This is my 4th year running this particular holiday race, and every year I love how they have worked to improve the experience for racers. They had added plenty of heating lamps, as well as garnered a nice large inside area that was filled with plenty of holiday cheer. Although there were many improvements, the flow still needs some work. As more people arrived to the venue (and after the race especially) the chokepoints became very tight. In the end though. I think the placement of tents, lamps, and the huge open warm building was a tremendous improvement over last year’s parking garage. If you are reading this for next year deciding to race or not, remember to come early – the lines are tremendously long for packet pickup and bathrooms. Because I remember this was an issue the year before (just an expected element of a large race) I wanted to make you aware of this so you can get there early next year and save some headache like I did!!
To focus on the positive, because that’s just me, I really enjoyed the extras they had at this race. In the large Adidas building, they had a decorated tree, a fun Holiday Half backdrop, and several booths to try your hand at winning something (or get some samples and information). I really like the races that have little mini expos and photo opportunities. Not only did this race have plenty, they seem to change up the booths every year so you get something new. This year’s new booths included a soup booth and a trail butter one as well. My friend Darhl won an entry into the upcoming AA Sports Heartbreaker Half rolling lucky dice. On the outside of the warm building, they had the food area, packet pickup, the Kind Bar booth (I love Kind bars!), and a fun ‘snow’ making machine scene photo op that put out bubbles that looked like snow.
As always, I loved seeing the costumes on people. There were several other Mrs. Claus’, a few Charlie Brown characters, reindeers and snowmans and of course a ton of Santa hats with complementing red and green outfits. My favorite costumes though were the Lucy and the Linus piano. I enjoyed the costumes as I went to line up with almost 3000 people at the start of the race I noticed some girls in Full PJs lining up and thought how adorable they looked. Our race started about 10 minutes late, and I really appreciated no one pushing or shoving as we started the race.
The course has not changed (to my knowledge) in the 4 years and I took comfort in knowing the corners and twists and turns. The course starts uphill for less than a ¼ of a mile, and besides that hill and one er about mile 5 & 7.5, the course is a flat one. They seemed to have the same aid stations as last year and well supported. I saw the carolers on the course, but like previous years, they were hard to hear and I passed them quickly. I still appreciated them being out there for me and others but it would be nice if thye added sound systems so we could enjoy them more. My favorite sign along the course was ‘Yule be glad you ran”. And I agreed.
The miles went by quickly and I looked forward to my favorite part of the race. For me the best part is when we start passing people. I love love love out and back routes for this reason, and especially on holiday races! I love point to point too, but the out and back races offer me the chance to see any friends, or gaily dressed people, I might have missed. I love getting the thumbs up and shout outs for my costume and cheering on racers (like my brother) as they go by. It is also fun for me to see the costumes casualties on the ground (e.g. bells, tinsel, and bows). Luckily none of them were from my costume this year.
Compared to last year’s race, this one went so much better. I never became to hot or cold in my costume, nor wet or sweaty. The weather was perfect and I enjoyed it immensely. Too soon, I found I was on my way back, passing the University of Portland and following the bluff to the finish line. Before I knew it, I was turning onto that downhill slope at the 13 mile mark to cross the finish line! I was so pleased to find out my friend Stephanie took a great picture of me as I finished the race (Thank you Stephanie!). After crossing, I received the cute and large Portland Holiday Half medal, something that Foot Traffic always does wonderfully.
I love the Adidas shoe that is on the Adidas campus! It’s a great landmark to wait at for people. After the race, I spent way too much time looking for my twin and Darhl. Luckily a kind runner allowed me to use her cell phone to text my brother and soon we were reunited. I think it would be neat to expand on that shoe and add a family waiting area with initials for last names so families could find each other easier. Once were reunited, we went off to get some food and get warm. I love the eggnog (I hope they never get rid of that), the fun samples, and the trail butter they had. The soup is always too spicy for me, so I don’t even try to eat it anymore (If they changed it – let me know!) In fact! They had a coffee cart come to the race and wouldn’t it be great to see a few more carts to provide more options for racers? I did have the trail butter sandwich slices, Kind bar, and egg nog though- yum!
Despite the flow issue, and the spicy soup, I love this race. It’s one of the few races I have started at the inaugural race and continue to run with every year. I still think Foot Traffic does an excellent job on this race, especially on the fact that they do listen to people and try to improve the racer’s experience every single year! Plus, this race was extra special to me for a few another reason. No only did I get to dress up in Holiday goodness, but it was my 39th Half Marathon and also the 13th Half Marathon in 2013 thus completing my 13x13x13 challenge.
See the Portland Holiday Half Marathon Results Here