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The 2017 Columbia Gorge Marathon

September 11, 2017 Comments (0) Race Reports

Race Report: The 2017 Bend Marathon

I’ve made a point of blogging with a race report after each full/half marathon and relay. I got caught up in a busy summer, some life changes — mostly all good — and I’m just now catching up on this one.

This year, my wife and I participated in the Gorgeous Series’ Bend Full and Half Marathons. They took place in Bend, the largest Oregon city east of the Cascade Range and what is becoming a Mecca for trail running. Also offered were 10K and 5K runs.

It was my second year running the full, with a slightly altered, “flatter and faster” course compared to 2016.  It was my wife’s first time running in Bend, and her very first half marathon ever!

I’d been running each weekend with a Portland-area training group organized by James Mattern, a retired running coach and all around good dude with an affinity for the ukulele. We’d begun training last fall and steadily increased our Saturday morning runs to 18-20 miles like clockwork. We were each prepared for our races.

The morning of the race was beautiful, with barely a cloud in the sky and hardly a breeze. We’d arrived in downtown Bend with plenty of time to spare. As we made our way to the start at Drake Park, music was pumping and the crowd was excited to get started. The countdown began, and the full marathoners were off!

I soon found myself in the middle of the 3:55 pace group, its leader announcing he would be our “foot tour guide for today”, and we introduced ourselves. The space was buzzing with energy, and despite the elevation and chilly air, I would keep on pace with the group for the first 2/3 of the race.

The course went through Drake Park and across a footbridge spanning Mirror Pond, before circling around it clockwise and back across it at Newport Avenue.

We turned South down Wall Street, through Bend’s historic business district and onto a footpath along the banks of the Deschutes River, before crossing it via the Colorado Avenue bridge, looping back along Reed Market Road, and East through Riverbend Park.

Heading North, we crossed the Colorado Avenue bridge again, and headed back along the Deschutes clockwise along the eastern side of the river, and right past the picturesque Old Mill District, before heading Southwest out of town by way of Reed Market Road and onto Century Drive.

Thus began the long, gradual climb out of the city and about halfway up towards Mount Bachelor. As with last year’s race, the course took us off road at the turnaround point at the Cascade Lakes Ranger Station, down a dirt path, and through a pedestrian tunnel connecting hiking and mountain biking trails on either side of Century Drive. We turned around on the other side of the highway, and began our descent back into town.

As we approached the city, the course abruptly turned right onto Good Dog Trail, a lovely foot path made of fine pea gravel, and continued on for what seemed a mile. By this time, I was starting to feel the effects of elevation, and I noticed the 3:55 pace group had slowly inched ahead of me. One more sharp turn down the path, and I felt both of my knees almost give out. I was not prepared for the descent as the course dropped onto dirth path along the Deschutes River.

At this point, there was nothing wrong with the course; I’d simply hit a wall. I did a quick calculation as I slowed and caught my breath: How badly did I want to finish this race in under four hours? It would be a PR for sure, but I was not quite at 18 miles, and the thought of pushing a sub-9 minute pace for another 8 miles seemed impossible.

I stopped for a few moments and watched the 3:55 group charge ahead. I looked and listened instead at the Deschutes River flowing past me. I literally had an entire river to myself! I’d forgotten the real reason I wanted to run this race: The scenery, the air, the experience of running in Bend.

Taking a deep breath, I started back up along the path, realized Angela had been on her half marathon course for some time; That she would be running the last few miles on the same course as I; And I had an opportunity to finish this race with her. I knew she could use the moral support, as could I at this point. And that’s when the Bend Marathon took on a new meaning for me.

The next two miles saw me hike up from the river path and back onto Reed Market Road, crossing onto Washington Drive, winding up through yet more hills into the Tetherow Golf Course along Skyline Ranch Road. It was here, at mile 20, that I met up with Angela, and contemplated my own existence as a second wall hit. I was resigned at this point to slow it all down and focus on the moment.

The course took us through an unplanned but beautiful detour through Discovery Park — which added about .3 miles — and then back towards the town along Skyliners Road.

After that point, it was a quick succession of quiet residential roads, full of people cheering on runners, before turning Southeast towards Mirror Pond and across the iconic wooden footbridge that would lead us into Drake Park and back to the finish.

We crossed the finish line together, which stands out as one of my happiest running moments ever. 🙂

At the finish, Angela’s brother and sister-in-law met us. We stayed around a bit, enjoyed a frosty beverage, and took in the moment of what we’d just accomplished.

I’m excited to continuing this race in the years to come. The Bend Marathon offers runners a little bit of everything: Elevation, fresh air, unpredictable weather, lots of laughs, the joy of running in a sacred part of the running world, and of course, the glory of finishing the race surrounded by friends and smiles.

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