Race Recap: 2016 Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon


The packet pick-up at Evergreen Aviation is pretty impressive, not to mention the fun bibs.

I’m a total no-nonsense runner. I know I’m weird, but I don’t run for the bling or the race shirts. I wish I could say that I run for sheer enjoyment, but that’s not the case either. Running hurts. Yet, like most runners, as soon as I drag myself across one finish line I’m already plotting my next event. It’s been a few years since I’ve run the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon and I have to say I’ve waited a few years too many. With a gorgeous course, a weekend of activities and wine tasting at the finish line, I think I’d say this run is a ‘must do’ for anyone looking for a unique half marathon. Plus, my mom can be proud that I’m a little less low-brow after this event and a little more sophisticated, or at least that’s what I'm going to tell her. 

I remembered three things vividly from the first year I ran it. The sunrise was amazing from Stoller Vineyards (the race start), they really had a wine tasting along the course and there was a section of gravel towards the end.  I was not disappointed by the sunrise this year. Words and my iPhone can’t even come close to depicting the view with the sun coming up and over Mt. Hood. With that view, the port-a-potty line wasn’t so bad. We had a slight delay to make sure the shuttle buses made it to the start, as there had been an accident on Highway 99. It gave me a little more time to ask people around me about the course, which was probably a good and bad thing.

My new running friend, Tiffany Henness, helped me relax.

One of the ladies told me that the majority of the hills were through neighborhoods and once I hit the countryside it would be mostly rollers. For obvious reasons, I was excited to get out of the neighborhoods, but I must say there were a number of homes with people in their yards cheering, holding signs and being all sorts of supportive. They made you feel welcomed, instead of being peeved that a bunch of runners were taking over their streets. I appreciated all the signs from well wishers and mile markers the entire 13.1. I know that for some people the unknown is better, but that’s not me. I like to have my Garmin and mile markers to verify my mileage. Not only was every mile marked, but they were easy to spot from a distance and always gave you something to look forward to.

This event offers a relay option, which I quickly recalled as fresh legs kept bombing past me after their exchange point. I hate the sound of feet coming up behind me, but if that is the worst part of this event, I’d mark it as a success. The only other part of this run that I wasn’t a fan of was the gravel section around Mile 9. I don’t like gravel or dust and even just writing that makes me sound like a Princess. If my boys complained of the same thing, I’d tell them to suck it up. There was maybe a mile of gravel and really it gave me an opportunity to chat with a woman next to me. It’s easy to start a conversation when you’re both shuffling along, thinking the same thing—how much further??

I think the announcer even pronounced my name right.

There were a few paved rollers back to the finish line and it was starting to get hot. Fortunately, there were plenty of aid stations along the way with water and an electrolyte mix to keep us hydrated. After all, no one wanted to finish this run dehydrated with the best part waiting close to the finish line. The last stretch had spectators lining the street, everyone cheering you on. It’ s a fun finish and I love the quaint little town of Carlton, it makes you feel like you’ve traveled back in time. The medals were coaster size, the shirts were fun with a picture of the race start and everyone got a wine glass at the end. Post-race snacks were handed out in a goody bag as you come through the finish line chute and they included hand wipes which I thought was brilliant. So simple, but so needed. I downed some water and cooled off a bit before heading over to the wine tasting.

Trying to ignore my sweaty clothes, I grabbed my wine glass and picked my first stop, Purple Hands Winery. The woman I met along the gravel section raved about it, so I was excited to try it. That enthusiasm quickly faded when I was told they couldn’t start pouring until 9:30am. I laughed to myself at this whole scene, being turned down alcohol before I really had breakfast.  I usually don’t have post-race drinks and giggled as I was kindly turned away, considering it was still early in the morning by most standards for alcohol. I thought about going over and waiting in line for some Tillamook ice cream, but ran into Brian Bernier, another Run Oregon blogger, and caught up on the racing scene. Pour time came and people started lining up at the different wineries. There were about a dozen around the perimeter and tables in the middle. It would be easy to spend a good chunk of the day here, but I really needed a shower and this lightweight can only test so much wine, in the sun, after a run.

My wine glass and medal were waiting at the finish line in Carlton.

This is definitely a half marathon to keep on the radar. If a half marathon is too much, run it with a friend and enjoy the after-party at the finish line. I loved the course, gravel and all. I loved the participants. Everyone I chatted with at the pre-race dinner found me at the finish area and came up to say hi, which tells me this event attracts an especially friendly crowd. That just might be my favorite part. I love the vibe with this event, it’s a challenging 13.1, but worth every mile. The wine tasting at the finish area was just icing on the cake for me. Even if you don’t drink wine (like my new friend from Maryland), this run is pretty dang spectacular. It’s not every day you can run through wine country and celebrate with local wineries at the finish line.

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