Race Recap: 2015 Bald Peak Half Marathon (6/20/15)

Hills, majestic views and bountiful bacon make the Bald Peak Half Marathon an adventure worth running. Listed as the one of the top ten hardest half marathons in the northwest, the race offers runners a chance to earn bragging rights from a challenging and technical course.

This was my third year running the Bald Peak, the fourth year the event has been held. Even with  my past two years of  experience on this course, it was still daunting. From right out of the chute you start a two mile climb with over 800 feet elevation gain. How high is 800 feet? Imagine running up the 42 stories of the US Bancorp (aka Big Pink)  building downtown, which is 535 feet tall, you would still have 270 feet to climb just to reach the two mile mark.

View of Mount Saint Helens

View of Mount Saint Helens from the start/finish line of the Bald Peak Half Marathon.

So you are probably thinking by now, why would you want to run this race? That is actually what I thought after I drove the course the night before the first year I ran it.  The short answer, the challenge.

Like a roller coaster,  after you ascend slowly to the highest point of 1,365 feet at mile two, there after it’s a series of quad-crushing descents and steep ascents that will continual challenge your muscles and cardio endurance. In total the course has over 1700 feet of elevation gain and loss. The course has a combination of asphalt and compact gravel roads. These gravel roads were compacted enough that I felt I had solid footing. Though there were only a couple of cars passing us during the race, they did stir up the dust, which I just figured adds to the character of the event.

While the course is hilly, it comes with benefit of some great vistas. Around mile 3 and mile 7.5 of the race runners get a spectacular view of Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams. From mile 9.5 to 10.5, there is a great view of Mount Hood. These views are one of the reasons I love this race.

From mile 9.3 to mile 11.6 you have a gradual descent and until 12.5 it is “relatively” flat. I usually never walk during a half marathon, but Bald Peak Half Marathon is where I make an exception. At mile 12.5, the hardest part of the course is a 300 foot climb to mile 13. Even cars groan and chug up this hill on the way up to the start line.  The first two years I ran this race, I literally walked this section. Running it is not impossible, but it requires some serious hill training. I have seen plenty of runners make it all the way up the hill without walking. This year I alternated between walking and running up this hill. The first female runner passed me just before this hill and she just hopped her way up the hill like it was nothing.  If you do run this race, I would highly recommend saving some energy in the tank to tackle this last taunting hill keeping you from your medal, pancake and bacon. After you finish the race, you have earned a great breakfast and bragging rights. Also included in the race is a nice tech shirt and finisher medal for every participant.

Even though this is a challenging course, I always use it as a benchmark for how my overall training is going for hills. Each year I have run this event, I have managed to improve my time. If you would like to review the course on an interactive Google map, here is my Garmin data from the race, which also contains the elevation profile and other stats.

Bald Peak Half Marathon results were provided by Huber Timing. The first female was Janessa Taylor from Klamath Falls with 1:33:08. The first male was Nolan Kuenzi from Hillsboro with 1:28:13.

The event photos were taking by Long Run Picture Company. Some additional photos that I took after finishing the race.

I would recommend this race as a way to challenge yourself. It’s tough, but the hills, vistas and breakfast make it a great experience that is reasonably priced. Registration for the 2016 event opens in October, so put a reminder in your calendar to sign up for this event and to start hill training.






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