Merritt College Medley, Oakland, Sunday 7/19/2009

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Enjoy the palpable, yet palatable, pandemonium of the mass start, with folks scattering in different directions, trying to find their way around the obstacles abounding at the scenic campus of Merritt College. Whether you're hiking, jogging, or sprinting, it should be a memorable spectacle for all.

Scenic? Yes... check out the photo album.

Excellent campus terrain. And the course offers lots of fun - quick decision making, changes of direction, obstacles, passageways through buildings - lots of technical map reading. This will be particularly good training for the North American sprint finals races in November at San Francisco State. This event also happens to be part of the North American and BAOC club sprint series, so get your points!

Juniors of the 14 age group and below should consider the Short course, but 16 and up may want to join the adults on the Motala - 4 loops around the campus for a total of 4.2 km point to point, but more like 5 km considering the obstacles. If anyone's wearing a GPS tracker, I'll be interested in reporting the statistics you find for the course.

In addition to a great course, we'll have water, fruit, snacks, and award certificates for men and women in different age categories: Junior (both Short and Motala courses), Open (18 - 40), Submasters (41 to 55) and Masters (56 and up.)


All participants must register. It's easier if you do it online, and then sign the form when you get there - I'll have it printed for you. (And you can make any necessary changes or updates to the form at the event.) Or you can fill out a form at the registration table. All payment will be collected at the event ($12 adults, $7 juniors and students, and subtract the $2 discount if you registered online.) There's no commitment if you are registered online; no problem if you end up not being able to make it to the event.

09:30 Event center open, middle of campus
09:55 Pre-start briefing, maps distributed
10:00 First mass start - intended for competitive participants
10:15 Map navigation clinic
10:25 Pre-start briefing, maps distributed
10:30 Second mass start - intended for younger juniors and recreational participants
(You may start later than 10:30 and get an individual start time, for example, if you are a parent wanting to shadow your child on the course, and want your child to wait for you to start.)
11:30 Awards
12:00 Courses close


1:5000 scale, 25 foot contours, made by Rex in 2008. Much of the campus is mapped with the olive-green-ish “forbidden area” symbol—sometimes they are simply areas you are not allowed to go, but mostly I use it to denote the nicely landscaped areas you should not trod on.

There are many barriers on this map—walls, fences, and building exteriors—these have a thicker black line. Thick black lines mean you must go around.

Course Information

Loop A: 5 checkpoints, 0.7 km distance, 20 m climb
Loop B: 5 checkpoints, 1.0 km distance, 20 m climb
Loop C: 5 checkpoints, 0.9 km distance, 20 m climb
Loop D: 10 checkpoints, 1.6 km distance, 40 m climb

Motala Course = All 4 loops, A+B+C+D, orders vary, but everyone finishes on Loop D, 25 checkpoints, 4.2 km distance, 100 m climb

The Short Course is intended for participants looking for a shorter course and those in the 10, 12, and 14 year age classes. 16 and older can participate in the Motala course and still be classified as a junior for results and awards purposes.

Short Course = Loop A + Loop D, same order for everybody, 15 checkpoints, 2.3 km distance, 60 m climb

Punching will be standard pin punch, and you will simply punch in order from box 1 to box 25 on your punchcard, without regard to the order you do loops A, B, and C.

More About the Motala format

The varying of the loop orders for each participant, coupled with the mass start, creates the excitement of this format. Immediately, everybody is split into 3 groups headed in 3 different directions on the 3 loops A, B, and C. Everyone must return to the Start area and drop their map before proceeding on each successive loop. Those who don't will be disqualified; maps will be returned to you after your finish. Everyone shares the same last loop, Loop D, and the finish is located a few meters away from the start.

The possible loop orders you might receive are: ABC, ACB, BAC, BCA, CAB, CBA. (Everyone finishes with D.) Maps will be put into your case in that order, with your first loop being on top. They are stapled together. Upon finishing each loop, tear off the top map, put it in the map box by the start, and your next loop will now be the top map. You may not change your loop order. Follow the order.


Junior course participants will definitely be fine with shorts and running shoes. Everyone else - those will probably work. Few really steep areas to cross. Of more concern would be poison oak. For one checkpoint, if you minimize the amount of woods you run through, then you'll miss the poison oak. If you take the direct path, you might pass some. When test running the course, I took the direct path and just didn't step in any of it.


Most of the campus is deserted on Sundays, except the area near the fields. You'll see more cars and people there. Still, watch for cars and people anywhere. Often times, good routes will cross parts of parking lots. I did not set legs through areas busy with cars or fast cars. Keep an eye out.

A few steep slopes, and poison oak is common in the wooded areas, which you can avoid. (The junior course does not encounter this.)

Do not cross walls and fences mapped as impassable. Go around. This is a fairness issue as well as a safety issue.

Forbidden Areas

For many of the mapped forbidden areas, it looks like you can run right through. Don't! You will be disqualified. Some of the areas aren't packed with vegetation and may have some mulch, but to be fair, do not cross those areas. Perspective: you're not going to win thousands of dollars, and this isn't the world championship. And you'll probably save only a millisecond.


Water will be at the start and map exchange, and cups will be filled for participants who are passing by during their course loops. Restrooms are in the building by the start There are many places on the campus to sit and relax, either on nice grass or benches. Enjoy the bay views from several spots.

Original Announcement

Merritt College offers some intricate and detailed campus terrain, and it's fairly expansive for a community college, nestled in a bowl in the hills of Oakland. A four loop motala course totaling about 3.5 km will be offered with two mass starts: competitive at 10:00 and recreational at 10:30. Participants will have different loop orders for the first 3 loops, and everybody will have the same 4th loop, making the finish exciting.  Juniors will start with the recreational participants, but will be eligible for awards at 11:30, as will any of the competitive participants, in gender and age categories. Results will also be incorporated into the BAOC and North American Sprint Series standings. $12 / $7 juniors. Social option to follow!


Take CA Highway 24 to CA Highway 13 south towards Hayward. Exit CA Highway 13 at Redwood Rd / Carson St. Turn left onto Redwood Rd, and follow it up the hill a bit more than 1/2 mile to Campus Dr. You should see signs for Merritt College. Turn right onto Campus Dr. and head up about 1/2 mile to Merritt College.

Alternatively, you can take Highway 13 north from Interstate 580 and exit at Carson St, following the freeway frontage road (Mountain Blvd) up the hill, and turning right onto Redwood Rd.

Or if coming from downtown Oakland on Interstate 580, exit at 35th Ave, turn left, cross MacArthur, and drive up the hill across Highway 13 where 35th Ave becomes Redwood Rd.

Coming from Interstate 880 is not recommended, but High St is the exit, and you have to jog over to 35th Ave by making a left at MacArthur and then turning right onto 35th Ave.

To make your own directions, the address is 12500 Campus Dr., 94619.


Parking is free along Campus Drive, which is close to the bus stop, which has signage to get you to registration in the center of campus. It's not very easy to park any closer than that, actually. But if somehow there's not a space available along Campus Drive, the campus lots cost $1 to park, and they technically are supposed to be monitored on Sunday.

Public Transit

The AC Transit 54 bus drops you off very close to the registration area, and there will be signs and streamers from the bus stop. On Sundays it runs from the Fruitvale BART station every half hour and takes 20 minutes to get there. If you take another AC Transit line, such as the NL from San Francisco, or the 57 and transfer at 35th Ave and Macarthur, then it's only about a 10 minute ride.

Event Contact: Rex, 5 1 0 - 6 8 1 - 6 1 8 1,

Merritt College web page