When deciding on a half marathon in Oregon, I knew that I definitely wanted to run one somewhere near Portland. I decided on the Columbia Gorge Half Marathon in Hood River which was a little more than an hour from downtown Portland. It’s run in the fall, which is my favorite time of year to run, the temperature is usually perfect and it’s always easier for me to train during the summer than the winter since I’d much prefer to run in heat and humidity than snow and ice. Little did I know just how magical fall is in Oregon even if the weather ends up not being perfect for running.
The race weekend is also included a Marathon. When signing up for the race, I noticed the logo on the website which stated it’s “The Most Scenic Marathon in the Country” Even reading that I was not prepared for just how scenic the race would be!
A little bit about the general area before I get into the race details. Hood River is located about 70 miles east of Portland and is located where the Hood and Columbia rivers join. It’s located in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge and while in the area, you must check out the waterfalls along the Historic Columbia River Highway. In Hood River itself watersports take center stage, from sailing to kayaking to stand up paddle boarding to kiteboarding. But it’s the windsurfing that makes Hood River so famous as it’s known as the windsurfing capital of the world.
Take a ride along Mount Hood Railroad. This historic century-old railroad runs scenic rides thru the Hood River Valley on weekends from late June thru the end of October each year. Take in the beautiful views of the river, the foliage and views of Oregon’s tallest peak, Mt. Hood. Hood River has a beautiful downtown area full of one-of-a-kind shops that is definitely worth checking out. There are also numerous restaurants that I visited while I was there:
Kickstand Coffee – Not just your everyday coffee shop, this shop is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They serve Oregon’s own Stumptown Coffee. And their food is made with local ingredients with a global twist.
Romuls – This Italian restaurant located in downtown Hood River is the perfect place to go to carb load for your race. The food is fresh and homemade.
Full Sail Brewing Co. – This brewery is located in Hood River and has a brew pub to dine in. I was unable to dine here, but purchased some beer to bring back to my hotel and they were delicious.
Solstice Wood Fire Pizza – Located along the river not far from the start and finish line of the race, this family-owned restaurant serves up delicious inventive pizzas with more than your typical pizza toppings.
Now that you see how much there is to do in Hood River, it’s time to get to the race! The packet pickup took place at the local running store in downtown Hood River. It was a very quick process. For swag I got a beanie, which was nice but as I had a blanket made with the shirts from my first 25 state half marathons and planned to do the same for the second 25, I was slightly disappointed in no shirt. Although a quick glance at the website later, they didn’t mention a shirt, so I should have known. Not to fear, due to the race day weather a shirt was purchased after I finished the race, but that’s a story for later.
The race started and finished at the Hood River Event Site which is right along the river. It was within walking distance from my hotel, Hampton Inn Hood River, so it was fairly easy to get too, there was also plenty of parking available at the site. When I was walking over to the race, the weather wasn’t too bad, it was in the high 40s and cloudy, if only it stayed that way!
The half marathon started at the Hood River Event Site and went into downtown. Once downtown it went along the main road thru downtown and then down near the river. Then the race started its ascent up what seemed like a mountain! There is a total elevation gain of 1,112 feet in the half marathon and I’m pretty sure that all took place in the first couple of miles, it was never-ending, and the grade was 5%. Thankfully I wasn’t the only one who decided for a nice early walk break up the hill and found some other runners to talk to for a majority of the way up. One of the girls was from the area and she assured me that once we made it up this hill, the rest of the race wasn’t that bad. I won’t lie, this race made me long for rolling hills (which I normally hate), that’s how steep this hill was!
There were some positives to this crazy hill being at the beginning of the race though. Since the race was an out and back course, that meant a nice long downhill at the end of the race! And the views both going up and especially at the top of the hill were stunning!
The hill leveled off, and there were a few more hills, although it really felt to me like it was one really long hill that went on for miles with some leveling off in between the less steep sections after the really steep part at the beginning.
The race followed the Historic Columbia River Highway State Park Trail. This trail used to be part of the Historic Columbia River Highway. This historic highway was built in 1921 and then in the 1950s, after the present highway down closer to the river was built, the road was shut down. In 2002, sections of it opened as a state trail. This state park trail is used for hiking and apparently running!
One of the highlights of the trail and the turnaround point of the half marathon is the Twin Tunnels. These tunnels were built in 1921 to allow the road to go thru the rock in the area. When the road closed, they filled the tunnels in with rocks. For the Historic Columbia River Highway State Park Trail, they restored these tunnels and even unearthed graffiti dating back to 1921 when motorists were snowbound for days in the tunnel. The tunnels are definitely a great experience to run thru.
Remember I mentioned earlier that I wish the weather had remained cloudy? Well shortly after leaving the tunnels, the skies opened, and it poured for the remainder of the race! I’m not a fan of running in the rain at all, only if it’s a warm summer day and it’s a light rain which ends up being refreshing. This was a cold, soaking rain! Needless to say, the remainder of the race was run with a poncho on! Thankfully the fall views somewhat distracted me from how miserable I was with the weather.
It was definitely a beautiful race; I can only imagine how miserable I would have been if the views weren’t so amazing to take my mind off of the rain temporarily. Needless to say when I finished the race, after being in the rain with temperatures in the 40s, I was pretty cold. Remember I was upset about not getting a shirt for the race? Well first thing I did when I finished was go to the tent and buy a quarter zip race shirt. It felt so nice to have something dry on me. Of course, as luck would have it by the time I walked back to the hotel, the rain had lightened up to a drizzle, figures!
I will say, that even with covid, the post-race food and refreshments were great. They had beer from a local brewery, which if you can believe it, I didn’t have, I was that cold, all I wanted was a hot cup of coffee and it was delicious. They also had a taco bar and cookies for dessert. I definitely ate well after this race.
As wet and cold as this race was it was also one of the most beautiful races I have ever run, I may just try running it again someday, maybe. If you are looking for a race to run in Oregon, this is definitely the one for you. And even if you aren’t a runner, if you ever thought of visiting this area of Oregon, fall is definitely the time to visit!
The Columbia Gorge Marathon and Half Marathon will be held on October 16th in 2022. Remember that Beyond The Miles Travel would love to help you plan your next racecation, maybe that can be to Hood River Oregon!
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