If you’ve never been to Ashland, you really need to add it to your list of places to visit in Oregon. It’s a cute little town, reminiscent of Bend before it got so trendy and big, and it’s got some great little shops and restaurants. It also hosts the Rogue Marathon/Half Marathon/10k in the Fall, and I was happy to spend a weekend away with some friends to run in the Half this year. (FYI, there’s a kids run too and it’s a very family friendly event!!)
The Full marathon starts at Emigrant Lake County Park; at 7:00 AM but the Half Marathoners take off an hour later at Paschal Winery and Vineyard in Talent, OR. It’s a point to point course, starting in Ashland and finishing in Medford. For those running the marathon, it’s a downhill Boston Qualifier. Whichever distance you’re running, it’s a great course. It’s a paved path with scenic mountainous views all around.
Paschal Winery is really beautiful and honestly encompasses everything an Oregon winery should. There are llamas on the property and even swans in the creek. We had a gorgeous morning, a little cool but not exactly cold, and no rain is always a plus. The porta potty line was long and we didn’t really have as much downtime as we’d hoped to account for that, but that was really our fault for how we timed our morning.
We were staying in Ashland for the weekend and thankfully had already picked our bibs up at Common Block Brewing the day before, and we had a ride to the start so we didn’t need to worry about catching the shuttle bus.
The start line was buzzing with people excited to be there, and I loved that it didn’t seem overwhelmingly crowded. That’s really the benefit of having all the distances start at different times and locations, though I’m sure that makes it harder on the race organizers. We were off on time and spent the first part of the race running down a beautiful gravel road with sweeping views of countryside all around.
I ran the entire race with my friend Katie, and neither of us were feeling particularly fast that morning. I was still recovering from a half marathon in Germany a week earlier and Katie was worried that she hadn’t trained well. This turned out to be a great race for both of us because aside from a few small rolling hills, it’s a really easy and mostly flat course. It’s actually called out on the website as “the FASTEST Boston Qualifier in Oregon,” and I can see why.
There was a snafu right before mile 3 where we noticed a sandwich board sign off to the side of the path that said it was the marathon turnaround. There were no volunteers here or any other form of signage, and we weren’t sure if we were supposed to turn here or keep going straight. We saw a few runners going straight but we stopped and asked a couple other runners what they thought and we all agreed that we were likely supposed to turn here as well.
Later we found out that many people had gone too far and that an aid station had perhaps been located farther away than it should have been, so at least a handful of people ended up running a mile further than they were supposed to. We did feel there were a few spots on the course that extra volunteers or signage would’ve been helpful, but as a former race director, I can attest to how hard it is to get a course set up and to get all the volunteers in place when and where they need to be.
Around mile 6, we experienced an eclipse and everything grew darker and quieter. It was really interesting to encounter an event like that during a race, and there were many spectators around us wearing 3D glasses.
The second half of the course had many aid stations serving water, Heed electrolyte drink, and other things. However, due to the missed aid station we’d experienced at the turnaround, it was quite awhile until we came across our first aid station with anything to drink. We also don’t remember seeing porta potties on course, though we just may have been not paying enough attention.
The second half of the race was not as beautiful as the first, but that’s what we had expected. Overall, the course was very solid and the miles clicked by really quickly. When we got to the end, there were many treats waiting, including muffins, fruit, and my favorite after-race treat, chocolate milk. We didn’t hang around too long after the race because everyone was exhausted, but two of my friends got PR’s on the course.
I would love to do this race again. It was a really well done race and it was fun and very runnable. It would be a great first race for many, whether you are wanting to do a 10k, a half, or even a full marathon. Also October really is a great time to do a race, especially in the earlier part of the month, because Oregon is really very stunning in the Fall. I would highly recommend staying in Ashland with friends and making a weekend of it like I did.