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Race Preview: 2019 Columbia Gorge Marathon (Hood River)


If you are looking for a challenging and scenic marathon or half in October, the Columbia Gorge Marathon on Sunday, October 20th may be just right for you. The event starts and ends at the Hood River Event Site, and participants can choose a marathon, half marathon, or half marathon relay. The half marathon distances also allow for dogs to participate with their own chip timing in the “Dog Leg.”

This race is definitely one of the most scenic runs in the area. I was fortunate to run it a few years ago, and even though I was rather undertrained, I enjoyed every minute of it. Both the half marathon and the marathon follow an out-and-back course. The half marathon starts at the Hood River Event Site on the Columbia River (where it also finishes), while the marathon participants catch a shuttle bus to the start at the Mark O. Hatfield Trail head on the Historic Columbia River Highway, which is nearly 3 miles into the half marathon course. Shuttles start at 7am and run until 8:40am for the 9am start. Be sure to give yourself enough time before the race! The marathon start does not have any parking; it is drop-off only. Marathon runners will be able to check their gear at their start after the shuttle ride and then pick it back up at the finish.

The half marathon course starts out running through the streets of Hood River and the somewhat steep access road to the Historic Columbia River Highway. After passing the trailhead that is the marathon starting point, the trail is closed to motor vehicles, and participants can enjoy the beautiful scenery. The leaves are bound to have gorgeous colors, and if the weather cooperates, there will be many breathtaking views of the Columbia River. The entire course is on a paved trail with significantly rolling hills, giving you a total of nearly 1,000 ft elevation gain (and loss). The half marathon turnaround point is just past the Mosier Tunnels, and it doubles as the half marathon relay exchange station. Runners then retrace their steps, and end with a nice downhill through Hood River to the finish line. With a total of five aid station opportunities, you never have to go longer than 2-3 miles before having access to water and aid.

The marathon course starts at the Mark O. Hatfield Trailhead on the Historic Columbia River Highway. Its turnaround point is before the half way point of the race at approximately mile 12. There are 12 aid stations along the way, all of which carry at least water and Gatorade, but several also offer GU energy gels, bananas, or gummy bears. At the end of the race, marathoners run past their start line and take the same course as the half-marathoners through Hood River to the finish, resulting in a 1,884 ft elevation gain and a 2,155 ft loss.

At the finish, athletes can recover with El Rio Burrito, hot soup and homemade bread from Odell baker Lou Gehrig. Apples and pears from local orchards will also be offered.

There are several options for packet pickup: First, on Friday, Oct 18th, 3-7pm at Foot Traffic NE Portland; Second, on Saturday, Oct 19th, 3-7pm at Shortt Supply in Hood River; and finally on race day starting at 6:30am. Registration includes an event beanie, and a long sleeve shirt is available for purchase.

Columbia Gorge Marathon details:
When: Sunday, October 20
Start times: Full – 9am; Half – 9:30am; Early start (for finishers over 6 hrs) – 8am
Where: Hood River (map)
What: Marathon, Half Marathon, Half Marathon relay
Registration: Online here. NO mail in registration. NO day of race registration
Registration cost: Marathon – $115; Half Marathon – $100; Half Relay – $120; Dog Leg – $100
Registration includes: Chip timed race, event beanie, finisher’s medal, awards, post-race food. Event shirt available for purchase.

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