Wow, wow, wow – what an event! Seriously, the McKenzie River Half Marathon is tied for first place in the ‘Best Overall Race Execution’ category.
To start, I am not a fan of Sunday races. I very much prefer to race on Saturdays. I pick-and-choose my Sunday events very carefully and only register for those that meet my strict criteria for awesomeness.
The previous day was pretty rainy and wet, and the forecast for race day wasn’t promising. Oh well, I love racing in the rain!
Participants of the McKenzie River Half Marathon were directed to park at Armitage Park in Eugene, and take the shuttle to the start line in Springfield. This was a point-to-point race, which is one of the most difficult to coordinate. Packet pick-up was available on Saturday, or you could pick-up your packet on race day at the start line. I always appreciate same day packet pick-up!
The race started us on the road next to a dance studio on Yolanda Avenue in Springfield, which was a fairly quiet neighborhood arterial street. The event started started close to on time, but word on the street was they were holding back the start for a couple minutes as there was another bus of runners coming. There were not pace signs to aid in the pre-race line up, but it seemed everyone was doing well lining up where they would not impact faster runners. There wasn’t a lot of jostling for position in the first couple of miles, which is great.
The course was great. After proceeding east on Yolanda, we took a quick jaunt on 31st Street to connect onto the multi-use paths. It seemed so fast, but on this path we hit the first mile marker. Turning off the path onto 19th Street, it was evident we would be looping back past the start line again. I only glanced at the course map prior to race day – course maps start blending together after looking at them to me.
Bingo! Back on Yolanda past the start line. Again, to my fabulous surprise, shortly after passing the start line we were at mile 2! Approaching 31st Street, this time we turned left to connect with Hayden Bridge Rd. There were some beautiful houses that we ran past in this quiet section of the course.
Passing mile 3, we were getting ready to proceed onto Marcola Road, where the first aid station was set-up. Oh my gosh – friendly, friendly volunteers offering water and GU Brew to participants. This section of the course was on a busy street, but there was ample room to run and keep clear of vehicles.
We exited Marcola Road by taking a left onto Old Mohawk Road. This is where the quiet, peaceful, serene portion of the course took over; from just shy of mile four all the way to the finish line. We passed cows, some horses … and I know I heard sheep, unless it was in my mind. We were almost 6 miles into the race at this point.
Turning onto McKenzie View Drive, which was the last major stretch before we bobbed-and-weaved our way to the finish line, was a splendid portion of the course – and my most favorite. Right after getting onto McKenzie View Drive, there was, yet another, exceptionally energetic group of folks at an aid station 2, just shy of the 6 mile mark. Water, GU Brew and GU Gels were being handed out, and there were restrooms. I made the decision to make a pit-stop at the bathroom, which proved to be a popular place to be at the time, so it did slow me down nearly 3-4 minutes making the decision to stop.
Soon enough though, I was back on the course and closing in on mile 7 and 8. I could hear the McKenzie River trickling, and sometimes roaring, next to the course. It was awesome.
Near mile 8 was the third aid station, again fully stocked with water, gels and electrolytes. At this aid station I realized, to my very great surprise, that volunteers were taking our bib numbers down to provide us with splits! WOOHOOOOO! I love it when a race provides us with split times for our results!
Very close to mile 10 – it could have been just after or before – was the fourth aid station — yes, yet again, fully stocked with all three items every runner wants and needs; water, electrolytes and gel. And yes, yet again, very friendly and efficient volunteers.
After passing the fourth aid station, the course presented us with a decent hill. The entire course had been composed of gently rolling hills … until this point. Granted, this was not an epic hill or anything, it was just steeper than the others, and nearing the end of the half marathon. Even me, lover of hills, made a grumble or two seeing it. However, after cresting the top and zooming down the other side, you could hear (and sometimes see) the I-5 Bridge going over the McKenzie River. Reaching I-5 meant the finish line was moments away.
About the 11.65 mile mark, we proceeded past a portion of Armitage Park that I never knew existed! And, even more exciting, it was the FINISH LINE area! I also knew I would be close to running over the old railroad bridge. Sure enough, bingo! There was the bridge! There was a beautiful balloon arch at the end of the bridge, and also the lovely sight of the mile 12 course marker. Additionally, there was a well placed fifth and final aid station here, too!
After exiting the bridge (fun!), the balloon arch (pretty!), and the last aid station (hooray!), we had 1.1 miles to go to get to that finish line! We ran on the side of Coburg Road for a short portion of time, and then proceeded into Armitage Park to wind through the campground area. Very friendly certified flaggers were managing traffic so participants could get across busy Coburg Road, and back into the park. After touring Armitage Park, cruising through the campground area, and past the McKenzie River again, we jetted under the railroad bridge and zipped the last tiny bit to the finish line!
The finish line was alive and full of energy. Finishers were being announced as they crossed the finish line. When I was crossing the finish line, I could hear the announcement that the overall and age group awards ceremony was moments away from taking place. I secured the incredible McKenzie River Half Marathon finisher medal, and immediately went into the picnic shelter area to watch the awards ceremony.
Wowie! You should have seen the overall finisher awards that were being handed out; custom made out of wood and engraved. Don’t worry; I posted a picture of them so you all could see how spectacular they were!
After the awards ceremony, the band started playing. The band was excellent, my kind of music – jazzy and full of vitality. Track Town Pizza, a local favorite in Eugene, was serving pizza to finishers. It became quickly apparent that everyone, participants and spectators, were delving into the pizza. There was plenty of pizza available for everyone, at least when I was checking out the post-race refreshments. Other post race refreshments included an assortment of fruit, Hop Valley Brewing was serving beer to those 21+, water and electrolytes. The picnic shelter had ample sitting room for participants and spectators alike. Hoka One One also had their booth set-up so you could check out their line of shoes.
I stuck around for a while to see some of the other finishers arrive at the finish line. Big shout-out to Eclectic Edge Racing, who provided the timing for the event, keeping the finish line energetic as the finishers started dwindling.
I can safely pronounce that the Level 32 Racing‘s McKenzie River Half Marathon officially receives an A+ from me, for their 2015 event. GREAT JOB! Check out the full list of results, and the event photos as well!
Pros: Top-shelf, fully stocked aid stations – and plenty of them, the nicest volunteers, split times (!!), impressive finisher medal, excellent post-race vibe and refreshments.
Cons: Why did I take that bathroom break at the second aid station again? I could have potentially PR’d (not a fault of the race!).
Here are your top three overall finishers for the men and women: