The Cottage Grove Half Marathon, hosted by Oregon Trail Runs, (our friends behind the great events at Alsea Falls, Mary’s Peak, & Hell of the Northwest) was held on Saturday, April 7, 2018. It was the 3rd annual event and for the third time, Run Oregon was there to participate!
The morning started at Bohemia Park in downtown Cottage Grove (which has ample parking, even for the late arrivers) and runners were treated to full-on, soaked-to-the-core, this-is-your-life-now type of rain. Relentless, heavy drops all the way from Portland, all through packet pickup, and the entire bus ride to the start line. Luckily there were ample porta-potties both at Bohemia Park (technically the finish line) and later at the start line, as everyone was keen to sit on the bus rather than wait in the rain. After the brief drive to Dorena School, the buses unloaded and we waited in an open shed until race time, hoping to stay dry for as long as we could. About 5 minutes before we took off, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and we were all instantly overheating. Typical unpredictable PNW weather. I had to laugh.
This event is 100% on the Row River Trail (rhymes with ‘cow’). We started on it, ran 13.1 miles to town, and that was it. It was easily one of the most beautiful road running events I’ve ever done – wonderfully scenic past Dorena Lake, through the trees, over bridges, passing pastures of horses and crossing rivers. It’s also a gradual downhill, so it’s fast! I made a friend with a woman exactly my pace and the miles ticked away effortlessly.
There were a few of times where the trail crossed a main road or intersection but I was never made to stop and the cars waited patiently (some were honking in support from the road adjacent to us at one point..!) and the volunteers were happy and helpful. The entire course was flawlessly marked and staffed where appropriate.
Around mile 9 I parted ways with my running buddy and faced the headwind solo. The final 4 miles were a bit of a slog, as the wind provided a challenging resistance on my increasingly tired legs. I passed an aid station where 75% of the volunteers were elementary school children cheering on the local teachers who were running – it was a boost to everyone’s morale as they sweetly told us “just 3.25 more miles!” while handing out bananas and tiny cups of electrolyte drinks. With every race, no matter the distance, I am infinitely grateful for the volunteers and their tenacity.
As the end drew near, the spectators along the course increased. Families with signs of support, music blasting from boom boxes, and eventually, the finish line. While I didn’t meet my goal time, it was another run on the books without pain from my recent injury so I hope to return next year for a better effort after a winter of proper training. Luckily the rain held off for my entire race, but had it not, there were plenty of tents to huddle under to grab some food, drinks, and enjoy the post-race festivities.
The finisher’s medals are pretty sweet as well – classic, with a built-in bottle opener, so keep it somewhere handy and think of the gorgeous scenery with every popped top!
This is an event that repeatedly comes highly recommended from us here at Run Oregon. Next year’s event will be on September 14, 2019. Mark your calendars – you don’t want to miss this one!