In March 2020, the first major event cancelled in Portland due to COVID-19 was the Shamrock Run. The races generally bring together 15,000 participants, plus volunteers and spectators, all into packed spaces with lots of deep breaths and clinking post-race beers. While the cancellation email was totally expected, it was also just the first of many many many things that had to change in the new normal.
After two years of virtual participation in this Portland tradition, I was so grateful to get to line up again on SW Naito for the Shamrock 15K on March 13, 2022. I’d been to the Shamrock Expo the day before, with about half the booths I remembered from hears past. Then walking through the Waterfront, again it felt empty and like the runners of Portland were sleeping.
It was the crowded start line when normal began to set in. The announcer had us using wave starts to help with congestion and some folks wore masks in this busy space. Finding an open patch on the side, I tried to calm my pre-race nerves that were jumbled with worries that it was all too soon. But I was at a starting line which means the only option is forward.
After trying out a few different distances over the years, I’ve settled into the 15K as my favorite for Shamrock. It is long enough to justify the busy morning and to earn that shiny medal. At the same time I am not spending extra miles on Naito like the half marathon participants. Instead it is all about THE HILL. A major portion of the 15K route is the lead up to and recovery from Terwilliger Boulevard.
With a climb that takes a couple miles, participants are treated to some of the best views of the city. And even better: a generally downhill route to the finish line. There is one small hill in the last mile that feels worse than Terwilliger in the moment but really it is like two minutes long (maybe).
The rain was on and off throughout the morning, so I felt good about my chosen layers. I also brought the right snacks to go along with the water / Gatorade aid stations along the course. After mostly virtual races for two years, it was nice to know I still could prep for an in-person experience.
I crossed the finish line with not my best time result but one I was fine and proud of. Shiny new medal in hand, I walked through the crowded after-party tent. A kind volunteer let me get some oatmeal to go as my ride was waiting on the other side of the river. After 15K miles, a half mile walk had to be done immediately or I’d still be sitting down by the river.
If you have never participated in Portland’s Shamrock Run, I absolutely recommend you check it out. If you have done it before, then I’m sure you will be back again for this essential Portland tradition.