The day started at a chilly 47 degrees but turned out great for the 2,100 athletes that made their way to Hillsboro for the Helvetia Half Marathon and 10k. It was sunny and calm, which gave perfect conditions to the 1,500 participants finished the half marathon and 600 in the 10k. For complete results click here for the half (here for the 10k).
This year, the race’s start and finish line was on the artificial turf of Ron Tonkin Field (home of the Hillsboro Hops baseball team). The Helvetia website had advised to arrive early because parking was limited, and when I arrived near the stadium an hour before start time, I was directed to park across the street in the parking lot of the Intel campus. It was only a very short walk away from the start line, and it came with the advantage of a covered parking spot. After I walked towards the start, I took advantage of the fact that there was no line at all at the row of about 20 porta-potties before I entered the stadium to peruse the vendor tents. Carr Subaru had coffee and chapstick, Clif and Nuun offered samples, and Franz was setting up their post-race bagels. I had already picked up my race bib and shirt the day before, but the I noticed that the line for day-of-race pickup was short and fast-moving.
Choosing a stadium as the start/finish venue has several advantages that I noticed: The concessions areas gave plenty of space for vendors to set up (and had it been rainy, would have provided good shelter), the flush toilets were appreciated by many, the bleachers offered places for runners and spectators to sit, the artificial turf field gave a lot of space for the finish chute as well as warmup, vendors, and music stage, and the playground next to the stadium gave the youngest spectators something to do as well. Announcements were easy to hear over the PA system as well, so even though I wasn’t wearing a watch, I was never worried about missing the start. There were two large group of high schoolers (from Liberty High and Wilsonville High) who had been training for this for the past four months.
The kids race took place first, and it started and finished at the finish line on the field. Shortly after the 50 kiddos finished their run, 10k and half marathon participants were directed to the start line just outside the stadium. Pace sign holders made it easy to pick the right spot in the lineup, then we were reminded to take off our hats and caps during the live singing of the National Anthem.
The race started right on time at 8am. We ran on all five lanes of a wide roads for the first mile, and by the time we were reduced to two lanes, the field had stretched out nicely. The first water/Nuun station was set up on both sides of the road just before the one mile, which many people took advantage of. The course was well-marked and easy to follow, and the mile markers coincided really closely with my Garmin’s measurements. Bands and DJ’s along the way were able to provide some entertainment and distraction.
The second water station (including bathrooms) was set up in the shade of a business park building, again on both sides of the road, which makes it really easy to get what you need quickly. Mile 4, heading west on West Union Rd was the prettiest stretch of the 10k course. Half marathon runners would be seeing an additional six miles of the beautiful rolling hills and fields, but I was glad that at the four-mile-marker I got to turn left towards the finish rather than right. For the last mile (same as the first in reverse), the course had been reduced down to a single lane, which was plenty space for the stream of runners. After the 6 mile mark the only thing left was just a brief zigzag onto the field and towards the finish line in the outfield. A few steps across the line I was given my medal and a bottle of water.
As part of the post-race refreshments, each participant was able to get a Helvetia Tavern Burger. The tear-off food ticket on the race bib was exchanged for a beef or veggie patty on a bun, and the fixin’s bar allowed each person to add their own amount of onions, lettuce, tomato and condiments. Also included was either a Widmer Beer or a Barefoot Refresh wine spritzer. I thought that I would have to forego the drink sample since I forgot my drivers licence in the car, but apparently I look as old as my race bib says I am (first year masters age group…) since I got my cold and refreshing wine spritzer without being carded.
All in all it was a wonderful race. The only disadvantage is that the registration cost is on the high-end (especially for the 10k), but at under $100 for even day of race registration, the half marathon cost is comparable to other highly supported races. But for the price you get a race that left nothing to be desired: The course was well-marked and beautiful, the start/finish location well-chosen and set up, volunteers helpful and visible, the shirt a good quality and fit. I would definitely recommend it and would run it again.