Race Recap: 2022 Bridge of the Goddess Half Marathon

I finally got to stand on the Bridge of the Gods again. It had been 8 years since the inaugural year of the Bridge of the Goddess Half Marathon/10k/5k, which was the first time I got to stand on that gorgeous bridge with the breath-taking views. 5 years ago, I did this race and the wildfires forced Paula Harkin to move the race to Vancouver. Last year I did this race again and we started in Marine Park. So this .. This was the year of the return to the bridge.

Run With Paula Events puts on many amazing races. They are all beautiful, well organized, well-marked, and fun. They all have quality swag and good food waiting at the end. But The Bridge of the Goddess is my favorite of all of the Run With Paula races, and one of my absolute favorite road half marathons in Oregon. This race is special to me because I registered for the inaugural year while I was pregnant with my second son in 2014.

This was the race I picked to prove to myself that I could still do it ..  Could still be a runner and could still have something that was just for me. Not only that, it turned out to be my very last race with my dearest running friend Rhonda, who couldn’t continue running after that race due to some knee issues.

This year, The Bridge of the Goddess Half was on my birthday. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate 45 years on earth than by running this gorgeous and challenging course. Even better, the weather was perfect. It was slightly overcast and in the 50’s. I saw a lot of “goddess” costumes and various colorful tutu’s on my way to Tollbridge Park, and there was a buzz of excitement out there. I had worn a tank top with the “Goddess” arm sleeves I’d bought during packet pickup. I wasn’t warm but not exactly cold either, and I knew this was the perfect choice.

Though you have the option of picking up your bib number and swag the morning of the race, I was glad that I’d gone to Portland Running Company’s early packet pickup on Thursday instead. The walk from the car to the start line isn’t that difficult, but you must carve out some time to make it happen, and it’s about a 10 minute walk. As I approached the bridge, I saw several people running back to their cars, and as the bridge came into view, I began to get excited for it.

If you are scared of heights, the bridge can be scary. It’s grated so if you look down, you can see all the way down to the bottom. However, the majestic mountains around you and the sun making it’s debut for the day make a beautiful backdrop to the start of a wonderful event. Once the race started, off went all the participants in front of me, in feathers and boas and wings, with flecks or gold and silver and many other colors.

The entire course follows a paved path, with mountains, trees, water, and all the beauty of nature everywhere. It’s an out and back course with a 5k, a 10k, and half marathon distance option, which means you get to cheer people along on both sides of their journey. The years Covid took from us at in-person races is no more evident than when you finally get to race with other runners again. Watching people fast and slow and every speed in between, with tears or smiles or both, is truly inspiring on many levels. We are all here for this.

The course is hilly. The half serves up several flights of stairs right before the 10k turn around point. We have to climb sometimes to get to the best views, and this is certainly true for this race. The first few miles of the race are mostly a gently sloping downhill, followed by some good climbs. I personally felt great for the first 8 miles, and grateful for my legs and lungs. Right around that point was where I started to struggle a bit and the knee issue I haven’t told a soul about until now (bad luck for marathon training,) and my left hamstring started to protest. I slowed my speed, smiled at everyone coming at me from behind at the turnaround and kept trucking. I was thankful for the views and the music I’d opted for at a very low volume so I could still experience all the sounds around me.

I continued to struggle until mile 11, and then things got a bit easier. I remembered that the easy miles at the beginning were now more challenging in the other direction, but I only had two miles to go, and Sia on my Aftershokz headphones was reminding me I was “unstoppable today.” Finally, I was running past Thunder Island Brewing and the ice cream parlor everyone raves about, and I was heading into the park toward that colorful chute by the water. Stepping onto grass for the last bit of race running is more than a little cruel when you’re hurting but I was so close to that beautiful medal that it didn’t matter.

My good friend Captain Hai was announcing all the runners coming through and he was a welcome sight. I collected my medal and kept moving forward. I could see pancakes on plates, and coffee and beer and other good things. These are the things that keep you from sitting down immediately, so off to the food tent I went.

Paula was waiting at the end, cheerful as always. She treated me to a yummy birthday cider and I sat down to enjoy my pancakes before heading home. It really was the perfect start to my birthday. Even better, turning 45 meant better placement in my new age ranking. Number 5 is nowhere near where number 1 probably was, but I’ll take it.

If you’d never done the Bridge of the Goddess, make next year your first. Take Flight. You won’t regret it.

About Author

I'm the owner of Healthy Girl Fitness and I'm a personal trainer, certified AFAA group exercise instructor, and an RRCA certified running coach in SW Portland. I am also the mother of two young boys and am on the board at my youngest son's school. I led a relatively inactive life throughout my 20's until I discovered the world of fitness and running. I ran my first marathon in 2006 and haven't looked back since.

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