The 2017 Columbia Gorge Marathon and Half Marathon is scheduled for Sunday, October 22, offering runners a wonderful chance to get back into the Gorge. It’s also got more of a laid-back feel than other races of its size, in part because it’s very well-organized and runners don’t have to worry about a thing on race day, and in part because Hood River is just a laid-back town. You even get to sleep in – the early start for the marathon isn’t until 8a, with the regular marathon start at 9a and the half stepping off at 9:30a.
This race does not run on any trails that have been impacted by recent fires in the area – it runs on the Historic Columbia River Highway, including through the Twin Tunnels, between Hood River and The Dalles, passing through the town of Mosier along the way. Finishers will receive a race beanie and a locally-designed finisher medal. The finish line will offer participants hot apple cider, a taco bar, and fruit from local orchards.
The start for the marathon is not at the staging area at the Event Site, where the half starts. Shuttles will run between the staging area and the start every 10 minutes starting at 7a until 8:40a. Those lucky enough to have a ride to the start can be dropped off at the Mark O. Hatfield trailhead – the start of the Historic Columbia River Highway, which is closed to vehicular traffic along this stretch. If you are getting dropped off, though, your driver won’t be able to park and watch the race start – there is no parking at the start area. There will be a bag check at the start of the marathon.
The courses for the Columbia Gorge Marathon and Half Marathon can be viewed online here. The marathon is a simple out-and-back running east towards The Dalles. Near mile 5 (on the way out) and 18 (on the way back), the course runs through the town of Mosier, where volunteers will be positioned to keep you on course. There are 7 aid stations on the course, all of which (except the one at the turnaround) will be passed twice. Porta-potties will also be on the course at frequent intervals.
Half Marathon information
The biggest difference between the marathon and the half (besides the 13.1 mile distance variance) is that the half starts at the Event Site (right on the river) instead of at the trailhead. This makes the first mile of the half relatively flat, and the 2nd one quite a stinker, climbing about 400 feet. There are three aid stations on course, one of which is at the turn-around, for a total of 5 opportunities to rehydrate. There are porta-potties on the half marathon course as well.
There is also a 2-person Half Marathon option, where one leaves from the start and meets their teammate in Mosier. The 2nd runner will drive to Mosier and the 1st runner will bring their car back to the finish line. There’s one other special category in the half marathon – the Ruffwear Dog Leg Half Marathon. This is going to start after other half marathon participants have started and is only for runners/walkers with dogs who are quite capable of going for 13.1 miles.
Elevation on the course
The Columbia Gorge Marathon and Half Marathon are primarily challenging because of the initial climb at the start of the races. After that, there are still quite a few inclines and declines; I’m not going to say it’s not a hard race. But any marathon or half marathon is hard in its own way – running 26.2 miles on perfectly flat pavement takes its toll too – but the rollers on this course at least offer some variation. And the last few miles, you know, are going to be downhill.
If you want to review the elevation charts, click on the link above for the courses and then click on the course for the distance you’re running. You’ll get a detailed map that you can zoom in on, a map with the aid stations and porta-potties marked, and of course, the elevation maps. I will add, however, that a lot of times, the elevation profiles look worse on a monitor than the views you’ll enjoy actually running the race.
Registration for the Columbia Gorge Marathon and Half Marathon increases on Friday, September 15, so don’t delay! If you sign up before then, the marathon is $105 (after that, it’s $115). The half marathon is currently $90 (jumping $5 on Saturday), and the half marathon relay is $105 (total), but increases to $115 on Saturday.
Our blog has had to announce way too many Columbia Gorge race cancellations this summer, thanks to the Eagle Creek Fire which was still burning as of this posting near Cascade Locks. Many runners and hikers are heartbroken by the damage being done to what many consider one of Oregon’s most beautiful natural areas, but getting back to the trail and supporting the organizations that maintain it – like Friends of the Columbia Gorge – are important ways we can help the Gorge. And you can tour all the beauty of the Gorge at the 2017 Columbia Gorge Marathon and Half Marathon on October 22.