Sometimes a race is a perfectly wonderful poor life choice. I feel like this could be my running life motto. Definitely fits for when I decide to complete a 10K and a half marathon in one weekend.
My half marathon for this adventure was the Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon from Breakaway Promotions. I completed this same race years ago and had one memory: hills. The course begins on the Washington side of the Bridge of the Gods then uses the Columbia River Highway State Park Trail for an out-and-back along the Oregon side of the river. And almost every moment of that course has participants traveling up or down a hill.
I remember this and still was so excited when I had the chance to sign up. Because those hills are among one of the most beautiful portions of the Pacific Northwest. And those hills are after you get one of the most photographic starting lines ever. And those hills have you passing aid stations every single mile along the way. So yes to hills as long as all those other pieces are there too.
My race started with major parking struggle when I got to Cascade Locks for packet pick-up and the shuttle bus to the start line. It was totally clear where the buses were, but I had to do a few loops in the neighborhood before finding the main parking lot. My spot required an extra couple of hills before the race, which I’m sure is what I can blame any slowness on. Not the 70 degree heat or the race the day before. It was that one parking lot hill.
The bus ride over to the starting line was quick and smooth. Participants were to sit by themselves or with others in their party as part of COVID precautions. The Washington side of the start line was a full on party with loud music, lots of selfies, and (because it’s a race) long lines for the porta-potties.
Before starting us off, a race director encouraged us to not stop too much for pictures on the bridge so that traffic could be allowed back on. I tried to contain myself with just four or five pictures along the way. Still kept is slow and steady as it was a bit freaky to see the river flowing underneath us. That first mile felt more like high knee marching than running.
The Columbia River Highway State Park Trail is a paved multi-use trail so the runners and walkers from the race intersected with runners, walkers, and bikers from the community. Most of the course had trees all around us to provide comfort in the rising temperatures. Just one portion was straight in the sunshine and near the highway.
The last mile of the course had us going through Cascade Locks and toward a city park where the after-party was waiting. With blocks to go, another runner shouted at me: “You can do it,” to which I responded “Of course we can.” His response was that he knew he could but wasn’t sure if I knew. With the first sounds of the party within reach, I offered a confused look and proceeded to show this doubter that not only could I finish, but it would be well ahead of him. #NeverthelessShePersisted
After crossing the finish line, and taking the required selfie with my new medal, I wandered the park for a little bit to enjoy the fresh aid, sunshine, and soft grass. Breakaway offered a meal for all finishers but I was too hot and sweaty to enjoy this time. The dry clothes and air conditioning in the car were all the party I needed.
For anyone looking for a race worth the drive, I wholeheartedly recommend Bridge of the Gods. It probably will not be a PR experience, but it will be a beautiful, hilly adventure.