Mar 31

Would You Ever Start a Race You Probably Couldn’t Finish?

We race for many reasons. Some of us line up with intentions of holding a trophy at the end. Most of us hit the starting line hoping, most likely planning, to finish. In subsequent races perhaps we are shooting for a PR. Others may be trying to stretch themselves, find fulfillment, support someone else or make it a tribute to the memory of a loved one. Any reason for racing is probably a good one.

But would you ever enter a race you probably couldn’t finish?

The 2015 edition of the 100-mile Barkley Marathon in Tennesse started with 40 runners.

0 finished.

And the race directors were thrilled.

It’s reported that in 30 years, 14 out of approximately 1100 runners have finished in the allotted 60-hour time limit.

So would you ever start a race that statistically, you probably wouldn’t finish? Why or why not?

Feb 23

2015 Oregon Saturday Select Series Race: Newport Marathon

We are happy to announce that the Newport Marathon has been added to our 2015 Saturday Select Series for the state of Oregon.

I (RJ) have a special place in my running heart for the Newport Marathon – it was my very first marathon back in 2010. I was fortunate enough to run it again in 2011 and had a great experience both years. The race is now in its 16th year and continues to improve and respond to an ever-changing running environment.

The race is always held the Saturday after Memorial Day, which this year is May 30th. Limited to 1000 participants, the 2015 race is nearly sold out, but there’s still time for you to jump in!

The gritty details:

  1. The course is USATF certified and sanctioned and a Boston Marathon (and Olympic Marathon Trials) qualifier.
  2. It’s chip timed
  3. It’s flat and at sea level (well, it does actually start at 60 feet, but pretty darn close.)
  4. It’s fast (assuming you actually train)
  5. Most of the course is along Yaquina Bay except for the part you’re running towards or along the Pacific Ocean (read: incredible views for 26 miles)
  6. There’s a post-race party with food, music and everything else you’d expect
  7. Out and back course with aid stations approximately every two miles
  8. All-you-can-eat oyster “shooters” at mile 11 and 19 (I’m not kidding. The record is 80, set in 2009)
  9. Sitting in the Pacific Ocean afterwards makes a great ice bath and feels great on the legs
  10. The medals. Hand-blown glass medals that will be the envy of all your running friends (my mom ran the race after seeing my two medals and deciding she had to have one for herself)

If you’ve never been to Oregon, Newport is a great place to visit and this is a great race to run. Head on over to the race website and get yourself (and a buddy) registered today!

Dec 02

Winter Marathon Spotlight: The Phoenix Marathon

The winter months can be a rough time for us marathon runners. Training in the rain, snow and/or ice (depending on where you live) along with shortened daylight hours can be difficult. If you’re anything like me, having a race on the calendar keeps me motivated and gets me out the doors on days I would rather stay in my warm bed a bit longer. But Spring 2015 is so far away. Too far to keep me motivated through the darkness and cold of December, January and February. But therein lies the problem: finding a quality winter road marathon. Luckily, there are a handful of races that are worthy of your attention, your dollars and your sweat. We’ll be spotlighting a handful of them here in the coming weeks.

Our first winter marathon preview is The Phoenix Marathon, our Select Series race for Arizona, which will be held on February 28th, 2015.

If you need five reasons why you should run, not walk, to their website to sign up (before it sells out), here you go:

1. The Race Director is an active marathon runner herself

I’ve run more than 50 races of varying distances in the past five years (17 of them marathons). Almost without exception, those that have Race Directors who are also runners are great races.

Jamie, the Phoenix Marathon director, travels to expos all over the country on behalf of the Phoenix Marathon and runs many of the races she attends. She even qualified for Boston this past June at the Utah Valley Marathon (congrats, Jamie!). Everything good about this race stems from this. She’s a runner. She knows what runners want and need and when they want and need them.

2. The course is begging you to run a PR

Due to a friend’s pre-race injury, I ran the course last year on zero training. None. I took November, December and January off, completed exactly three runs of about six miles and one 13-mile Saturday run in February — and I STILL ran my average marathon time on this course. It made me excited to think about what I could do if I actually trained for it. It’s a gentle downhill for 24 of the 26+ miles. Just enough to propel you to a PR, but not so dramatic to cause your quads to curse your name for days afterwards. It’s scenic, you’re not out in the middle of nowhere for hours, there’s crowd support nearly the entire way after about mile seven or eight and you’re never worried about being mowed down by some idiot driver.

If you want a more detailed mile-by-mile course preview, this is the best one I have ever read HERE. Below is the elevation chart.

