Because I live in Vancouver, and the race was in Salem, I decided to do packet pickup the morning of the race. And because I needed to do an 18 miler training run in preparation for the full marathon I’m signed up for in June, I decided to show up to the race early, and squeeze in 5 miles before the start of the race, which was manageable due to the 9:00 am half marathon start time.
When I arrived at the race at 7:30, there weren’t many people at the race yet, which meant parking was a piece of cake. I picked up my packet (which included a string cinch backpack, a unisex tech race shirt which didn’t up fitting me very well, and various coupons – including a free pint at Salem Ale Works – score!), tossed it in my car, and headed out along State Street to get in my pre-race 5 miles.
While it had been merely overcast at the beginning of my pre-race run, the weather conditions quickly deteriorated until it started to pour around mile 3. It didn’t stop until just as I was returning to the parking lot. I used the bathroom and then sat in my car until just before the start of the race, debating on whether to continue wearing my soaking wet long sleeved tech shirt, or wear my tank and dry arm warmers. I opted for the dry arm warmers, and crossed my fingers that there wouldn’t be any more downpours that morning.
While marketed as a “road race,” the first mile and the last mile of the race were actually on difficult gravel roads and paths, and a bit on the marshy soccer field. While they do mention “off-road” sections, I felt the types of gravel we had to run across were such that the race directors should have been more detailed in describing. I was actually pretty frustrated with these portions of the course and felt like they had the potential to be risky. There were some rolling hills along the rest of the course, and the flat portions were usually windy, which made for a challenging afternoon all around.
The description of “low-traffic country roads” was accurate, but the roads were also high-speed. Since they had not been closed for the race, some areas were potentially dangerous, even more so because of the limited visibility due to rain. Matt already highlighted in his recap that apparently some of the volunteers (who mostly seemed to be young men who are part of the soccer club) were absent or misdirected some of the first half marathon finishers.
After the race, each finisher was given a finishers medal, and awards were given out to the top finisher in each age division (Editors note: There was a Run Oregon sweep in the 20-29 age group, as both Marilyn and Matt took home mini-trophies). Coffee, water, bananas, and bagels with either peanut butter or cream cheese were available for runners. Additionally, runners could immediately check their race results electronically on one of two tablets.
For a less expensive race and for the first year this race was put on, it wasn’t a bad event. However, there is a lot of room for improvement regarding the course (particularly safety), potentially the t-shirt upgrade, and some other aspects that can be learned over time. I think it’s great that a half marathon distance race is finally available to Salem-area runners, and hope that positive changes are made for next year’s event.