The problem with running a lot is that you tend to take races for granted sometimes. After logging many miles in the last few months, I was looking at running the 2018 Silver Falls Half Marathon as “just” another race, nothing I couldn’t do pretty easily, nothing I needed to take very seriously, nothing major. The day before, I ran an easy 10.5 miles with my friend around the neighborhood as well as a 5k Fun Run with my husband. I had a few beers the night before and didn’t put much thought into preparing for it.
Sunday arrived, and I was happy that it was Daylight Savings, as the extra hour of sleep was something I was grateful for. I got geared up and headed out into the rain. I kept waiting for it to let up, but it never really did. Me and two friends made the long journey to Silver Falls and then I started getting nervous, as I do before any race, whether it be a 5k or a 50k. Still, I felt confident that my body would carry me through this journey.
And it did. As it should, because I had run a 50k only a few short weeks beforehand. But I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, because it wasn’t. It felt good for about the first 8 miles, but then I started getting really tired. I even had to walk on some of those hills. I felt short of breath and depleted of energy. There were STAIRS on the course. Lots of them. Like a million of them. Stairs? What the what!? The terrain was rocky and there was mud. A lot of mud, in fact. In the end, it was not an easy race. It was one of my slowest Half Marathons in a long time.
But it was also my favorite Half Marathon EVER. I have run a lot of half marathons in a lot of beautiful locations, 20 at least by now. A lot of them have been memorable for a lot of reasons, and many have been incredibly pretty. But there’s a reason that the Silver Falls Trail Races sell out. This is the most scenic race I’ve ever run. In case you don’t know about the course, you get to run underneath some tremendous waterfalls. The entire park is spectacular, but if you’ve never seen those falls, you are really missing out. It’s truly stunning. Unfortunately, my phone died before I could get many pictures, but I’m guessing my camera would not have given this course the justice that it deserves in real life. Besides, it’s my opinion that you should really run it so you can see for yourself what I’m talking about.
The rain didn’t let up until after we’d started running, but it wasn’t terribly cold. It was about 51 degrees, which could have been so much worse in November. We hung out in the car before the race took off, but there were tents everywhere we could have used if we weren’t feeling a little lazy. Luckily, the parking lot is very close to the starting line. After a couple sprints around the parking lot and some hot coffee (THANK YOU to Silver Falls Coffee Co for this one, you saved me!!) our wave started off on time. There were only 2 waves and they were 15 minutes apart, but it was a smart move on the race organizer’s part. This is a very popular race that, as previously mentioned, sells out, and there are areas on the course that are single track only. There was never a point on the course where I was not surrounded by other runners, but it wasn’t wall to wall elbows in my ribs either.
Many trail runs will take you on journeys over tree roots, but the terrain on this race is mostly rocks, mud, and of course the millions of leaves. It would be easy to fall in many places if you weren’t paying attention, but that’s the case with any trail run that I’ve experienced. Thankfully, I didn’t wipe out anywhere on the course, even when I got to the muddy downhill at the end. There were large mud puddles you couldn’t avoid and it’s a race you’ll be guaranteed to get dirty and wet for. If you do the half marathon, it’s the day after the full marathon, the 50k, and the 7 miler, so you’ll have all that mud and dirt that was kicked up the day before to contend with.
Around mile 10, I was passed by a guy wearing Vibram 5 Finger Shoes and I couldn’t believe the ease at which he traveled. However, due to my too-lax approach to the race, I hadn’t really had any water or nutrition at that point and was feeling pretty depleted of energy and stupid for not taking the advice I would give any other runner about how you can’t take a road trip without any gas, so to speak. The aid stations were well equipped with all sorts of options for food and drink, and I was impressed given how some races offer very little for the shorter distances. I downed some electrolyte drink and water and started feeling better immediately. The last few miles went by easily, and I almost fell going down a slick, muddy hill on the way to the finish but caught myself and avoiding twisting an ankle or falling on my butt.
After the race, there was a results tent printing out the results, a whole bunch of hot food to eat including delicious veggie chili and bread, and a fire to warm your wet body against. More coffee too! There were also raffle winners (I scored a bottle opener,) and of course the finishers medals were well earned that day.
This was a very organized race. It was well marked, which is important to this directionally-challenged trail runner. I could hear the aid station workers rooting us on from far away due to the echoes of the forest and their super encouraging cheers.
I cant wait to run this race again next year. Register early! You won’t regret it. (editor’s note: registration opens on August 1, 2019 at 8am!)