When the alarm went off on Sunday morning at 5am, I knew it had to be race day. There is no other possible reason for an alarm to go off before the sun is even a flicker in the sky. After I questioned all of my life choices, I came up with three goals for the morning: get up, get there, and get done.
There was the starting line for the Spring Classic Half Marathon at Vancouver Lake Park. This was my second in-person event of 2021, second time in Vancouver in 2021, and second time being grateful to Why Racing Events for all their hard work. And with temperatures expected in the 70s by noon, I was also grateful for the early start (eventually).
The event had a staggered start due to COVID-19 protocols. Half Marathoners were the initial groups, with the first and second start times dedicated to the more competitive (aka faster) runners. I arrived about 45 minutes before my start time to ensure time for packet pick-up and the all-important porta-potty line. The announcer shouted that the start line was available early for any half marathoners, so I got to get a 10-minute jump on the coming heat.
After about a mile on the road, the course twisted through two miles of trails. This was my favorite portion because of the tree coverage and feeling like it was just a run in the woods (rather than 13.1 miles of what-was-I-thinking). Aid station volunteers all wore their masks, as did runners and walkers when we got close to one another. Coming out of the woods, I was into an out and back that would have me using mostly flat paved trail that went past Frenchman’s Bar.
The 5K participants started later in the morning and only used that first loop, while 10K participants used the loop and a bit of the out-and-back. That meant for most of the miles, I would see a runner or two ahead of me, and lots of open road. A few of the miles were so straight and flat that somehow they felt extra-long. Without any noise of crowds or my normal city routes in Portland, I was grateful to have a phone packed with podcasts to keep me company. The sunshine kept pouring down and each aid station was a miraculous sight.
The overlap among the different distance runners was during the final two miles of the race. 10K runners and walkers were headed in both directions while half marathoners were all headed toward their finish line. This was the portion that felt more like a normal race, with some dodging among others, and also felt strange as I kept my mask in one hand to lift up and down, balancing protection from heat and breath.
The final mile was back through the park, and the hilliest portion of the course. Now I have to admit, that at mile 4, these hills were nothing. At mile 12, they might as well have been cliffs. The sight of the water and trees overhead helped keep me going to the finish line. I pulled back on my mask to claim my medal and a bagel. My glasses had fogged up so much that I had to have a kind volunteer tell me what kinds of bagels they were. I took a few swigs of water from a provided bottle and walked past the beer garden to my car. All I wanted was air conditioning.
Someday, hopefully very soon, it will be great to mingle at the start and finish lines again. For now, I am grateful to be safe and to keep others safe. And for races like this where I can run a crazy number of miles at a crazy time of day to earn a shiny medal.