I love wine. Red wine, white wine—as long as its not a box of Franzia Chillable Red—I’m not picky. A year ago I moved here from Arkansas. In Arkansas (and in many states, unfortunately), we like to pretend that we have a wine country. Of course, once you get over the adorable kitsch of a woman in a Dirndl (the traditional Alpine-peasant/ Oktoberfest outfit) behind the old oak bar serving ample pours of Muscadine wine, you realize that the Swedes and Germans have never really been known for their wine-making skills and that maybe being the first winery in the United States to have an FDA-approved recipe for a Splenda-sweetened wine isn’t something to be proud of.
Thankfully, here in Oregon we have a real wine country that rivals many other more well-known wine countries world wide. Oregon Pinot Noir wines consistently rate among the world’s best, and Wine Spectator’s 2006 list of Top 100 Wines included six from Oregon. It also helps that in addition to making good wine, it’s just plain gorgeous out there in the Willamette Valley.
Wine and beautiful scenery—that alone is a recipe for a fabulous day. Add an incredible sunrise, a half marathon relay and race with a scenic course, and a post-race Wine & Music Festival, and you’ve got an unstoppable, perfect day. If you’re like me, you’re thinking “ALRIGHT! Where do I sign up?” Head on over to the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon and Relay page and get it while it’s hot, because the 5th Annual edition of this will definitely sell out.
The company that hosts this event also hosts six other wine country marathons from British Columbia to Temecula Valley, California, and believe me—they are professionals. While I love the charm of small, sometimes haphazard local races, it’s good to treat yourself once a year or so to a slightly more expensive, slightly more upscale event. I’m sure any non-runner reading this thinks I’m crazy—who does a half marathon to “treat” themselves? But you runners know what I’m talking about. Some races just make you feel special. They offer a great day and unforgettable BRF (Best Runner Friend) memories to cherish for years. But before I brag on them too much, here are the basics:
WHERE: The race starts at Stoller Family Estate, perched on a hill just above the towns of Lafayette and Dundee, Oregon, finishing on Main Street in the nearby city of Carlton.
WHEN: Sunday, August 31, 2014 at 7:00 AM (Labor Day Weekend)
TIME LIMIT: 3:30 or less (16 min/mile pace)
DISTANCES: 6.1 miles & 7 miles (the half marathon relay) and 13.1 miles
WINE & MUSIC FESTIVAL: 9:30 AM – noon
TEMPERATURES: Average between the mid-50s to mid-60s. The high temperature in the afternoon could range from 65°F to 85°F.
Hosted in Yamhill County in the heart of the Willamette Valley, roughly an hour from Portland, Oregon’s favorite wine region, the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon is a wonderful experience for everyone from wine lovers to teetotalers who just want a nice, quiet getaway. Since it’s Labor Day Weekend, activities are planned all weekend long including an expo at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville—a place I’ve always meant to visit but haven’t yet corralled future husband into going. The expo on Saturday, August 30th where you’ll go to pick up your personalized bib, timing chip, and technical race shirt runs from 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM. While I’m no plane aficionado, I do love seeing and experiencing new or quirky things. Evergreen Aviation fits that bill with a Spruce Goose, WWII Aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird, and a waterpark with a waterslide pouring from a B747-100 aircraft (what?!).
Of course, if you don’t own a car (like me) there may be literally nothing that will drag you out an hour outside Portland on a Saturday just to pick up a race packet. Maybe you’re a busy mom or a corporate lawyer and you just don’t have time to break away. Never fear—this is one of the reasons I love the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon. The OWCHM has an absolutely insane number of possible add-ons to you your race, depending on your needs and how much of a weekend you’d like to make of it. My three favorite add-ons (since I don’t have a car) are the optional shuttle transportation to and from Portland ($25 extra), the early packet pickup night at the Oregon History Museum in downtown Portland where you can enjoy wine and light appetizers while picking up your race bib and technical shirt ($15, Thursday, August 28, 2014), and the late packet pickup at the startline ($15, DOR). Even if you have a car, it’s nice to not have to drive after a race and lets be honest—some not insignificant drinking at the post-race Wine & Music Festival.
ABOUT THAT: More than 20 wineries and Fire Mountain Brew House will be pouring at the post-race party, accompanied by live music. While the event is open to guests, runners will need to pre-purchase a wine glass during registration or through Race Extras ($30 each, may purchase up to 3).
OTHER ADD-ONs: Other incredible registration add-ons include the following:
- Welcome Reception Evening at Carlton Firehouse Tasting Room (Friday, August 29, 2014, $40)
- Morning Yoga in the Vineyards at Stoller Family Estate Winery (Saturday, August 30, 2014, $40)
- Pre-Race Dinner at Anne Amie Vineyards (Saturday, August 30, 2014, $65)
- Post-Race Vineyard Tour Tasting and Twilight Dinner at K&M Winery (Sunday, August 31, 2014, $95)
It’s such an amazing event weekend—you can truly build it up to be as simple or as decadent and fabulous as your heart desires. For once—at this race—I think my fiance will not only forgive me for dragging his non-runner self out of bed at 4 in the morning for a ride and his cheers. I think he’ll actually thank me. See you there, runners!