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Race Recap: 2014 Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon

Mechell and I at the start of the Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon

On Sunday, August 10th, I geared up to participate in the inaugural Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon with 1000 other runners and walkers. The race started at 8am and was said to take approximately one hour to get to from Vancouver, so my friend and I left at 5:30am. The race started on the Washington side of the bridge but we were instructed to park at the finish line, at Marine Park, on the Oregon side and shuttled to the start of the race. We arrived at 6:30am and parking was already crowded by then. We walked up to the area where packet pickup was and grabbed our race packets. Next to the packet pickup booth was a table with “bus passes” on it. There were multiple piles of passes with different times on each pass. We checked the current time and picked one that was set to leave 5 minutes later.

We walked around a bit before going to catch ours. As we approached the line of buses we noticed lots of people standing there but not getting on. We proceeded to board ours and promptly got on. Apparently, there were lots of people that grabbed a later time pass and weren’t allowed on the shuttles for buses that were there now, so buses were leaving almost empty. The race ended up starting a little bit late because of the backup of people and shuttles.

We headed across the Bridge of the Gods and were dropped us off on a gravel area on the side of the road. When I got there I immediately noticed the lack of volunteers or people in charge. It took awhile to figure out where bag check was because there wasn’t a typical tent with volunteers collecting the bags. Instead, there were plastic bags and markers laid out for people to put their stuff in and then put their bags in a pile on the side of the road. I followed the crowd and did it although I hoped in the back of my mind that I would get my bag back at the finish line. I’ve seen this method for packet pickup at a couple races now and it still makes me uncomfortable. Hopefully, races will start having a volunteer guard the bags to ease my mind.

Thunder Island

While we were waiting we indulged in the pre-race food that was sitting out for us. They had bananas, gummy snacks, cliff bars, and granola bars. Since we got there so early I had one of each to satisfy my hunger. There were plenty of port-a-potties and waiting for one was never a problem. There was a volunteer at the start area making sure runners stayed out of the busy freeway. Music was playing and people were having fun taking pre-race pictures by the bridge.

Once the last shuttle crossed the road they closed the bridge to traffic and started the race. I started towards the back of the pack as I enjoy the feeling of passing people at the start rather than getting passed. I thought the coolest part of the race would be running over the bridge; but for me it was a bit more terrifying than I anticipated. I never noticed this before, but the Bridge of the Gods is a steel bridge with a grated floor so you can see the water below you as you ran. I kept looking down despite telling myself over and over that I shouldn’t. With wobbly knees I conquered the bridge and looked back to see the fun everyone else was having on the bridge. Lots of people were stopped to take pictures and admire the unique view. I was just happy to be off of it.

Once over the river we ran southwest along a paved pathway adjacent to the Columbia River. The path was beautifuly set within a heavily forested area. I was a little worried about getting sun-burnt during the run since the forecast said the temperatures were supposed to be in the 90’s that day, but with the shade from the trees I didn’t even notice the sun. It didn’t take me long to realize why there appeared to be a lack of volunteers at the start of the race; they were all busy along the course making sure we were well supported. The first aid station appeared very quickly in the race, followed by the second aid station right after that. I’m not sure if they were really that close together or it just felt like it because the race was passing by so fast. After the first couple miles the course went from relatively flat to rolling hills. I kept thinking that I couldn’t wait until the turnaround point because all of the uphills we were doing were going to be fantastic on the way back. However, this race was one of those mirages where both ways seemed to be uphill. A definite challenge!

At around mile three or four there was a set of stairs we had to go up. It was painful, but again I was excited to be able to go down the stairs on the way back. This also didn’t go as expected. Going down stairs 10-ish miles into a run wasn’t nearly as easy as it may seem. We stopped for some pictures and took in the gorgeous view of the river along the course. On the way back we had fun joking with the volunteers at the aid stations. The aid stations were always stocked full of water and some had gummy bears, oranges and fruit. There were port-a-potties along the course which I thought was great considering it was an inaugural race and that normally is an after thought.

The stairs at the Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon

The last mile of the race was through town before we turned and ran over the bridge to Thunder Island. Typically, at the end of a race my mind gives up and I slow down; however my friend does the exact opposite. She wanted to run, and she wanted to run fast. I kept up for as long as I could, but even though I could see the after party at Thunder Island prior to the finish, I still had about a mile to go before actually getting there. I walked a bit, then pushed through it and finished with my friend.

Finishing on Thunder Island was very cool. It was a very pretty relaxing setting that was perfect to hang out at after a race. There were no issues with the bag retrieval as I had initially feared. There was the post-race food tent and another tent with alcohol. They had a variety of beers and even a cider for $5 each. I heard a couple groans about the beer not being free, but there are many races where the beer is included in the race fee and I don’t end up drinking it. This way, if I drink the beer I pay for it and if I don’t want beer I don’t have to pay for it. I think it’s a win-win! We got our post-race food and went to the shaded area by the water to enjoy it with friends.

 

 

The shaded area at the after party

Overall, I really enjoyed this race. While I think there are a few minor kinks to iron out pre-race, the beautiful and challenging course more than made up for it. I had awesome company, enjoyed the scenery, thought the volunteers were amazing, and found the after party location perfect! I was impressed at all the things that were done right since this was an inaugural race. This is a race I would definitely recommend to other runners looking for a fun, unique, beautiful race.

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