community?

Gene Brtalik: The Oakland Running Festival is very important to the local running community as it will give runners from all over the Bay Area a chance to see what Oakland is all about. In addition, the event will generate millions of dollars in revenue for the city through hotels, dining and tourism.

RBR, 11. If people want to volunteer, how do they do it?

Gene Brtalik: People can volunteer through the official site: and click on the volunteer tab.

RBR, 12. Where can people contact your team?

Gene Brtalik: The Oakland Running Festival can be reached at 510-371-5273 or at [email protected].

13. What would you like our readers to
Know about the Oakland distance festival?

Gene Brtalik: The staff behind the Oakland Running Festival is one of the hardest working staffs in the business and will go above and beyond to make this event a success in the Bay Area. 97% of runners who have participated in any of our races have recommended them to a friend.

For more information on the Oakland Running Festival, please contact:

For more on the sport, please click on

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