Race recap: 2016 ORRC Vernonia Marathon and Half Marathon

A photo from the 2016 ORRC Vernonia Marathon. Credit: ORRC volunteer.

The weather for the 11th Annual Vernonia Marathon and Half couldn’t have been better—no rain, no wind, and overcast skies made for fantastic race day conditions. The 670 runners participating in the event this year were as friendly and supportive as always, which is one of the main reasons why members of the running community love to participate in ORRC events. For Nikki Mueller, the run was the complete opposite of her previous distance race, the 2016 Shamrock Run. “The difference between the Shamrock Run and the Vernonia Half Marathon was like night and day,” she said. “Shamrock had what has become traditionally rainy, cold weather that is honestly pretty miserable, coupled with some sizable hills. The weather for Vernonia was perfect ... a little overcast but not chilly at all, and flat and scenic.” 

Mueller isn’t the only one who noticed that the ORRC Vernonia Marathon and Half Marathon is a unique event. RRCA-certified coach Diane Lechner, shares her thoughts on what makes the race different. “A few features of the Vernonia Marathon set the race apart from others,” she says. “It’s a point-to-point race, so runners park at the finish line and take a bus to the start. The marathon path is an easy, smooth asphalt surface with a few scenic bridges and train trestles along the route. Nestled in tall trees, the majority of the race is run under high leafy branches, protecting runners from direct sunlight – what marathoner doesn’t enjoy shade!? Unlike many races, participants run free from the distraction of motorized vehicles, yet there are many places along the course where the trail is car-accessible and runners can be supported by family and friends.”

For those of you considering the 2017 Vernonia Marathon, Lechner offers some insight how she would approach this amazing course. “The key to a successful Vernonia Marathon is running an even effort,” she explains. “This means strategically breaking the race course into “chunks.” Flat portions of the course should be run at your average goal race pace. The phase of the slight uphill grade, your pace should slow down a few seconds per mile and runners should not run with too high an effort. Those seconds can then be offset by a slightly faster (but disciplined) pace on the gradual downhill miles. The key is not spending too much effort on the climb or descent so in the last five miles, your legs can finish the race strong.”

Parking was ample and shuttle service to and from the start line was smooth, with very minimal wait time. Aid stations along the course were well-stocked with water, Gatorade, Gu and other assorted snacks. The volunteers at the aid stations were one of the highlights of the race, with their enthusiastic smiles and hilarious t-shirts (volunteers from Banks High School wore “beach body” t-shirts) and encouraging signs (such as, “Run faster, Sasquatch is behind you!”). If there was ever a snafu “behind the scenes” you never knew it.

Volunteer race director Mark Barrett is to be commended for the hours and hours of planning and prep before, during, and after the race. He will be the first to give credit to all of the support he receives from the community, but Barrett does an amazing job captaining this event.

A big thank you to all of the volunteers that helped hand out packets, direct race traffic, serve soup, take photos, cheer on runners and help with all of the other tasks associated with putting on a fantastic race year after year. A special thanks to the Vernonia Track Team (who are currently raising money for their new track), Banks Soccer Club, Vernonia Boosters, Girl Scouts Troop 40107, and the Atkinson Running Club for their service.

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