I signed up for the McKenzie River Half Marathon to go run with (far behind) my friend who was running her first half marathon. We are from Vancouver, Washington and although the drive to Eugene isn’t that far away (approximately 2 hours), we decided to go the day before and stay the night in a hotel.
We decided to stay at the host hotel which was the Hilton Garden Inn in Springfield near the race finish area. We procrastinated and waited until a couple days before the race to book the hotel so we were not given the race discount special. The room was great, however I didn’t realize breakfast wasn’t included in the cost of the room as it said on the race website and ended up having to pay per person.
We arrived Saturday night before the race and quickly found packet pickup, which just happened to be in the hotel we were staying at. Packet pickup was fast and the volunteers/staff were very friendly. The race shirts were long sleeve tech shirts; silver for the females and blue for the males. I’m not a huge fan of the shirts just because I don’t typically wear long sleeve shirts when I run. We grabbed a map of the race course to study before the run and a couple race stickers while we were there.
The next morning we woke up early to catch the shuttle. The race started in Eugene and finished in Springfield so racers were directed to show up at the finish area, which was Armitage Park, and wait for the shuttle to take them to the start line. Shuttles ran from 7:00am until 8:15am. We woke up early and caught the 7:30 shuttle which ended up packed full of racers.
That morning the weather was COLD. We were shuttled to the start line and got there at
approximately 7:45. There was no place to go to keep warm and we huddled outside in the cold until the race started at 9am. Luckily, we brought jackets and were able to drop them off in the bag drop and have them shuttled to the finish line for us. They had about four porta potties at the starting area, which we decided to use right after we got off the shuttle. That ended up being a very good idea because as the start of the race got closer the line got very long.
At 9am they lined everyone up at the race arch and they decided to wait for everyone to get out of the porta potty line before starting the race, which took about 10 minutes. The race started as a 2 ¼ mile loop around the Emerald Dance Center, through neighborhoods before turning and going along Hayden Bridge Road. We ran over a bridge which was over the McKenzie River and then along old Mohawk Road.
My goal for this race was to run as far as possible without stopping to walk, which typically happens after 1 or 2 miles. My goal was 5 or 6 miles but once I hit that point I just kept going. The course was relatively flat, the weather was perfect, and the volunteers at all the water stations were super friendly and supportive. I don’t think I passed one single person that at a water station, or road intersection, that didn’t cheer me on. The local community came out of their houses to sit in lawn chairs along the course to cheer us on as well. There were even road bikers that cheered as they passed us. I was excited so after I ran my 6 miles without stopping I just kept going. At mile 10 I was faced with a hill. I knew there was a tiny one that was on the course map, but when I got there it seemed massive. Maybe because I was far past exhausted at this point. There were 4 or 5 hawks circling above the hill and I just imagined that they were there circling for me if I stopped on the course, so I made it through. As with all hills, if there is an up, there is typically a down followed right after. This downhill portion of the course was very much needed and I kept on running.
At mile 11.5 we crossed I-5 and that’s when I started noticing fellow racers walking around. I thought that maybe they had mislabeled the race signs and the finish line was near. As we approached a pedestrian bridge I could hear the music at the finish line, and then I saw the balloon arch and people standing along the bridge cheering. I sped it up at this point because I thought the finish was near, but right after passing under the balloon arch I saw the mile 12 sign and it was mentally draining. I gave it what I had because I thought it was the end, but it wasn’t, and I had to mentally push through the last 1.1 miles as a loop back to the finish area. I toughed it out for that very long last mile and finished my first half marathon without walking.
The finish “after party” was at one of the park’s covered shelter. They had free pizza and beer which hit the spot. We all sat outside and basked in the sun while we watched the rest of the runners finish. Leaving the parking lot was faster than I expected and away we went, back to Vancouver.
Overall, I really enjoyed this race. I love the concept of races that start and finish in different locations. The volunteers were very friendly and there was an abundance of them. Water stations were stocked and placed at the perfect spots along the course. The only thing I would change about this race would be to not put the balloon arch at mile 12 as it was very deceiving. I would definitely recommend this race to others.