Hats off to the “unique-distance” races!

Most runners will agree that an incorrect course distance can take the fun out of a race. You sign up for a 10K and end up running a PR, only to find out the course was actually 5.89 miles instead of 6.2. Or you're bummed because your time was slower than you expected, and then you realize you really ran 6.31 miles. Inaccurate distances can be due to faulty course measurement or an error in marking the route. Either way, it's frustrating to run a distance other than the one that was advertised. Some races even round up or down, and call an event a familiar distance even when it's not. You can read more about the importance of course accuracy in Kelly's upcoming Run Oregon post. It's understandable that most events want to provide a familiar distance that is easy for most runners to grasp and compare to their previous performances, but there are a few bold races out there that take pride in non-standard and unique distances, usually based on the location of safe or convenient start and finish areas. These races don't try to fudge the distance and make it conform to the familiar lineup of 5ks, 8ks, 10ks, etc., and in so doing they have carved out a special spot on the race calendar and earned the respect of runners looking for a one-of-a-kind PR.

Here are a few races of uncommon distances that let runners break out of the standard mold:

The Troutdale Trot (6.7 miles). May. https://www.facebook.com/TroutdaleTrot

This loop course starts and finishes at the same place, but because of the locations of the bridges on the Sandy River, the only way to make this a 10k would have been to turn it into a duathlon and have participants swim the river at some point (please do not attempt!) This small, low key event has been going on for 37 years, and earns kudos for taking pride in it’s special 6.7-mile-ness and not taking the easy route and calling itself a “10k”. In fact, it’s exactly a half-mile longer than a 10k, so it’s a pretty cool distance if you ask me.

The Monmouth Mini Marathon (2.62 miles). July 4th. http://eclecticedgeracing.com/Monmouth_Mini_Marathon.html

This annual Independence Day race starts in front of the Monmouth City Hall and heads mostly downhill and straight (with just one quick zig-zag) to the finish in front of the Independence City Hall. As with the abuse of the standard distances, the phrase “Mini Marathon” get tossed around loosely, but this race earns my utmost respect by being exactly 1/10th of a marathon. The name “Mini Marathon” is entirely appropriate in this case!

The Hagg Lake Run (10.5 miles). May. http://www.orrc.net/races/hagg/hagglake.htm

This annual ORRC race makes one lap on the road around Hagg Lake. Couldn’t be simpler! As with the Troutdale Trot, the only way to squeeze a “standard” distance out of this course would involve getting wet and wading across the lake. Again, not recommended! I’m a little disappointed about a recent course change that rounded up the old 10.4-mile race to a slightly-too-tidy ten-and-a-half miles, but 10.5 is still pretty unique.

The Crater Lake Rim Runs (6.7 miles and 13 miles). August 9th. http://www.craterlakerimruns.com/

The Crater Lake Rim Runs offer three races, including a honest-to-goodness 26.2-mile marathon. The two shorter races, however, are non-standard distances, due to the spacing of the viewpoint parking lots that serve as the start and finish areas. Coincidentally, the shortest is a 6.7-miler, just like the Troutdale Trot, providing Oregon runners unusual-distance PR opportunities on different courses. The other race is a 13.0-miler, the 0.1 unavailable because of the necessary finish area along the rim road. Again, hats off to the organizers for avoiding the strong temptation to round up and call it a “half marathon”.

ORRC’s New Year’s race (20.15k in 2015). January. http://www.orrc.net/races/y2k/y2k.htm

Another “unique-distance” race is really unique, because the distance changes every year. I first ran it when it was the “8.9 [miles] In ’89”, before it switched to year-matching kilometers at the turn of the millennium. The turnaround cone is moved out half of a hundredth of a K each year, so runners can’t help but set a new PR every time they run this.

Finally, honorable mention goes to the Joe Dudman 5.0k back on June 21st. How many times do runners get a chance to run a 5.0K? That extra .0k made that course pretty special!

Most of these races have been around at least 30 years, so non-standard distances are certainly not a deterrent to most runners.

2 Comments on Hats off to the “unique-distance” races!

  1. My 4 year old is STILL talking about the “birthday race” and wants to know if we can do it again. We better start planning a 5.1k? Lots of fun races here. Thanks!

  2. Great article Joe. I have already started training for the Joe Dudman 10.0K. Would be great if the Hagg Mud lost the out and back road portion and got in the spirit of your article and just did a trail loop around the lake.

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