I haven’t run the Cascade Half Marathon since 2014, and was happy to reconnect with this great early year winter race this past weekend. The race is an out-and-back on supremely quiet country roads in rural Turner – a small country town just SE of Salem. It’s inexpensive (only $45) and is well-supported for a small-mid sized event.
The day kicked off at Cascade High School, and despite the high school parking, it’s not the biggest of education centers so the parking lots are spread out and smaller than the big giant schools we are used to in the city. Even with this, volunteers were guiding cars seamlessly to the appropriate locations. Packet pick-up and warm-up was in the gym, where there was plenty of space to relax or stretch and even a variety of bathroom locations within the halls of the school. A pre-race bathroom stop (or two), inside and warm, is an underrated feature for winter races.
That being said, the weather was actually not all that bad. It was on the chilly side (43 degrees at start time), but no precipitation at all. Cascade Halves of years past have seen some monsoons, snow, and thick heavy fog, but this year’s event was dry and overcast – with a gentle fog over the surrounding country landscape. Eclectic Edge got us lined up and out on to the roads without any delay. 206 half runners (followed shortly thereafter by 163 10k and 52 two-milers) took to the flat streets for the miles that lie ahead.
Country road races can be found as peaceful and calming by some, and boring by others. There are some periods of long straight stretches, but there is definitely enough diversity to keep things interesting. In fact, I counted upwards of 30 turns along the way. As it was my first half in 2+ months, my goal was to keep things at a manageable pace (8:25-8:30 miles). I ended up doing the first few miles just under 8, but planned on settling in over the long haul. That all changed when I settled in a step-for-step pace with a few women at about mile 5 and we continued at about a 7:50 pace the rest of the way. I later found out that one of them was a Strava follower of mine (hey Stacey!), which was fun to chat about after the fact. After the race, results were immediately available and we headed to the lunchroom for chicken noodle soup, rolls, cookies, and coffee – all wonderfully tasty and welcome after 13+ miles.
I shouldn’t wait so long for my next Cascade Half. It’s such an enjoyable early year race and has just about everything you could ask for in a race its size. From a great and unique location, to wonderful support all around (pre- and post-race and along the course as well), it’s really top-notch.