This course has also changed several times since I ran it and there have been some interesting stories about the race directors in the news.
I had already gotten into the Marine Corps Marathon through the lottery and was training for that as a potential PR race. I had also started obsessing about how to get the best deals traveling to all of these races. When I got an email about an elite status challenge from the airline I used most often, I searched for races that would get me the required 3,000 miles round trip and were 3 weeks before MCM so I could run a marathon as a training run for a goal marathon. Portland fit these criteria and had the bonus of being a city that would require no rental car because the light rail is so convenient. I stayed in a b&b a few blocks from the soccer stadium, so it was a quick trip via light rail to downtown on race morning.
Race report: I tend to do a lot of research on courses before I settle on a race because there are some things I prefer to avoid. Bridges are one of those things. I had run the Portland rock & roll half a couple of times so when I looked at the marathon course I foolishly assumed the bridges were all pretty much the same. I think I discovered the St. John’s bridge is not at all the same only a few weeks before the race. I lost a lot of sleep freaking out about having to cross that bridge. When race day finally arrived, my goal was to just calm the f down and keep it together until the bridge at mile 17. That was my first experience with a significant negative split. Miles 17-26.2 were phenomenal. I ended up being about 10 minutes off of a PR and that was including the stop for the light rail crossing half a mile from the finish (not kidding – police are stationed at rail crossings and you are warned that you may have to stop).
If you like slurpees, there is a 7-11 right next to the finish line.
A Willamette Valley wine tour is a nice way to spend a day recovering. New laws legalizing recreational marijuana had just gone into effect when I was there, so that is probably another tour option by now. On a related note, it was the only state where we had groups of people sitting outside smoking and cheering for us. It was awesome, man.
The last few times I’ve traveled solo to Portland, I’ve stayed at this place. It’s very cheap and within easy walking distance to some amazing food. The only downside to staying before a race is the shared bathroom (for those with pre-race bathroom issues…), but no one else is up that early on a Sunday anyway.