3. Attention to detail

How annoying is it when you’re planning on (read: desperately looking for) an aid station to appear at mile 20.7, because that’s where the race website said it would be, only to find that it’s actually closer to 21.1? None of that here. Starting at mile 3, there are stations at each odd numbered mile marker up to mile 21, where they appear at each mile marker to the finish. Bananas and oranges are provided at four of the stations and Clif Shots are provided at an additional three. First aid station volunteers get you in and out on your way like an Indy 500 pit crew. There are so many other little things that I noticed were done right (like ample port-o-potties all over the place, starting line gear-drop, a party at the finish line, music, happy and enthusiastic spectators, etc). Too many to mention here. Just know that from the time I arrived at the bus pickup to the time I got in my car and left afterwards I felt like the race had been put on exclusively for me. The shirt is one you can wear proudly on a run or to the grocery store, the medal is unique, heavy and high quality and the arm sleeves in last year’s swag bag are my go-to accessory item when it’s a little chilly outside.

4. Arizona in late February? Yes, please

Remember that rain/snow/ice/darkness thing earlier? Welcome to Arizona. Enjoy it. I will say that it did rain on us as we awaited the start of the race last year. No matter, it wasn’t cold. The on again/off again light mist throughout the morning was actually great to keep my body temperature down. But race days was beautiful. Slightly overcast, temperatures that warmed up to the 60’s and sunshine in the afternoon after finishing.
5. This race sells out. And it’s no surprise why

I should mention at this point that this is only Year 3 of this race. It’s sold out all 3,000 marathon spots each of the first two years. They’ve been able to increase that number to 4,000 this year, but don’t wait. When the spots are gone, they’re gone. I can’t recall another race that has grown so quickly in its first two years (there’s also a half marathon with a 6,000 cap and a 10k with a 2,000 cap as well as a kids 1k race). That only happens because of the reasons detailed above. Hurry up and get over to their registration page now!

With just under 90 days left until race day, there’s still time to train for this race. So give yourself (or someone else) a gift, secure your spot now and book your reservations to Arizona. It’s not a race you’ll regret running.

Jul 02

Monmouth-Independence Mini-Marathon Preview by RJ

Let me introduce you to the greatest 2.6 mile race in the world held on the best day of the year (that it’s also my birthday is no coincidence at all): the 4th of July Monmouth-Independence Mini-Marathon.I grew up in the town of Monmouth, OR, population approximately 8,000, and went to a high school that was shared with the adjoining town Independence, population approximately 7,000 (both have since grown slightly, but are still below 20,000 combined). Located about 15 miles southwest of Salem, it’s not sticks, but there’s not much going on there either (15 years later, there’s slightly more going on, but still not much). Monmouth had one stop light (it now has a second) and Independence still only has one. As a kid growing up there it can be a little boring without much going on. But the one thing that the joint community does do is 4th of July. And it does it big.

The crowning event of the Western Days (yes, days, like three or four of them, depending on which day of the week the 4th lands on) celebration is the Grand Parade, which starts at noon in Monmouth and runs for about three miles to Riverview park in Independence. 15 minutes prior to the start of the parade, for the 42nd year in a row, the 2.6 mile Mini-Marathon will be held.

The mini-marathon is simple. It starts at Monmouth City Hall, has no turns, drops 47 feet in elevation from start to finish, has cheering crowds multiple people deep on both sides of the road the entire race and finishes at Independence City Hall 2.6 miles later. It’s a foot race. And it attracts upwards of 500 runners or more every year. In a word, it is awesome.

In 2008 this race represented the first miles I had ever run. 17 marathons, three 50 milers, a 50k and three half-ironmans since would have never happened if I hadn’t been so disgusted with myself for how wrong I was about my state of health and conditioning at the time. The 2009 race was the first time I actually prepared for and trained for a run (if only for a month) and from then on I was hooked. The rest is history.

So if you are ever find yourself in the Willamette Valley (or want to be), make a date with the mini-marathon on the 4th of July.

Here’s a quick (because it’s a short race) preview:

You’ll start at City Hall (where my extended family has sat for nearly all of those 42 years). When the gun goes off you’ll immediately pass the city park, full of booths, food and a water fountain on your left. Mom and Pop businesses line the street of the next block before hitting the grocery store, the bank and finally the town’s one stoplight. Run through the light and smell the sweet smells of the local Burgerville (make a note to come back for a strawberry milkshake) as you run up a slight incline before dropping most of the 47 feet. Then it’s around a sweeping S-curve you go, past the little league baseball field and the fire station to your left. You’re halfway there and as you reach the Les Schwab tire center little kids will hand you cups of water.

