I’m certainly not new to running, not a stranger to half marathons, and have adventured in Bend before, but this event featured some of my favorite things about each of those and had everything a road runner could want. It was a perfect, blue bird day – sunny and gorgeous, but cool enough for running (take your pick between pants or shorts, long sleeved or tank top).
The organization was top-notch: pre-race email with all the information clear and concise, easy parking (though it was on residential streets, it was easy to find a spot close by), race day porta potty line shorter than 3 minutes, music, food, beer, awesome swag… the works. It was an exciting morning – the marathon distance already gone, half marathoners lining up, 10K and 5K runners milling about, families enjoying the park, and volunteers / spectators / supporters galore. I was ready to run (though it was admittedly tough leaving my AirBnB view that morning)!
I was in the second wave of the half marathon and we took off promptly at 8:45 AM. We ran through downtown first, past a line of people like we were a parade (albeit a slightly boring one). High fives from the sidewalks, cow bells, supportive signs…it felt like a big-time event!
After leaving downtown, we got our first peek at the Deschutes River as we ran through Miller’s Landing Park, crossed the river, then doubled back on the other side through Columbia and McKay Parks making our way past the other Deschutes (Brewery, that is). The smell of hops up the hill was unmistakable!
Eventually we headed out of town, paralleling the Cascade Lakes Highway (and at one point running on the shoulder of the highway) before heading back toward the city limits. This course had many more hills than I expected (my Strava reports ~900 ft over the course), but the reward at the top was worth it: panorama views featuring Bachelor, Broken Top, South Sister and to the north, Mt. Jefferson, snow-capped and dramatic against the cloud-less sky. Spring in the high desert did not disappoint.
Besides the incredible views, the course had many aid stations along the way, featuring water and electrolyte drinks, gels, gummy bears, and tiny Skout bars. There were endless volunteers, all so energetic, positive, and helpful. Also volunteering were members of the National Guard at the road crossings, which was quite special. They were also encouraging and supportive and I thank everyone who spent their day watching us all shuffle by!
Back in the city proper, we ran through a few neighborhoods, crossed the pedestrian bridge, and trudged up the hill to the finish line at Drake Park. Coming down the chute, I could see the clock tell me it wasn’t a half marathon PR, but that I met my goal time that I promised my niece. Ever the millennial, I stopped with my (seriously sweet, heavy-duty) medal for a selfie to fire off to her!
My only downside about this event is that the post-race snacks are just at the end of the finish line and with volunteers sorting out the finisher’s, it was difficult to both find my family who couldn’t really fit inside the finishing area and get food. I prioritized finding them to recap and then couldn’t be bothered fighting my way back to the food tent. Luckily the Skout After Party provided plenty of sustenance, so it was a non-issue, but I was hoping for a cookie! The line for free beer from Deschutes was longer than the Jamba Juice line, so I grabbed a smoothie and found a spot in the sun to sit and listen to the cheers for the other running coming in.
Bend is a special place and the Bend Half Marathon was a great event to end my weekend getaway. It’s not an easy one, but year after year we recommend it – go see why!