One race that I wanted to cross off my “running bucket list” was the Albertina Kerr Race for the Roses Half. I finally got the opportunity this past Sunday (April 19), and the event did not disappoint. Over 800 half marathon runners, and countless other 10k and 5k finishers, took to the downtown streets of Portland on a beautiful Spring morning.
Race morning began at the Oregon Convention Center. This was a great venue for a race of this size and they had everything set up well inside – from packet pick-up, to vendors, to bag check and dedicated stretching areas. It wouldn’t have mattered, but had the weather been nasty (as is very possible in Oregon’s Aprils) it would have been even more appreciated. I was able to walk around, casually drop off my bag, and warmly get myself ready for the miles ahead.
With about 15 minutes to go, we were directed to the start line via loudspeaker. After some last minute directions – the most important being a reminder about trains and the timing mats at each track crossing – we took to the streets in front of the Moda Center. We quickly found ourselves crossing over the Steel Bridge and heading into downtown Portland. We meandered through some downtown city streets and headed up 9th Avenue to Overton and into the Northwest District and the Pearl. The city was still awakening at 7am, so the streets were quiet even with pedestrians – making it feel like we had the city to ourselves.
The first train crossing happened on 21st Avenue, just before turning on Front Street – the familiar street that is common to downtown PDX’s long runs. Front turned into Naito and, after 4 miles of relative straightness, we started the climb to the halfway point near Barbur Boulevard. This section – from Waterfront Park to Barbur – was a definite test. I always forget just how much of a steady climb it is, as when running this section in reverse (such as via the Shamrock Run), it is always a welcome downhill reprieve.
We returned to the Downtown section for a nice run down Broadway. This section was really awesome and a good cross-section of the downtown area, by passing by Portland State University, the Dolores Winningstad Theater, the Scnnitz, Pioneer Courthouse Square, the Crystal Ballroom, and the Pearl District before putting us back to Front Street. The final few miles was a repeat of the first few – a run across the train tracks and along Front Street to the Steel Bridge. As I hit mile 11 on Front Street this final go-around, I noticed a small train (3 cars) coming down the line. I was lucky enough to miss any trains, but I hoped that if anyone ended up being stopped, that they were all as short as that one.
The final push was definitely a mental challenge, in addition to a physical one. After 12+ miles of running, the ramp back up the Steel Bridge off of Naito seemed like a towering incline. In actuality, it was pretty short, but felt really tough. The ability to get up that at the end, and do so while trying to close the race hard, had me proud and extra-energized to pick up the pace even more on the decline to the finish.
We finished to a bottle of water, reusable bag, rose, and an awesome medal made by those at Port City – an employment program that provides career and social support for adults with developmental disabilities. I loved it.
Back inside the hall in the convention center, there were tired smiling faces and long lines. People huddled forward for free finisher’s photos, mimosas, Jamba Juice samples, and other post-race faire. I opted to just get some coffee and a bagel before heading home. I was able to run into Robin, our blogger who ran the 10k, and she echoed the positive experience as well. Be on the lookout for her recap.
Overall, this race exceeded my expectations. The organization for a race of this size was impeccable. I’m not a “swag guy”, but the nice shirt and homemade medal were definitely appreciated. The volunteers and patrol throughout the day were wonderful. It really was an experience I anticipated enjoying – but even more so now. I would recommend this as one race that people should get to at least once, for all of the above reasons AND the fact that all proceeds go to Albertina Kerr’s programs for providing services to those who need the assistance. It exceeded all my expectations.