The Do’s and Don’t of the Silver Falls Half Marathon

I’ve participated in the Silver Falls Trail Runs several years now, so I feel like I’m an expert on the subject. The two biggest things you need to know about this Run Wild Adventures race is that the weather is unpredictable and possibly horrible and that it might be one of the most beautiful races you will ever experience in Oregon.  Here are my best tips and tricks for you if you’re up to the challenge.

DO get there early.

This race, which was on November 4th and 5th this year, takes place at Silver Falls State Park. It’s a bit of a drive for many, but the half on Sunday doesn’t start until 9:00AM (1st wave) and 9:15AM (2nd wave.) This year we also had Daylight Savings, which meant an extra hour of sleep.

We got to the race start by 8:30 but still had to pick up our race bibs (super easy and efficient!) and stand in the bathroom line. The park bathrooms and porta potties are both available, and I’ve found that they both go pretty fast, so I prefer the park bathrooms.

Afterwards, we had to walk back to the car for something and we were almost late for our 9:15 start. This is because we were in Overflow Parking, which is where you’ll end up if you don’t get to the race early enough. There is plenty of parking at this venue and it’s all very easy, but the later you get there, the farther from the start line you’ll be, so be aware!

DON’T wait to use the bathroom.

It stands to reason that most trail runners know that trail races don’t have the option of porta potties out on the course given the terrain and accessibility. However, I still think it’s worth mentioning and this is another reason why the first “DO” above should be highlighted again. After almost an hour and a half in the car and an extra cup of coffee, the bathroom was for sure necessary before the run.

DON’T skip out on training.

“My butt cheeks hurt!” yelled one runner at mile 10. I’m totally being honest here.This course is hilly and rough. Not only are you trail running, but you’re on rocks. Big ones. Rolling an ankle is possible, as is falling. There are a ton of wet leaves and lots of mud.

This year, there was no rain on Sunday but there was lots of it on Saturday, which means that the marathon, 50k, and 7 miler left a lot of mud out there for us half marathoners. Your feet get beat up by the rocks and your legs get tired from the mud and hills.

You’ll get to a spot around mile 9 where you’ll have to climb MANY stairs, and your legs might feel a little trashed at the top. Then you’ll have a long twisty hill up to the last aid station at 10.4 miles. It’s a party at the top there, with some great aid food and drink, including my fave, the cola that helps give me my final kick. After this, you’ll be rewarded with a flatter section on some cushy pine needles, which will be just what you need.

BUT beware –  you’ll reach Nutcracker Hill in the final mile, even as you hear all the finish line festivities in the distance and think you’re close to being done. You’ll get to climb some more before you reach that final downhill at the end. BUT this isn’t exactly a reward because it’s very steep and also covered in ooey gooey mud. This is where you could ski down and land on your keester, and remember that you will be tired here.

After you make it to the bottom, you’ll step onto a spongy field before crossing a short bridge to the finish line on the grass. You will likely be happy to be done!!

DO bring plenty of clothes.

This year the weather gods brought temps in the 50s to the half marathon, but the year before it actually snowed. You never know what you’ll get with this race, but it’s commonly cold and often rainy. Even if it’s warm, you’ll cool down fast, especially if you’re wet and sweaty, so I highly advise you have some warm layers to change into when you’re done. There is an amazing toasty fire under the food tent but there will be lots of people milling around this area, which means you might have to fight for a spot here. Remember you will be muddy too, so a towel or plastic bag or something to lay down in your car for the long drive home isn’t a bad idea.

DON’T go out too fast.

The quote “this isn’t a sprint, it’s a (half) marathon” came from somewhere and Silver Falls is a good example of this. I saw a lot of people with pep in their step at the beginning walking by mile 10. You might be reaching the double digits by then, but you still have at least a half hour before you’ll be finished unless you’re one of the speediest of runners. The first part of this race isn’t the most difficult, and it’s also not the most scenic (though it’s still very pretty as all forest runs are). The views only get better, but it also gets harder. Save some energy for that.

DO stop to take pictures.

Photos won’t do this race justice but it’s worth it. It’s a good excuse to take your time and it’s also why November actually makes sense for the timing of this event. If you love Fall, this is your race. If you love waterfalls, this is your race because you’ll get to see and run under a few. If you love gorgous views, serene rivers, and breath-taking colors on the trees, this is your race. If you love Oregon – This. Is. Your. Race.

DON’T leave your trail shoes at home.

In case you hadn’t guessed, this is not the race to do if you don’t have good shoes. You’ll be going up and down and you don’t want to fall. If those shoes are waterproof, even better. Many folks were wearing ankle gaiters, which isn’t a bad idea either. As mentioned earlier, this trail is hard on your feet, so make sure you’re wearing comfortable trail shoes with good grip to them.

DO stay for the post race fun.

I love a race that feeds me!! I ate my breakfast before I left home at 7AM, so I was pretty hungry by noon when I was finishing up. The Silver Falls Half Marathon offers warm chili at the finish, and its vegetarian which is a huge plus for this non-meat eater. They also have chips, bread, and some other options like PIE!! Yum.

There’s hot chocolate, coffee, and 4 kinds of beer, (free refills!) This really hit the spot!! In addition to food, there are raffles so check out the list posted by the results corner and listen to the announcer at the end for your number for a bigger prize!

DON’T wait too long to register.

The 7 miler sells out really quickly when registration opens in August. The other distances sell out too but not as quickly. This event only allows so many runners due to the size constraints of the trails, so I suggest you don’t wait too long.

DO register for this race next year!!

This is truly my favorite local trail half and that’s why I have done it a handful of times. I wouldn’t trek out to Silver Falls in November over and over if it wasn’t worth it, and you shouldn’t question it either.

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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