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One runner’s plan for 2017: how many races are too many races?

The Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon is on Nikki's list ... will it make yours?

The Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon is on Nikki’s list … will it make yours?

Nikki Mueller is a Portland-area runner that Run Oregon is trying to recruit to join our motley crew. An experienced runner and certified Baby Boot Camp instructor, Mueller has two young boys (one of whom is apparently marrying my daughter). I met her a decade ago at a group run and since then we’ve both gotten married, had two kids, and experienced ups and downs in our running. If you love her writing, be sure to post a comment below or like this post on Run Oregon’s Facebook!

So … I just signed up to race the Bridge of the Goddess Half Marathon. It’s not a huge shocker for a runner to sign up for a race. But the race isn’t until September, which is almost a year away. And it’s the third half marathon I’ve signed up for in 2017. Oh, and I’ve also signed up for a FULL marathon in May. And I’m doing the Hood To Coast Relay this summer. Why is my race schedule already so full for next year when 2016 isn’t even over yet? Let me tell you a little about each race. They’re all great races and maybe, just maybe, one might be the right race for you to take the plunge into a longer distance.

The Shamrock Half Marathon – Sunday, March 19th: Anyone who lives in Portland knows about this race. It’s known as much for it’s standard awful weather as it is for being the big run that kicks off race season in Portland. I do this race every year, usually the 15k, but occasionally other distances. It was my first race ever and it’s somehow become my own running tradition to do it, rain or shine. I’ve yet to see that “shine,” and I’ve done it every year since 2005, even walking the Shamrock Stride the two years that I was very pregnant. I did the half marathon distance the year that they added it, my twelfth year running the race. It was miserable. But I was somehow convinced by my friend to go the distance again this year. That’s what happens with this race … you get roped into it by your other running friends.

Every year, I watch the weather forecast and see bucketfuls of rain coming, and I wonder why I’m doing it. The morning of the race, as I listen to it pour outside while I put on my running clothes, I’m filled with a bit of dread. But then I get out there to Waterfront Park and I’m surrounded by all these other runners, braving the same thing I am. I feel like I’m a part of something pretty awesome and then I get excited to have the opportunity while everyone else is home in bed. And Terwilliger Blvd is beautiful. Everyone talks about the hills but it’s worth it. When I’m done running it, I feel like a warrior with puddles in my shoes and drenched clothes. So I’ll be out there again.

The Eugene Marathon – Sunday, May 7th: I’ve run four marathons in my life but they were all before I had kids. I’ve always known I wanted to run at least one more, though I honestly thought I’d wait until my kids were a little older so I could do some of my training while they were in school. The thing is, marathons are expensive, as are a lot of other races these days. This marathon was under $100 which is a real steal these days, and it’s in Eugene, where so many legendary runners get their start. It’s so inspiring. Some of my friends from Sunstone Running Club decided to do this marathon, so I figured it’s now or never. I know I can train with them when the miles get long. No one wants to run a twenty mile training run with no one to talk to. My husband and kids are going to come to Eugene with me to cheer me on and after I rest my legs overnight there, we’ll head to Coos Bay to visit my dad for a few days. So it’s like a built-in vacation. Except I won’t be able to walk because I will be so sore.

Hood To Coast Relay – Friday August 25th thru Saturday August 26th: Again, this is a race I do every year, so long as my regular team makes it through the lottery system to get in, I’ll be there in 2017. I’ve run this postpartum with a breast pump in the van one year, which was not easy. The lull of the pump did put the other runners in the van to sleep in that field in the middle of the night though. This relay has gotten too big and it could be argued that it’s a bit overrated. You can only get in, a YEAR in advance, through a lottery system and you have to take time off from work and get volunteers and vans; and it’s not cheap. Additionally, the van traffic during the race is insane and I can’t tell you how many times I have been running a leg of the race only to pass my van before they get to the exchange at which I’m supposed to hand off to the next runner. It’s a huge cluster-you-know-what, but again, I feel privileged to do it. It’s the biggest relay in the world and people travel from all over to get this opportunity. And it’s basically in our backyard here in Portland.

I love getting to drive up to Timberline Lodge with my team because it’s always a breathtaking backdrop to kick off the journey. And this race is truly about that journey rather than the destination. The beach at the end is pretty cool too, but it’s all about crossing that finish line with the people that you have shared so much with for two very long days and one sleepless night. Most of the people I do HTC with are people I only get to see during the race, as we all have such busy lives now. But they are like family to me after all these years and it takes about two minutes to fall back in line with them. I’m actually running with a different team this year, but I’m still looking forward to it because most of my team has never done it. It’s so exciting to see this relay through the eyes of people who have never experienced it.

Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon – Sunday, September 3rd: I’ve done this race twice. The first year I did it, I was feeling really sluggish on race day and I found out I was pregnant with my first son a week later. I did it again the next year but I was still recovering from having a baby. It’s a really beautiful race out in Wine Country and who doesn’t love the promise of wine after a race? I’m a much stronger runner now than I was when I did it the other times, so I am really wondering how different my experience will be this time around. This is the race I recommend to out-of-towners because this gives them a really awesome experience of what Oregon is like.

Bridge of the Goddess Half Marathon – Saturday, September 16th: This is one of my favorite races. I did it the inaugural year when my second son was four months old. I signed up for it while I was pregnant with him because I felt like I needed a running goal and I really missed running while I was in the later stages of pregnancy. I needed to prove something to myself and my goal was to just finish. I did – and I was very slow  -but I didn’t care. It also turned out to be the last race I would ever run with my best friend, whose knees had gotten so bad at that point that we knew our days out there together might be limited. It was a “Run With Paula” event and these races are so well organized that I knew we wouldn’t be disappointed. We weren’t. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and the race starts on the Bridge of The Gods. It was a gorgeous start as well as an outstanding course. It was also inspiring being surrounded by all those other women. Really cute race swag too. Again, I am a much faster runner now than I was then, so I just really want to see how far I can push it for this next one.

I’m positive I will sign up for more races next year, but these are the big ones for now. Maybe I’ll see you out there.

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About Nikki Mueller (74 Articles)
I'm a mother of two boys who is a certified group exercise instructor for Baby Bootcamp in SW Portland. I have two young boys and am actively involved in their co-operative preschool. I led a relatively inactive life throughout my 20's until I discovered the world of fitness and running. I ran my first marathon in 2006 and haven't looked back since.

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