If there is a race I am best fit to preview, it would be the Willamette Valley Marathon in Salem, a second year event coming back to the Capitol City. You see, I work right downtown near the capitol building and consistently (i.e. 4-5 days/week) run along some form of this event’s course. There is a reason why I can continue to run the same paths over and over – because it’s flat and beautiful, and now there is a race to capture it all.
Both longer races start in front of the Oregon State Capitol and run through downtown Salem to the Willamette River before taking runners through 3 different parks: Riverfront Park, Wallace Marine Park, and Minto-Brown Island Park – each with its own unique scenery and feel.
I ran this last year and had this to say on the starting portion:
The race start was staged on the mall in front of the State Capitol building. There was plenty of space to stretch, run, and gather before the race took to the streets. Music was playing and a coffee cart was keeping runners caffeinated and warm. It actually hasn’t been all that long since Salem started closing some streets to traffic for running events, but I’m thrilled to see this happening with a little greater frequency. Personally, it was quite fun to race this course. The crazy part is that I run some portion of this entire course every day. It had a different vibe to it, however, and I never got bored, even though I knew every turn like the back of my hand. As we ran through downtown Salem, I smiled to myself at just how awesome the city looked, and thought that, if I had never been here before, it would make me want to return and explore.
The half and full will then head over the Union Street Bridge and into Wallace Marine Park for a quick loop.
Within a mile we were inside Riverfront Park, the main park in Salem that sits alongside the Willamette River. A quick snaking through it spit us out near the Union Street Pedestrian Bridge, which we crossed to enter the second park – Wallace Marine. Here we entered the first and only section of bark trails – a quick and peaceful section under a beautiful tree-line canopy. This spot can get pretty soggy in the winter and spring months, so I was happy to see the conditions were runnable.
After circling around the park, we returned to the bridge, went back through a spectator-lined section of Riverfront Park and crossed over the new Peter Courtney Bridge that connects into Minto Brown Park (mile 4.8), the premier running location in the city. Minto-Brown is actually larger than Central Park in New York and has miles and miles of trails, including paved, bark, rock, and dirt.
That’s when runners will the aforementioned Minto-Brown Park, an absolute running gem here in Salem (and really – in the entire region). It’s especially nicer in the later spring, as rains in the winter and fall can cause some flooding challenges.
It’s super flat and the majority of the trails were nicely paved (aside from one gravel part near the end). There was initially a section that put us right alongside the Willamette River. This curled into a great spectator spot – a parking lot that offered shade, river access, a covered picnic area, nearby dog park, port-a-potties (year round), and a kid’s play structure. If you are doing this in subsequent years, your support team should definitely plan on making it here to cheer you on.
Around mile 9, full and half runners will split, with the shorter distance looping back through the park to the finish and the longer distance doing an out-and-back on South River Road – a relatively flat road that will take runners along farmland before returning them back to paved trails in Minto-Brown Island Park and to the finish at Riverfront Park. Just be aware that there will be traffic along this section.
Both courses are 100% paved. The marathon has a total elevation gain of 350 feet, while the half marathon has a gain of just 150 feet. If you would like to participate in this race but just aren’t ready for either of the distances, you can register for the Half Marathon Relay or the new 10k this year (which will spend essentially the entire time in Minto Brown. In the relay, two runners split the half marathon distance with an exchange in the park.
Afterwards, stick around for the Willamette Valley Wine Festival in Riverfront Park, a tented event (great for any weather) for runners and also for those who may want to meet you there afterwards. This will run from 1030a-6p, so you can spend the rest of the afternoon and early evening celebrating your run with 7 of the region’s best wineries! These can be purchased for $15 and comes with 6 tasting tokens.
Date: Sunday, May 19, 2019
Location: Oregon State Capitol (900 Court St NE, Salem)
Time: 9:00 A.M.
- $75 $10k
- $100 Half marathon
- $110 Marathon
- $120 Half Marathon Relay (per team)
Race Website: Click Here