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Racing and Running the Atmospheric River

Oh, Oregon. Nothing makes you feel like you finally belong here like running your 5th race of 2022 in the pouring rain. As we all know, it’s been an usually wet spring and this Sunday in May was no exception!  However, given the already moody backdrop of Astoria, the excitement around a race day, and the draw of Buoy beer immediately present, the rain felt like a welcome friend for the 9th Annual Run on the River benefitting Astoria Parks Foundation and sponsored by Buoy Beer.

Getting up to the race I was a little anxious to get there in time, find parking, and get my packet. I drove over that morning from PDX instead of spending the night. Next time I will definitely spend the night! The new Bowline Hotel looks amazing. The race instructions did mention 2 parking lots that were available about a half mile away, but I thought I would chance it and try for something closer. There was a ton of street parking that was free all day because it was Sunday. This parking definitely filled up later in the day but at 8 AM, it was great!

I parked about a block away from the race start, got my packet from a seamless packet pick up, used a very clean set of Porta Potty’s, and then meandered around waiting for the race to start. It wasn’t pouring at that point, just a light sprinkle so I enjoyed checking out the Buoy Beer deck, the party area, and the whole scene. The food truck providing the post-race meal was starting to heat up something delicious and the volunteers were happily setting out bananas, oranges and other snacks for runners coming through later.

This race was not one that I personally was there to PR. I was just there to make it through and really take everything in. The race started at the perfect time, half marathon walkers started at 8:30, half marathon runners (me) at 9 AM, the 10K and 5K followed shortly after, and then the Kids Fun Run kicked off at noon. As we waited to start the race host was cracking jokes left and right and the size of the race felt intimate but also enough to have that great atmosphere.

At 9 AM – we were off! Unusually, I didn’t look at the route, aid stations, or bathrooms in advance, and just rolled up and rolled out. Usually, I know exactly what will be at what aid station, where the bathrooms are, where the elevation gain is, etc. But not this time! Which made this way more fun with two exceptions.

  • There were fewer bathroom stops than I anticipated. I expected them about every 2 miles but it was more like every 3-4 miles.
  • However! There were a few extra aid stations smattered in there so there was a friendly face with snacks about every 2ish miles.

Also, it is worth it to note that the aid stations were mostly bananas and oranges, so I was glad I stuffed a couple of Gu’s in my pockets.  If fruit works for you mid-race, you’re golden. Otherwise pack a few extra things with you. Each station had water and an electrolyte drink available. I will say, those aid stations did a PHENOMENAL job of controlling paper cup waste. I didn’t see a single cup blowing around which given the sensitive wildlife and waterways all around, was an absolute highlight for me. KUDOS to that aid station volunteers. I’ve mentioned in a review before I’m sure that race cup waste/throwing on the ground instead of the trash is my number one pet peeve.

The route has a nice amount of variation and does take some detours off the main board walk. You start heading south for about a mile or two. Then you turn around and head right back by Buoy where you started but keep heading north. You take a small detour through a neighborhood with a lovely little pond, get back on the board walk for a while, and then head into a wood area for short out and back. Once back on the board walk again you pass by this area where on the left is a protected harbor filled with rowdy seals and flocks of pelicans.

On the right is a little bay where there were eagles, swans, fish, and all kind of creatures enjoying a safe space. You keep going and then are directed into a neighborhood which you go up and up and up some pretty solid hills. Was not expecting this but they were a really nice reprieve from the flat and I enjoyed them. The views on the way up too were lush and green.

 

Very important note and another kudos to the volunteers. Because of the multitude of detours and out and backs, the volunteers did a great job of making it very clear where you needed to go. If you were ever in doubt too and for some reason there wasn’t a volunteer, there was always plenty of very clear signage.

After coming back down the hill, you get right back onto the board walk to head straight back to the finish line. I ended up stopping for a few minutes at that area with the seals, pelicans, and eagles just to watch them. HIGHLY recommend. Going this direction too you have the Astoria-Megler Bridge view the whole way. Against the bands of rain showers, it was a pretty amazing sight.

The finish line came so suddenly I couldn’t believe 13.1 miles had gone by. So, with my unique glass medal from Fernhill Glass Studio in hand, I was hungry and ready for that post race nourishment which included Buoy Beer, coconut water, pop, water and of course, the bowls from Tres Bro’s.

They had a mixture of meat and vegetarian options – both of which came with plantains and rice and beans. It was so good. Ate too fast and forgot to take a picture. I hung around after the race a while and chatted with a few other racers from different distances and different states (Iowa! Oklahoma! New York!) and they all said the same thing. Even though it rained solidly the entire time, this was a favorite race for them.

 

Here is my usual TLDR:
  • This race was a BLAST. A perfect amount of course variation and very well organized. Would be a great one to try to PR.
  • Parking and packet pick up was a breeze. The parking ease could be different of course on a nicer weather day, but I think with the race start time and the size of this race, you’ll be okay. I would just advise to be there an hour before start time.
  • Be prepared to bring your own race fuel if you need something more than fruit.
  • Post-race snacks and drinks were a 10/10. The addition of Buoy Beer (especially that Cream Ale) really might even take this one up a notch to a 15/10 for me.
  • I will DEFINITELY be coming back for this one and spending the weekend.
  • One last thing. If the weather in future years is not overcast or raining – this route I am betting is largely unshaded with the exception of a few spots. Be prepared for whatever weather May decides to throw your way as this route is certainly out in the open for the most part.

You can check out the results here and race photos here! Run on the River 2023 dates to be announced soon.

About Author

Reilly lives in Portland, Ore. and as a long time athlete (gymnastics and soccer), but relatively short time runner, Reilly picked up running on a dare back in 2016 and has never looked back. When not trying to run in every state across the US she can, you can find her competing regularly in horseback riding events (western and stock horse show), trying to fit as many plants into her garden as square footage will allow, or tracking down the best hashbrowns in the PDX Metro area and beyond.

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