Ruben Krueger

Race Recap: Tilden Trails.

A quick selfie I took during the race.

As I climbed another steep trail, muddy and filled with rocks — forcing me to walk, once again — I reminded myself I signed up for this. I paid money to do this.

To be sure, Tilden Regional Park is stunningly beautiful — a “crown jewel” park with miles of forest trails next to Berkeley — but this I could not enjoy, as I only looked forward to reuniting with my car, where I had stored coconut water and granola bars. In fact, during most of the race, I kept my head down, focusing on not slipping in the East Bay clay mud (thankfully, I only tumbled once).

Tilden hill
One of the many views the course had.

Normally I would not sign up for a half-marathon race — 13.1 miles is a distance I’ve run plenty of times before — but I wanted a “warm up” race before doing the full marathon distance again.

The race started at 8:30 AM, after a race organizer gave us the instructions: don’t leave trash and don’t get lost. Standing there with the 50 or so other runners, this felt more like a Saturday group run than an official race to me. And that’s what I told myself, to ease my pre-race jitters (and calm my gut, which had been acting up that morning).

Tilden prerace
The cold and excited runners recieving our instructions.

Our run started without much fanfare; a race organizer told us to begin running. We first jogged through a parking lot, then started climbing up a muddy trail. By the course’s end, we had gained 2,700 feet of elevation. During most of the race, I was near the front of the pack, though I was generally running alone. My solitude was intermittently interrupted by hikers also on the trail, who often shouted encouragement. I appreciated this greatly, especially when I thought I had taken the wrong turn, which happened a few times.

The last few miles were mostly downhill; unfortunately, descending trails has always been a weakness for me. This, combined with a regrettable fueling strategy (not stopping at any of the aid stations), allowed a few people to pass me near the end. Soon enough, though, I reached the final hill and crossed the finish line, placing 9th out of 51. Not bad, not great.

Trail map
The course map. Things get a lot more confusing in the fog of war. More pink ribbons (which indicated the half-marathon route) would have been helpful.

After crossing the finish line, there was an assemblage of runners and volunteers. Deliriously tired and thirsty — I did not drink any water during the run — an oasis appeared: two packs of beer on a picnic table. As I clumsily struggled to open one of the cases, a race organizer chided me: the beers are only for winners.

Oh, I should have known: only winners deserve beer.


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