While my physical therapy is going really well and I’m getting stronger all the time, I still lost too much training time to make an attempt at the full marathon in May, as I had previously planned. This was meant to be my “A” race this year, but the race organizer was very cool to allow me to switch to the half marathon when I realized a full marathon was out of the question. I was excited to check out this race for a number of reasons.
First, this would be my first trip to Eugene. All I ever associated with Eugene was the University of Oregon and a burgeoning craft brewery scene. Both of which turned out to be amazing. If you get the chance to visit the sports complex, take advantage of it. That football stadium, in particular, is something else.
Second, this was the inaugural running of this race. I don’t make a habit of seeking out the newest races, but reading how this would be “flat and fast” by design was enticing. I say this pretty often, but running a race in order to tour a new city is always appealing to me. This was a nice opportunity to tour a new place at a comfortable pace and still score a PR.
Finally, my wife had signed up for the half marathon. This was to be her first half marathon and I was psyched to see her accomplish her goal. At first, I was disappointed to give up my full marathon hopes. When I realized that I would get to pace my wife, I perked right back up. Watching her achieve her goal would be just as rewarding and I always enjoy running with her.
We rented an AirBnB about two miles from the starting line. There was ample parking near the race. We joined everyone else in the empty first floor of a newly-constructed building to stay warm. The call eventually came to form up on the starting line, final instructions were read, and we were turned loose.
Throughout the race, the instructions were all very clear. Cones, sidewalk chalk, volunteers and warning tape were placed well and liberally to ensure nobody got lost. There were several quality aid stations to take care of everyone. One station in particular was stocked with more energy gels than I’ve ever seen before. We topped off our energy with bananas, water, and sports drinks throughout the race.
There had been some route changes in the weeks before the race. We thought we’d get to run along the rivers more often, but it turns out we only had about 1/2 mile of riverside running in the entire race. That was too bad, but it was still a beautiful, sunny day and the flat nature of the race made for an enjoyable cruise through several neighborhoods.
My wife and I had decided that 2 hours and 30 minutes would be a good goal for our race. My wife is the most consistent runner I’ve ever seen. It’s like she has an internal clock that she runs to. I’ve never been a super consistent runner when it comes to pace, but she was incredible even at total exhaustion. In the end, we wound up finishing in 2:20:52 at a 10’31” per mile pace. We were both thrilled with the result.
I was very impressed with my wife’s resolve throughout the race, but particularly at the end. The last three miles, she couldn’t eat any food and was struggling to keep it together. She never walked and we finished at a strong run, hand-in-hand, and smiling. The crowd at the finish line was tremendous. I have never heard more cheering at the finish of a race. I don’t know if it was the home stretch between rows of tall buildings that allowed the noise to echo or if this crowd was particularly vociferous, but it was a very uplifting feeling. After finishing the race, we filled up on finish line food and enjoyed some post-race treatment from the readily available massage therapists.
After the race, we spent a fair amount of time brewery-crawling and exploring. We brought home a whole mess of beer and cider from the Bier Stein and devoured their nachos, pretzels, beer cheese soup and more. This was a great place to celebrate a successful effort.
In the end, I highly recommend this race. The race shirts and medals were well-designed and while it was obviously a small organization in charge of the race, they gave it a personal feel and worked very hard to make it a success. If you’re looking for an Oregon race that also happens to be a Boston qualifier, you’d be hard-pressed to choose a better race than the Pacific Northwest Marathon.