The third annual Portland Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon and 10K lived up to previous years as a excellent showcase of Portlandia. Almost 7000 ran or walked the half marathon and almost 2000 10K participants in 2014, with twice as many women as men. The event is part of Competitor's Rock 'n' Roll series, which include half marathons and marathons in 28 locations in the US, Canada and Europe. Racers can earn special "heavy medals" for completing multiple events in different locations during the calendar year.
The Portland half marathon was walker-friendly with a four-hour time limit. It is not a primarily a charity event, but racers could choose to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Registration for 2015 starts at $80, with discounts offered at the race expos at other RNR events and sent out throughout the year to those on the email list. For the price, the racers get a course that is closed to traffic, live bands every mile, a tech t-shirt and heavy finisher medal.
Racers pick up their packets at the Expo, held in 2014 at the Portland Convention Center. Vendors sold and displayed items of interest. It was a little smaller than the Portland Marathon expo.
On race morning, the racers go to their assigned corrals. Some racers complained that it was hard to get into the corrals from Waterfront Park and they were trapped in later corrals. As one of the tail-enders, I was happy to wait at the very back of Corral 23 as it was under a bridge and sheltered us from rain. We trolls passed the 35 minutes it took for our corral to get going in the wave start in dry comfort.
The route proceeds north on Naito Parkway to a turnaround at Mile 2, including the famous blockage of a couple minutes as Amtrak trains pass by. The race included timing mats at these spots so they can adjust runners' times who are delayed.
Then back through downtown to access the Hawthorne Bridge. They put down carpeting on the bridge deck to provide a better surface. After the bridge, the route weaves through inner Southeast before coming back to Hawthorne, where the 10K splits off. The half marathon route takes the racers into the heart of Portlandia. Racers pass food cart pods, people lined up for brunch, funky shops, and other great Portland sights.
Cheer groups every mile kept racers motivated. The bands played on. At least two bands were playing "Don't Stop Believing" when I passed by. The water tables and energy gel stations were fully stocked even for those of us at the tail end. I noted several medical tents along the course.
Some racers were upset that they were stopped at four places by police to allow traffic to pass on major streets. On the first year this was even more of an issue as the race went further east (and less on Naito Parkway). In my opinion, it's the price you pay to be able to go through neighborhoods rather than the same old boring route on Naito Parkway.
The racers faced rain at the start of the race, and then again after the two hour mark, turning to a real gusher for us slowpokes at the end. This race has a large number of racers whose finish time is 3:30 - 4 hours, so walkers don't feel alone.
The course is congested for the first two miles but thins out after that.
At the finish line, your name is called out, you get your medal, photos, and food including Darigold chocolate milk (lactose free and non-fat!), bagel, banana, Powerbar, pretzels, water, and Gatorade. You can lounge around afterward listening to the band and enjoying a free Michelob Ultra. I chose instead to head back to my car to get into dry clothes. Then off to a Portland brewpub for my celebration!
At times during the race I wished I weren't in such a big half marathon, but by the end I appreciated the bands and cheer groups and the goodies at the finish. Good thing, as I registered for 2015 at the expo!