I sometimes forget how lucky I am to live in Oregon, where we have so many beautiful views and ample opportunities for memorable races to experience. The Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon is a great example of this, and one of my favorite races. This is the third time I’ve run it, and each time I am reminded at the top of each winding hill that the view makes every step worth it to get there.
The night before the race this year, I was fortunate enough to attend a pre-race dinner at Left Coast Cellars in Rickreall, OR. Honestly, I’d never heard of the winery or the town of Rickreall, but I’m glad I know about it now. The winery is a beautiful, sprawling piece of heaven, and the wine is pretty amazing too. We enjoyed dinner outside and I was seated next to a couple from Florida who had come to Oregon specifically to run this race. This was yet another reason to feel honored to have the Oregon Wine Country in my own backyard, at least compared to so many people who have traveled so far to experience it for themselves.
After a relaxing dinner and a warm welcome from the race organizers, we bought a couple bottles of wine and headed home so I could prepare myself for the 7:00 AM start time at Stoller Family Estates the next day. That alarm came much too early, but it was well worth it to see the gorgeous sun rise from another stunning winery. Also the fact that it was to be a hot day made everyone grateful to hit the pavement in cooler temps.
“Gently rolling hills” is what runners should expect for a race out in Wine Country. Every runner is different, but I personally will take hills in a beautiful location over flat, boring roads any day. Around mile 9, there was a rooster crowing and there were occasional wafts of manure, but the sweeping vision of the vineyards, not to mention the blood red sun casting some gorgeous shade over the fields beat the typical city views for a change.
Everything felt great until mile 10, when my body was wanting to stop and enjoy the wine that was waiting somewhere at the finish line. Someone on the sidelines told me I was doing a great job and I was almost there. 3 miles to go is not “almost there” for me, even when I’m running a full marathon, so I just tried to smile and keep trucking. Then I hit the gravel road, which had a steep climb. Running on gravel when your feet are already tired seems like a cruel joke, but I knew that every step forward was one step closer to victory. I could hear the Finish Line celebration just before mile 12 and that pushed me forward. The final stretch through the town of Carlton is all uphill, but when I could see finishers walking toward me, I knew I was almost there. And then, there I was, rounding the final corner and hearing my name. Success!
After I’d cooled down a bit and admired my medal with the hook on the end to hold my complimentary wine glass, it was time to try out some wine. A lot of races are pricey these days, but this race will get you a shirt, a medal, a wine glass, and wine from over 20 different wineries. It would be easy to get pretty loaded in the hot sun after a race, but I took it easy so I wouldn’t pass out later. It was a great after-party!
Destination Races puts on a great race. They always make sure all of the race participants are well taken care of, and I would recommend this race to anyone. The Wine Country Half Marathon is hard, but that makes the victory that much sweeter. And at least there are pretty things to look at while your quads are screaming.