Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Race Review: The Oregon Marathon and Half (in the heart of Oktoberfest!)

Race recap from the Oregon Marathon and Half on September 13, 2014.

I know that not every event can be a fantastic experience... therefore at some point or another there will be an event that just isn't so great that makes the other ones shine.  At no fault (or very little fault) of Uberthons, this even just wasn't the shiny, awesome, amazing one for me.  Why?  I was so undertrained.  

 I hadn't had much of a long run since July...  I knew this was setting myself up for a miserable time, so I went into it with no expectations for a PR, my only pace expectation to stay ahead of "the sweeper".  I went into this event to have fun, wear a silly costume for 13.1 miles and enjoy the company of my fantastic sole sisters who were willing to hang back with me (and my misery happy-go-lucky pace).

The fantastic women who ran with me.  Andie is in a wheelchair that requires someone to push it, so we all took turns to help her cross her first half marathon finish line.

Despite some of the setbacks I had placed on myself, the race was a great event with very few issues.  The course was beautiful and started in the cool of the day.  The day did heat up rather quickly though, but this (of course) is not to the fault of the race directors and the weather was pretty accurately predicted by our local meteorologists.  

 One request I have seen is that marathoners would like to start even earlier to avoid the heat. I felt bad for some of the finishers coming into the home stretch and were clearly exhausted by the heat.  Uberthons had plenty of aid stations fully stocked and lots of porta potties on the course, and there were opportunities along the course that a friend/family member could meet their runner to provide additional support and emotional encouragement for their runner.   (You would need to drive or bike to that location, as there was not spectator shuttles running on the course, but it was spectator friendly.)  Did I mention that one of the aid stations offered fresh watermelon and salty pretzels?  THANK YOU!!  What a great treat while trying to make our way to the finish.  It was ice cold and delicious.  

I also heard some complaints about the gravel sections of the race course... however, this was not a surprise that there would be gravel.  The information was provided on The Oregon Marathon webpage.  I can not at this time imagine what it is like to run 26.2 miles, nor the agony that may ensure for having some gravel stretches... but I think it is fair to point out that it is in the course description and runners were given the opportunity to either train for it or skip this event and avoid the gravel all together.  The half marathon course had no gravel.

There were some issues for me on the half marathon course towards the end.  It seemed that after the 11th mile, the volunteers were also exhausted by the heat and not giving as clear of directions as I would have liked to have for where to turn or where to actually run.  Which side of the road was I supposed to be on?  A friend ran back to mile 10.5 (after finishing her half marathon!) to help us take turns pushing Andie's wheelchair toward the finish.  Without her knowing where to go, I would not have been so confident about where we were going.  As it was, we had our choice to share the street with traffic or share the sidewalk with other Oktoberfest patrons walking at their own pace and unaware of people hoping to run by unobstructed as fast as they can.  That was a little frustrating.  We ran in the street for awhile, but it seemed that there were no "runner on road" signs and we better get back on the sidewalk.  

I never felt unsafe, I just wasn't sure which spot I was supposed to be on (or sometimes which side of the road to be on).  When we passed the 6 mile mark, we ran into one of the race directors (Darwin) helping runners to safely cross the street.  It was so encouraging to see him.  He is always full of good humor.  I heard he was "all over" the full marathon course as well and it helped encourage my friend to see him popping up here and there out there to cheer people on.

When we got to the finish line, we got to finish on a brand new track at the high school.  It was great to finish on the softer surface and it was easy to muster up the last bit of energy and run in with all your heart when so many are there cheering for you.  The announcer called our name over the intercom as we passed through the finish chute.  I'm a narcissist and love that.  I admit it.   

Some of my running buddies hanging out with Darwin.  Check out the serious hardware for this race!

The bling for this race is some serious hardware!  If you aren't prepared for the weight of it, it could knock you down when the volunteer puts the medal around your neck.  I might not be joking here.  

The beautiful medal features the Mt. Angel Glockenspiel, a man in lederhosen and a woman in a dirndl... but the best part?  There is a pinback on the medal that can be removed so you can wear a piece of your bling all the time.  Under the pinback is a mug of beer inside the state of Oregon.  How cool is that?!  Pretty neat. 

My team was awarded the use of the VIP tent for having the largest team.  Unfortunately, this was not clearly marked "VIP" and was also used for the "non VIP" runners to claim their banana and sample larabar.  We quickly ran out of shade waiting for our marathon team mates to come in.  I would recommend putting the VIP members behind the tent (in the shade) and put the bananas and things for everyone up front (backwards from the setup that actually happened).   That wasn't a big deal to me... there was a bit shade, cold towels and juice... my issue was that our VIP gear check turned out to be our bags strewn on the ground and chairs for us to dig through to locate the bag with our bib number written on it.  I felt that wasn't very secure and relying a little too much on "the honor system".  A friend of mine who ran with me never did find her gear bag (with an expensive coat in it) and would be out of luck all together if she had decided to check her phone and keys.  At least she still had those items with her so she could go home?    

After the race you could claim your post race Oktoberfest packet within the festivities and partake in the activities there.  Packet included a bracelet into some of the beer halls with live concerts ($10 value)  and two vouchers for food at the plentiful food carts ($10 value) and $10 in token for beer or wine.  Very generous packet, especially given the price of the race... however I have heard from numerous friends that they didn't even know about the packet!  Oops.  Again, that info was available on the website but sometimes there is just too much info to sift through?  I'm not sure.  I happened on a link called "last minute news" and read through that.  Posting the link on my facebook page did not ensure that all my friends were aware of it.  Someone made a good point that mentioning it at packet pick up or even making the Oktoberfest packet available at packet pickup would have been helpful.

To get to Oktoberfest you could walk (just under 1 mile) or hobble... or wait for the shuttle.  We wandered all over, interviewing every runner, spectator and volunteer we could find and no one knew where the shuttle picked up.  Signs would have been helpful.  We waited in an area that appeared to be full of busses, but there was also a tournament of some kind going on for the kids at the high school... so we decided to hobble over to the party.  On our way, we ran into Randy (one of the race directors) who was driving the shuttle.  Oops!  His van was full, and he offered to come back around to get us, but we didn't meet up with him again.  (We hobbled off course to look at the festivities.)    

Overall, there may be a few things that could change to make the event run a little smoother, but it is a great race organization, beautiful course, well supported, great price and value with great swag (shirts were very pretty too) and friendly volunteers and race directors.  I would absolutely run this event again.   I do feel that the positives outweighed any of the negatives, though I do hope my friend is able to recover her lost gear bag. 

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