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Mostly Downhill and Completely Worth It: 2022 Vernonia Half Marathon

When you sign up for an early April race in the Pacific Northwest, you expect some wet weather. In the best of all possible worlds it will be a lovely sunny day in the 50s with a breeze at your back. In a very bummer situation, it will be a downpour of a day where your socks are wet before you cross the start line. What I didn’t expect (and neither did anyone else on April 10, 2022) was snow flurries at the start of the Vernonia Half Marathon.

But let me step back just a little bit before the snow. The Vernonia Half Marathon is put on by Oregon Road Runners Club (ORRC) and a great event that is fo cused on creating an experience for every speed, every strength, and every person. Participants for the half and full marathon distances are bused from Banks Middle School (aka the finish line) to their starting points 13.1 or 26.2 miles away. By ending at the middle school, participants have easy access to an after-party breakfast area and to lots of parking spots.

The half marathon begins Stub Stewart State Park at Hilltop. The first mile includes the only two major uphills of the course. While normally I’d be pretty whiny about any uphills, these were great for warming up in the 30-degree weather. Luckily I could feel my toes again within two miles and the snow had transformed into just occasional rain showers.

Most of the course uses the Banks-Vernonia State Trail and most of the course is downhill. It is important to remember that “most” part because I was unaware my first time running this event and was close to tears when the course when flat for the final few miles (pretty sad to cry about flat, but it was just one of those days). This time I was prepared for the mostly downhillness and enjoyed all I could. I also just love this trail for being a great way to run through the woods without the level of attention needed for trail running. Much less likely to trip on this pathway than in Forest Park.

Vernonia is part of ORRC’s transition to cup-less races. All participants received multiple warnings via email and had the chance to get a reusable cup at Banks Middle School before the buses loaded. I did notice back-up paper cups at one station but the rest were sticking with the plan. They had plenty of snacks and large jugs of water or Gatorade to refill our bottles.

The pathway was large enough for the leading marathoners to pass by us as long as folks paid attention. During the final mile I ran in the street a bit to avoid walkers from the community. The last thing I would want is to give these nice folks a bad impression of these crazy Sunday morning runners. The final quarter mile was around the Banks Middle School track with finishers and friends cheering on those who were so close. It was great to have the cheering bringing all of us in. Every race should have a cheering section to get you through that last stretch as strong as possible.

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Educator. Learner. Runner. Writer. TBD.

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