I really didn’t know what to expect when I registered for the 2016 Timberline Half Marathon. I mean, I did my research on the course map, aid stations, elevation chart, and the driving directions, but I still didn’t have a clue what was going to be in store.
As I left Salem on Saturday, traffic seemed to thin out with each rural town I passed through. By the time I passed through Woodburn, Molalla, Estacada, and Colton, I felt alone on the highway surrounded by overcast skies and green outdoor beauty. Paved roads turned to gravel and my excitement ratcheted up a notch as Timothy Lake got closer and closer. Even when I got to the lake itself, I expected a small field as other cars seemed few and far between. However, as I turned into the Clackamas Historic Ranger Station, I was greeted with cars lining the street shoulders for at least a half mile and smiling runners (380 total between the two races) getting ready to take the trails.
Rogue Multi-Sport clearly knew what they were doing. Music was already echoing through the trees, porta-potties were plentiful, and (as I came to find later) the nearly 15 mile course was marked like a champ. What – you’re confused about a 15 mile half marathon? Rogue made it very clear that the full was going to be 26.2 and the half was going to be 14.4 – but I saw GPS’ ranging from 14.4 up to 15.3. Whatever the distance, I didn’t want the event to ever really end.
The course was magical with a combination of terrains. We started off downhill on some dirt trails before a very brief mini-scrambling section over larger rocks. After that, the rest of the race was completed on a very gently rolling, well-manicured, and superbly marked trail. We got to run in forest settings, over wooden bridges, along the lakeside beaches of Timothy Lake, and even across the dam itself. Passing was a challenge over the duration of the course, but could be done with tactical maneuvers and gentle and friendly requests. However, I suspect that most runners settled in to a pace where passing was done relatively infrequently.
There were opportunities where I just wanted to stop and take some pictures – yet somehow resisted. Mild temperatures, overcast skies, and some periods of very light rain contributed to absolutely ideal trail running conditions, yet didn’t offer the amazing panoramas with Mt. Hood that it could have. I guess it was a worthwhile tradeoff nonetheless.
After the event, there were tons of great refueling that catered to all kinds of runners – from those who want some fruit and granola bars, to those who feel the need to splurge on chips and cookies. There were on-site massages afterwards (available for a fee) that I immediately regretted not taking advantage of after I left.
The whole experience was completed again by an additional 140 runners on Sunday (sans Marathon), this time (according to Instagram pictures) bringing on beautiful blue skies and a clear Mt. Hood backdrop.
Now that I know what the Timberline Marathon and Half are all about, I have absolutely zero issues with recommending it to those looking for a challenge in the forested beauty of the Mt. Hood Wilderness. They could make the “half marathon” 17 miles next year and I’d be even more ecstatic to join!