Entering Independence you’ll pass Mendi’s Pizza. Make a note to come back here and eat. Seriously, make a note. And come back here and eat. The high school is now on your left after which you’ll come to the light in Independence, the Roth’s grocery store on your right. Another quarter mile and you’ll be running downhill again for the remaining elevation drop and then it’s a straight, flat shot to the finish line. Trees line the street and provide some much wanted shade as your heartbeat races and you’re gasping for air. 11th street, 9th street (be sure to run through the lady’s sprinkler here), 6th street, you can see the finish now, just four blocks away. As you reach 2nd street you run through the corral and through the finish line, rewarded with apples, cliff bars and water. You’ve completed your mini-marathon.

If you’re like me, you immediately turn around and make your way back to the starting line where the rest of your family is sitting enjoying the parade, encouraging the runners behind you and stopping every so often to catch up with friends and families of friends you haven’t seen in a while. It’s an all-around great race, low in cost, high on fun and worth the trip to Monmouth, OR.

Here’s the link: WesternDays


RJ (849) and the extended family runners from the 2009 race (no more current picture was available at time of publishing — we’ll work on that)

Jun 04

2014 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Preview by RJ

I’ve been fortunate enough to run the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon each of the last four years and was able to pace Steve for the first 12 miles in what would be a new PR for him in 2013 (which he then lowered in Pocatello later in the summer). Unfortunately 2014 will not be my fifth due to schedule conflicts, but with the race less than three weeks away now, we wanted to give a brief overview of what to expect on June 21st.The folks at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series changed the course in 2012 and it has remained the same ever since. In my opinion there’s good and bad tradeoffs to the changes, but they are what they are, so here we go:The race starts in the heart of the Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle, Key Arena (may the Seattle SuperSonics rest in peace) and a ton of museums, carnival rides and other activities for all ages. It’s also convenient to use the monorail to get to the starting line if you don’t want to walk from a downtown hotel. Which brings me to the downtown hotels. If you haven’t already booked one, good luck. I hope you have a steady income or available credit. And be sure to budget for parking if you drive.The starting area is a good set up. Lots of port-o-potties in different locations to move people through as quickly as possible and nice open areas to walk wherever you need to go. Get yourself to the starting corrals and get ready.

The first 2-3 miles are run through downtown Seattle. Growing up in a small town and now living in a city where the tallest building is seven stories, I love this part of the run. Lots of people line the sides of the road and there’s a great atmosphere. Don’t be surprised if your GPS starts doing weird things as the height and proximity of the buildings cause your satellite reception to go in and out.

After a few more miles through some neighborhood streets you’ll hit the shores of Lake Washington at about the 10k mark. Enjoy the next 12 miles. They. Are. Awesome. At Mile 8 you’ll enter Seward Park and take a loop around the perimeter. At 10.5 miles you’re out of the park and running back up Lake Washington Blvd the way you came, This is a nice shady tree-lined bike path with the water to your right. Out in the distance is the I-90 bridge you’ll be crossing in about 5 miles. But before you get there, there’s something you need to see and experience and feel. Turn your music off, take your earphones out and appreciate this (take a minute, grab a tissue, and watch…I’ll wait):

You can also go HERE to learn more about Wear Blue: Run to Remember (watch the video on their home page also…but be sure to grab another tissue).Back to the race. After a short out and back, you’ll make your way onto the I-90 bridge around mile 15. Have I mentioned yet that the race has basically been flat to this point? The bridge run is approximately three miles out and three miles back in and for me, it’s been the make or break section every year. So much can happen here because it’s so unlike the rest of the course. A few things to be aware of:First, the weather. Up until this point you’ve been running through downtown or along tree-lined streets and paths. You’re completely out in the open on the bridge. Second, if it’s a sunny day, you’re going to be hot. If it’s windy, there’s no hiding. There’s downhill and uphill sections on each side of the bridge and before you hit the turnaround point and immediately upon arriving back at mile 21 you’ll run through tunnels which have a terrible camber to them. There’s no hiding from that either.Running back towards downtown you’ll see (and then come up on, and then pass by) CenturyLink Field (home of the Seahawks) and Safeco Field (home of the Mariners) and then you’re in the final stretch to the finish line. But don’t think you’ve made it yet, because when you make the final turn to the finish line you get to run up one of the steepest hills of the entire course before crossing the tape and receiving your medal. Really, I don’t know how or why they can’t find a better way to finish.

The finish area is not set up as nicely as the starting line. You have quite a long way to walk to get food, meet up with family in the reunion area, buy overpriced gear and listen to a band who was popular, well…back in the day, let’s say (wow, did my personal opinions just get exposed there? My apologies).

Overall, the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is an above average race to run, if you don’t mind sharing the course with 25,000 runners and can put up with a few less-than-stellar characterists that have been mentioned here.

Good luck, have a great race, and let us know how it went. We’d love to have you submit a post-race review for us!

Below is the official Course Tour video (ignore the mile markers in the video. I don’t know who put this together, but they’re not even close).