Visions of Shamrocks: Run Oregon remembers back to Shamrock Runs of yesteryear


As I mentioned in my last post, the Portland Shamrock Run definitely makes memories each and every year. For me, my memories include waking up super early to drive up from Salem and immediately being hit with a sense of community that you just don’t get with all the races out there. As thousands upon thousands of runners dressed in green descend on downtown Portland, it’s always makes me happy to be an Oregonian.

I thought it would be fun to ask some of our other bloggers about their memories of this storied race.

Nikki: I’ve run (or walked the two years I was pregnant) some distance of The Shamrock every year since my first ever race, which was the Shamrock in 2005. All of my memories sort of bleed together at this point, but I can say that being cold and often wet is the common theme. One year, my husband and my running partner’s husband decided to come support us from the sidelines. We got up that morning and it was raining in sheets outside, and my husband said “do you think the race will be cancelled?” It was one of the funniest things he has ever said to me, and it was very obvious to me that he didn’t know Portland runners, or the Shamrock for that matter. I told him, “just wait, you’ll see.” We got downtown and there was a sea of runners standing out in it. It honestly makes me really proud to be a runner. People will come out in droves for races. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or even snowing. People will show up. It’s one of the things I love about Portland races – especially this one. Every year, I walk back to the car soaked to the skin, but I always feel proud of myself for doing it, and it’s even better when you see everyone else doing it too.

Brian: I have been attending this race for years, and find it hard to remember specific days.  I have done all the distances but the half, even doubling up on races when the timing allowed. Some of my favorite memories are running it one year with my sister, coming through mile one in the 5K at very close to 4:50 and a couple of years back setting a 15K pr. My favorite way to experience this huge, rambunctious event is in the 15K, starting several blocks back and meandering through the crowd before pushing it hard up Terwillinger.

Geli: I have run the Shamrock Run every year since 2009. One year the weather was especially gnarly, and after a sunny start, and a rainy climb up Broadway, the long climb up Terwilliger Blvd was rewarded not only by the bagpipers in front of the ChartHouse, but also by snowflakes that that summit!

Drew: At the request of a good friend who lives in Portland, I ran the Shamrock 15K in 2012. An important note: this good friend is an old drinking buddy who was trying to get into shape through running. The night before the race we stayed up until 1am drinking heavy beers and reminiscing. I remember telling him we should get to bed several times only for us to laugh it off and keep on talking. We got up at about 6am, both hating the fact we had stayed up so late. Between the house and the starting line, my friend chickened out of the 15K and chose to run the 5K with his wife. I had not come over to slog through a 5K with 20,000 people, so I sucked it up and lined up for the race I had entered.

I actually ran fairly well for nearly the entire race, finishing slightly faster than I had expected (it was only my 4th race ever). The trouble was that the beer had caught up to my stomach by mile 9 so that when I crossed the finish line, the beer was done being shaken violently for an hour and was soon all over the sidewalk of Naito Parkway. And yes, I opted out of the salmon chowder. Still a great memory though!

Joe: My favorite Shamrock Run memory is from the 15k in 2002. I was running well that year, and started off the race pretty aggressively, trying to stay with a pack of familiar Portland area speedsters. About a mile or so into the race I sensed another runner coming up on my shoulder and sticking close. I glanced over and caught a fleeting glimpse of a small, short-haired figure running strongly and easily beside me.

At first I had no idea who the new addition to the pack was. Most athletes look bigger to me on television, so I didn’t recognize her right away, but several blocks later I realized it was Marla Runyan, the world-class runner from Eugene!

As the pack began to string out and we headed up the Broadway hill, I noticed Runyan was consistently running close to the side of the street, right next to the curb. I remembered that she was legally blind, and realized that she was maintaining a line that allowed her to see where she was going and stay on course.

By the time we started up Terwilliger, the pack had broken up completely, and I found myself running alongside one of the nation’s most celebrated young runners. We exchanged encouragement, and occasionally she would ask me questions about the course, like how much longer the climb continued, and if there were many turns coming up.

By the time we crested the Terwilliger hill and started back down toward Barbur, she was starting to pull away from me, so I wished her luck, told her it was mostly downhill to the finish, and encouraged her to kick it in strongly. She ran along the fog line on Barbur to keep her bearings, and a couple of times she started to turn down a side street. Whenever I saw her begin to veer off course, I gathered as much breath as I had left and yelled ahead to her “Stay straight!”

Partly in a general effort to finish my own race well and partly because I would have hated to see Runyan go astray, I was really pushing my limits over the final miles. Still, she kept pulling farther and farther ahead. But luckily she was able to stay on course all the way down Front Avenue to the finish, winning the women’s race handily, and giving me some great memories of running with a future Olympian!

About Matt Rasmussen (1575 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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