The Huckleberry Half on Saturday August 7 was by far the most beautiful half marathon I have ever been part of. Running alongside roads on Mt. Hood provided an escape from the city and from screens that I needed so much. And I ended up with my favorite race shirt EVER.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Living in SE Portland meant a 4:30am alarm to get to Welches for packet pick-up and a 7:30am start time. The drive took me through towns I haven’t seen in years and helped me realize how much is in our beautiful portion of the country. The start/finish was behind Welches Middle School in an open field that I imagine is perfect for recess during the school year. A “Welcome Athletes” marked the entry area that included four booths for pick-up and some local groups. There was plenty of nearby parking so I could take my swag bag back to the car and rest a bit before start time. I also used that as my first opportunity to check out the course map (I really should look at course maps in advance. Sigh).
We had about 130 participants in the half marathon race, with smaller groups signed up for the 15K, 10K, and 5K. One Bigfoot cheered for us at the start while another made sure we didn’t miss the turn after the first big hill. That first hill felt the steepest, but it definitely wasn’t the last. If I’d looked at the map in advance (#NextTime), I would have discovered that the entire course was hill after hill after hill. With temperatures in the 60s and 13.1 miles of hill before the finish, I focused on the beauty and ignored any thoughts of speed for this adventure.
The course started with loop in the neighborhoods that felt like a great little tour of Welches, and an invitation to come back. The houses were all unique and felt like they had been built by families who would be there for generations. The rest of the course was primarily an out-and-back alongside the Salmon River. These were highways I’d driven through before and now I got to spend a few hours enjoying them. With the small number of participants, it often felt more like a run in the woods than a race.
The finish line had us back on the field and spread out with our water bottles (and COVID-19 protections). No food was available, but they had warned that detail in advance so I had snacks in the car and Starbucks on my mind. I also had non-sweat-drenched clothes so I left pretty quick to get cleaned up and headed toward home. I will gladly be part of this race again, and I will gladly show of my Running Sucks shirt any time.