Organization and Volunteers
For a first time event, I felt this race went off without a hitch. The parking was plentiful in the downtown parkade (though I notice most people parking on the main streets), and the bag check was a cinch. Despite the chill in the air at start time (under 30 degrees), there was a warmth and excitement in the air from everyone. There was a little bottlenecking at the start as all runners needed the go from the street wide start to passing under the arch.
There were a variety of road crossings, and each were manned with expert precision. I’m sure some neighborhood residents of Bend weren’t too thrilled to be stopped, but I know us runners were very appreciative. The volunteers, from the bag check, to those on the race course, to those handing out medals, were all fantastic and cheery.
This was absolutely perfect race course in my opinion. While there are other half marathons in the Bend area, this event was billed as the first that took place entirely within the downtown Bend limits. And it delievered on everything I was hoping it would be.
Runners started through the downtown residential streets before circling up through Drake Park. The first mile to a mile or mile and a half reminded me of my 2013 Eugene Half start – a lot of people jockeying for position along the breadth of the street. It was a slow process, but ultimately I wasn’t too worried about it. After running the Sisters Half only 24 hours prior, I started in the back of the pack in an effort to just take it easy. On top of that, why would I want to rush through running in Bend? As we passed back on Brooks Street the crowds lined the street for an amazingly awesome boost.
We crossed over the river on Portland Avenue and hit the trails on the Deschutes River Trail for two miles. I have only trekked out South of town on the trail, so this was an entirely new experience for me. There were some good solid climbs which were made much easier with the views of the river flanking us and blue skies overhead.
We hit some more residential streets as we headed out of the trail system, and met up with OB Riley Road before meeting back up with the trail for a short bit. We crossed back over the river on Portland Ave. and headed for downtown for my favorite part of the race. Wall St., the main drag in Bend, is always packed. There are a ton of great restaurants, shops, Tower Theater, and the Deschutes County Library that make parking a nightmare and has traffic flowing throughout the day. To have it closed off completely to traffic, and lined only with cheering pedestrians and an aid station, literally gave me chills. It’s not too often that the busiest and most popular street in town is completely shut down for a race. Super cool.
The final 4 miles really brought things full circle and allowed runners to pass by the rest of the awesome areas the Bend area has to offer. We ran above the Old Mill Shopping District, a staple in the community, through Farewell Bend Park, before crossing over to the West side of the river. A jaunt through Riverbend Park, by the Les Schwab Amphitheater, and within scents distance of the Deschutes Brewery capped off a nice loop. There was a solid little climb leading up to mile 12 that really made things interesting.
We finished up again in the sidewalks flanking Drake Park and the glistening Deschutes was guiding us to the finish. As we made our way up the last little climb, so many spectators were cheering, ringing bells, and giving high-fives, that it almost felt like we were being showcased. And I guess in some sense we were.
First and foremost – that medal. How awesome is that thing?! It came complete with screws so that you could adhere it somewhere and utilize it as the sweetest bottle opener ever. The post-race area was not huge, but with Drake Park just feet away, there was plenty of space to roam, relax and stretch. 10 Barrel Brewing was on hand with a solid variety of free beer options. Jamba Juice was handing out mini-smoothies (a perfect post-race treat in my opinion) and there were a small assortment of standard post-race faire like bananas and bagels.
I could spend the next hour talking up this race and all the awesome that it oozed. And considering that it was an inaugural event, things are only going to get better. Despite being tired and slower from my half the day before, the minutes literally blew by. It is the only race I have ever ran in where I couldn’t believe just how fast each mile was coming up. With everything going on, I completely lost track of time along the way.
Trust me, this is the latest addition to YOUR “Running Bucket List”. You won’t regret it. Prepare to be blown away.