For six years now, the Willamette Valley Road Runners has hosted the Eola Hills “No Hills” 5K & 10K Run / Walk at Eola Hills Wine Cellar in Rickreall, Oregon. Rickreall is a cozy little town in unincorporated Polk County. Nestled in the hills 15 minutes from Salem, Eola Hills is a beautiful part of the greater Willamette Valley.
Veteran’s Day dawned grey and a bit rainy but by race time, things dried out a bit. My 45 minute drive from Oregon City provided me time to warm up in my car and enjoy a cup of coffee. By the time we parked at the fairgrounds across the street, the rain started to dissipate, leaving behind a slight breeze. It was chilly, but was going to be a dry race.
Packet pickup was inside the gorgeous and warm tasting room. Indoorswas crowded, but there was enough room to find space to do a few stretches. Veterans participating in the event were honored by a flag sticker on their bib, which I thought was a nice touch.
While one would expect rolling hills of a typical vineyard run, the Eola Hills course was pretty darn flat. The course was a giant “U”, starting at the winery, heading south along the paved path, and then headed west on Orrs Corner Road, and finished with a short trek onto Bowersville Road before turning around. I was a bit nervous as we started out, because the path was so narrow it caused us to bunch up for a few hundred feet. Some runners opted to take to the shoulder of the road to spread out, but for us “slower” runners, things ended up just fine. While it wasn’t a PR for me, I did finish under an hour and enjoyed the fast course.
My one big complaint about the course, was that there were no mile markers or volunteers placed at key distances. However, the volunteers who were one course did a great job of directing the little bit of traffic and keep us all safe.
Post race, the warm and cozy tasting room allowed us to warm up and enjoy a glass of wine, beer or soda. Granola bars and bottles of water were handed out, as well as delicious pizza. My small group and I huddled in the back around some leather couches and tables made out of wine barrels while we listened to the RD announce the winners of the different age groups of the 5K and 10K. Winners were awarded bottles of wine or soda and custom Eola Hills wine glasses as well as a finisher’s medal. Proceeds of the race are shared between Dallas and Central High School track and cross country programs.
If you live in the Willamette Valley area, I highly encourage you to seek out races put on by Willamette Valley Road Runners. To learn more about the club and to see what membership includes, visit their website. Being a member of a running club is great for building community, having instant training partners and allows you to volunteer and support worthy causes.
Harvest time in the Willamette Valley is a lot of fun, especially if you are a wine connoisseur (I’m not, but I do enjoy a good glass of vino) and love to run. If you love to run on flat land, than the Eola Hills “No Hills” race is one you should add to your calendar next year. The winery is definitely a place that I want to return to – and evidently will have plenty of opportunity to do so, with their variety of events.