Race Preview: 2016 Willamette Valley Marathon & Keizer Iris Runs

The Willamette Valley Marathon & Keizer Iris Runs are my local runs. Not even Salem, just a few miles down the road, has its own marathon. Keizer sits just north of the Capitol city and has the yearly Iris Festival, as well as a lot of quiet country roads (perfect for running) just outside of city limits. Add in that there are 5 different distances for serious runners and families alike, and you have a great spot for a weekend of running. There have been some changes to the event over the years, due to the city's growth. When Keizer Station (the big mall just off of I-5 near the baseball stadium) was just getting off the ground, the festival and races took place there. As that area has filled in, all events have shifted to downtown Keizer. The course maps have been the same for a few years now. Saturday's shorter races take place on the closed off main drag of River Road and are out and backs.  I participated in the 2015 5k and had this to say:

This distance is ran just prior to the Iris Festival Parade on the main street in Keizer – River Road. For the past few years, the start line for all the races has been just off of the River Road/Cherry Avenue intersection, which is where the festival booths, rides, and games are set up. The road is completely closed to traffic and the course is a series of out and backs. Once runners enter River Road, there is turn south for a half mile or so, before turning and heading north on River Road. After a longer stretch, runners turn once more to head south and finish back at the start. It’s simple, straightforward, pretty fast. Even though there were only two turns, each was met with enthusiastic and encouraging volunteers. It would have been easy enough to just lay a cone out there and call it good, but I definitely appreciated the human touch.

While the race was relatively low-key, it was chip timed. My GPS had a finish distance of 2.96 miles and I heard grumblings of a short course from other runners as well. It may be worth a re-measure as adding distance would be a simple fix. The post-race was great, as all runners received a medal, shirt, iris, and a nice pancake and sausage breakfast. My daughter wolfed down 4 pancakes on her own, so you KNOW it was delicious. While I don’t typically run 5k’s anymore unless they are close, this is one that is well done and does a great job combining with a day of activities in the city.

Sunday’s longer races start in the same location before heading through some quiet neighborhoods. Runners will then head onto Windsor Island Road (a really quiet rural road). There are typically some crops growing and a few locations with flowers from what I remember. The 10k and half will turn around before the short and challenging “suicide hill”. Marathoners are not so lucky and take it head on as the course merges on to Wheatland Road around mile 7. Willamette Mission State Park, home to a few great races in the Spring, will also be passed by near mile 10. All in all, about 20+ miles will be in quiet rural farmland with great views. Though the half has been around, in some form, since 1979, this will be only the 3rd full distance. I am hoping that the numbers will increase, but it has historically been a tiny field (15 runners in 2015).

Following the Sunday races stick around the Keizerfest Tent for drinks, pancakes, and tunes. Willamette Valley Craft Breweries will be offering tastings, and all participants will have a bib ticket that can be turned in for a free drink. From Thursday-Sunday of that week, there are also Carnival rides and Midway at the festival.

Willamette Valley Marathon & Keizer Iris Runs (Keizer)

When: Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22


  • 915am – 5k & 3k


  • 7am – Full
  • 8am – Half and 10K

Where: Corner of Manbrin and River Road
Register: Online here;
3K – $25
5K- $30
10K- $50
Half Marathon- $60
Full Marathon- $70


About Matt Rasmussen (1568 Articles)
Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching the Olympics, sampling craft beers, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.
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