As someone who lives and trains in Portland, I’ll grab just about any excuse to go to Bend. The chance to pin on a bib at a live, in-person race? Well, twist my arm.
Our friends at Lay It Out Events held the 2021 Salmon Run half marathon (and 10K/5K) on Saturday, April 10th at a new, beautiful location: the Pronghorn Resort. About 30 minutes outside of Bend, the resort has a lovely golf course, a gorgeous pool, relaxing rooms, and all the other makings of a great vacation. But on this special Saturday, they hosted what was, for many, the first real race of COVID-times.
The 5K and 10K runners had earlier morning starts, so arriving for the noon half marathon was a bit disorienting. Never have I ever had a morning to sleep in, eat a full brunch at a restaurant, and then casually head to the race start. Pronghorn had a very easy setup for parking and their start/finish line provided more than enough space for distancing both before and after the run.
There were a couple of waves to start in, again to allow for runner spacing, and after settling into my racing groove, it was easy to find my place in the pack and adjust with room to spare.
After perhaps a mile or so, we left the easy pavement of the resort and spilled out onto the “dirt road” part of the course. As a trail runner, I had in my head the beautiful singletrack trails of Bend, or the packed dirt roads of a fire lane somewhere. But these dirt roads were soft, deep, and merciless. It was like running in sifted flour and my calves reminded me of those miles for days. Adding to the challenge was the wind on that particular day – I swear I had a headwind both ways!
The course was a single, long loop and had 4 aid stations stocked with water, Gatorade, and GU gels. Coming into aid station 3 (around mile 9), we were greeted with a beautiful view of the river and the invariably stunning central Oregon mountains (don’t ask me the name – I may never know which one is which!).
Eventually the dirt road turned into a more hard-packed dirt road and then a sandy trail before the last bit of course back on pavement at the resort. Making our way past the gorgeous cabins, manicured landscape, and by endless patio chairs, I realized I was nearing the end of my first race of 2021 and though I was looking forward to relaxing in all the ways my scenery was taunting me with, the pandemic race season had come full circle. I started it at the Oregon Dunes in March 2020 and finished it on those sandy trails at Pronghorn 13 months later. My crookedly pinned race bib (and also, perhaps, how toast my legs felt) was a testament to how rusty I was, but with an ambitious summer of running coming up, it was nice to have this one checked off the list to kickstart the season.
I sat in the grass with my people at the finish line and drank the Gatorade (they enjoyed the free beer!), devoured the bagel and other post-race goodies, and eventually parted ways with promises to get together to run more…just like the old days.
Lay It Out Events has other races and events coming up this year in Central Oregon and did a great job of being not only COVID-conscious to make this one happen, but put together a pretty good swag bag, too.