A 2011 study on weather and happiness revealed that 57 degrees Fahrenheit is the optimal temperature for happiness, and temperatures in that ballpark greeted the runners and walkers who set out to conquer the 2nd Annual Hop Hop Half Marathon and 5k in Portland, Oregon on Saturday, April 19, 2014.
The Easter-themed race brought out 689 half marathoners and 299 5k racers to run or walk along the Columbia River, adjacent to the Portland International Airport (race results in the preceding hyperlinks). While the morning’s forecast promised cool temperatures and no rain, runners who spent more than two hours on the course found themselves initially in a light mist and later in a more substantial but still bearable downpour that offered the world’s tiniest pieces of hail in some moments. Harsh winds also buffeted brave racers as they headed east towards a scenic Mt. Hood on the horizon, with massive planes making their final descent into Portland International above.
Despite the weather later on in the course, the chip-timed Hop Hop Half was one of the most well-organized and pleasant small races that I have attended in the last year. The host, Foot Traffic, saw to every last detail, from start to finish. Before the race, there were three packet pickups in three different areas of Portland– downtown, southeast, and northeast Portland. BONUS POINTS: cute personalized race bibs (scroll down for image)! There was also race day packet pickup, but with so many days of packet pickup in so many neighborhoods, I only saw two people in line for race day packet pickup.
At the beginning of the morning, there was an early start for the 5k racers at 7:30 AM, a two-wave start for half marathoners at 8:15 AM, and two egg decorating stations for children or racers to entertain themselves while waiting for their race to begin (awards to best decorated eggs followed after the race). On a less attractive but extremely practical note, there was plentiful parking and– I counted– no less than thirty-three porta potties, meaning that the lines were pretty reasonable and the toilets didn’t suffer the usual race dilemma of being vomit-inducing due to overuse.
The famous Run Oregon Easter Rabbit was also in attendance, posing for cute pictures with runners before the race and offering sassy dance moves at the post-race dance off (which Run Oregon blogger Bonnie Celia Ingersoll killed at, by the way. All dance-off participants won running bras in the process– how sweet is that?!).
If you’re more of the shopping type, and by shopping I mean race and race food shopping, there were also eight booths hosted before and after the races where local races enticed you with discounted prices and views of last year’s beautiful medals. Free KIND bars were on hand in two different flavors, and there was even a St. Vincent’s bus that appeared to be a warm place to take shelter from the cold while you waited for your wave or race to start (I saw the generators running, but didn’t hop in to check it out for myself).
One of my favorite things about the race– other than the incredible preparation and attention to detail by Foot Traffic– was the overall spirited nature of all the runners who came out to race. Thanks in part to some free rabbit ear giveaways at packet pickup, I appeared to be one of the only racers who lacked some portion of an Easter-themed costume. I saw bunny ears, bunny glasses with whiskers, puffy cotton tails (one creative racer even subbed in a white loofah in lieu of a pom pom), and a variety of brightly colored race gear.
Everyone in attendance seemed truly happy to be out and racing on the festive occasion, tackling an almost immaculately flat race that was perfect for a first-of-the-season comeback to racing. While there were occasional inclines (as this was, of course, the Earth and not a treadmill), they were exceptionally gentle and brief– something part and parcel of running along this section of the Columbia River.
After the race, all finishers received a fantastic egg/carrot/rabbit themed medal on the traditional Foot Traffic satin ribbon (if you’ve done a FT race before, like the killer Foot Traffic Flat, you’ve seen this ribbon). Each woman was also handed two flowers (unfortunately, I’m not a flower gal– I couldn’t tell you what they were even with the magical powers of Google).
Absolutely delicious and amazing food, mimosas, and beer were catered by Spin Catering and Madison Grill, respectively. Spin served Easter brunch snacks (including mini cinnamon rolls, mini egg croissant sandwiches, and hard-boiled eggs), and for once– the mimosas were actually fresh made and carbonated when I drank them in the commemorative 2014 Hop Hop flute (thank you, Foot Traffic! So many races try to pre-prepare this drink in bulk, resulting in gross, flat mimosas).
All in all, despite the rain and wind, this was an excellent comeback race that I will likely return to every year because it is flat, festive, close-in, affordable, and so well-organized. See you next year, racers!