I’ve been semi-retired from half marathons for the past couple years, but a convergence of factors convinced me to sign up for the Lincoln City Half Marathon: The race’s excellent reputation, a chance to spend the weekend at Salishan, and some recent solid longer training runs. I figured it wouldn’t be the fastest half I’d ever run, but if I paced it intelligently I could survive, and the course would be pleasant.
My friend and I arrived at the race site at Taft High School where friendly and efficient volunteers helped with parking, registration, and packet pickup. A nice indoor area at the top of stands kept us warm and sheltered as we picked up our race packets, which included nice looking long-sleeved tech shirts and coupons for the Lincoln City Factory Stores.
We took a few minutes to decide what to wear in the cold drizzle, and then walked over to the starting line on the track. After the National Anthem, we got some final instructions, then set off at the sound of the air horn. Right on cue, a heavy hailstorm began to pelt us as we took a 3/4 lap circuit of the track and headed out onto the roads.
I don’t usually wear a jacket during a race, but I was glad I had opted for my Outdoor Research Centrifuge Hoody, as I pulled the hood up over my running hat. The extra layer kept my head warm as the small round ice pellets bounced off. I put my head down, pushed myself forward into the headwind, and settled into a comfortable pace through town. The course led us past large farm fields with cattle grazing contentedly, and I looked ahead to see fellow Run Oregon blogger and two-time champion Brian Bernier gradually disappearing into the distance up the road.
Soon we were on the main section of the course, on the road paralleling Schooner Creek, and I followed the small pack of runners several meters ahead. The road curved gently along the edge of the valley, with some mild rolling hills. The hail eased up, and I calculated I was in 7th place. But I wasn’t concerned with time or place; I was satisfied just maintaining a comfortable and sustainable pace.
As I began to warm up (in both senses of the word), I gradually closed the gap on the runners ahead of me, and began to pass them one by one. I split between the pair in 3rd and 4th, and around the 4.5 mile mark I found myself easing past the last of the non-Brian runners and moved into 2nd place. The weather brightened temporarily and I lowered my hood and concentrated on the miles ahead.
Since it was an out-and-back course, I focused on completing the 6.5+ miles to the turnaround. Somehow, psychologically, I figured once I started retracing my steps I could hang on and count down the remaining miles in familiar territory, and the distance wouldn’t seem too daunting. Plus, although it didn’t seem like much of a climb, I knew we were running upriver, and that meant the second half of the race would be mostly downhill.
I also knew from Brian’s Run Oregon posts that at the far end of the course the road turned to gravel. I was looking forward to that to break things up and provide a sense of progress. Eventually, I came to an aid station, rounded a corner, and reached the gravel section. A minute or so into the gravel the sun broke out for a brief visit. The dirt and gravel seemed to go on a long time, but the surface was softened by wet snow and hail, and it helped my concentration to seek out smoother “lanes” and tire tracks as I made my way toward the the turnaround.
Finally, I saw Brian coming back, and knew I was getting close. I rounded another corner and saw a group of volunteers and a a line of encouraging signs posted at the side of the road. I reached the turnaround and slowed for cup of water. It’s nice to be near the front in a race, but it also means that a lot of people are hot on your heels, so I was a little concerned when I saw how close runners were in pursuit. I knew I would have to keep working hard to hold onto my place. I was concentrating on negotiating the gravel when I looked up and saw my friend cruising up the hill. I cheered her on, and she responded with a big smile. That gave me boost, and suddenly I didn’t care so much about time or place. I was just happy to be out there, enjoying the course and the experience.
As I neared the end of the gravel section, I was simultaneously looking forward to the return of the smooth pavement yet realizing I would miss how the rough surface had been forcing me to focus. I hit the pavement and set about working on reestablishing an efficient stride. I noticed the downhill more on the way back, and the miles clicked off. I was still running by myself, and I didn’t look back, gaining my only clues about the size of the gap by the intervals between cowbells rung by the aid station volunteers.
Some more hail began to fall, and another headwind picked up. I put my hood back up but the wind threatened to blow it off, so I put it back down. The cool air was actually kind of refreshing, and besides I still had a hat on anyway.
Coming into town, my memories of the course were a little vague due to the hail at the start. I didn’t remember a turn up a hill, though I was waved on by volunteers at the intersection. I trusted them and hoped I was on course, but I was relieved when another volunteer waved me onto the track for the final 3/4 lap stretch to the finish. I saw a runner in yellow behind me closing in, so I put on a kick as more heavy hail began to fall. I rounded the final curve and pushed hard down the straightaway to the finish arch, pleased with my pacing, and relieved to have held on without fading over the last few miles.
I gratefully accepted my finisher’s medal and headed straight to the heated room at the top of the stands. There was a nice view from the stadium of the final stretch of road and of the track, so after I warmed up a little, I ventured back out to brave the cold and keep an eye out for my friend. She wasn’t sure if she could break 2:00, and I thought she might be wet, cold, and tired, but soon she came tearing around the track and crossed the line with big smile, finishing several minutes under the two-hour mark.
We got our results tickets from Eclectic Edge, a cup of Mo’s clam chowder, and salt water taffy, and waited for the awards. Brian and the 1st place woman received large colorful glass floats, and the top three finishers in each age group earned nice ribbons. Despite the cold and the dramatic precipitation, the Lincoln City Half Marathon (and 10k) was well-organized, with a nice course and a friendly, fun atmosphere. It’s everything a small town race should be!
Results can be found HERE.