One of my favorite races last year was the Corvallis Half Marathon. It had a beautiful course, lots of friendly volunteers, and finished on the 50-yard line of Reser Stadium (go Beavs!) And since my daughter attends Oregon State, it provided an excuse to go visit.
Size matters! Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.
So when it came time to sign up for this year's races, the Corvallis Half was first on my list. But, as with last winter, I managed to do more skiing than running. And I battled some injuries - first a wrenched knee, and later a sore hamstring. Race day morning found me feeling quite unprepared. Unsure how my body would perform, I gave myself permission to take it easy.
|Shannah and I at the starting line|
My daughter's friend Shannah, who with Denise watched me in last year's Corvallis Half, decided to run this year's race. She'd never before ran this far and was a little bit apprehensive.
|Mile one done!|
Race day was a cold, rainy morning. Denise and I met Shannah at the starting line. We ducked under the covered entryway to Gil Coliseum and stayed there until it was time to start. Happily, the rain stopped just before the race began.
|Hot dog man|
I'd been battling the same sore hamstring and Shannah had spent some time the day before icing an achy hip. So both of us came into this race with no expectations except to finish (that, and Shannah wanted to run the entire distance).
|Running thru campus|
Shannah and I stuck together at the start, and in unison dodged through the pack of runners for the first mile. We saw Denise and mile one, and she snapped a couple quick photos. Denise also got a shot of a man running the race in a hot dog costume!
|Cherry trees in bloom|
The first couple miles of the race winds through the beautiful Oregon State campus. Cherry trees in full bloom lined some of the campus roads. In addition to the stately brick buildings, we had some pretty landscaping to enjoy.
|Man on the left running with his dog|
Near mile two was an aid station manned by screaming little girls from the local "Girls on the Run" organization. These girls were awesome! They cheered, rang cowbells, waved wonderful signs, and handed out water like pros.
Then our course left campus for a scenic bike path that passed by pastures full of sheep. We got passed by a man running with his dog. We joked with him that the dog needed a race number too. The man said he was counting on the dog to pull him through to the end.
|Crossing the famous covered bridge|
My favorite part of this course was crossing over the covered bridge. Such a pretty setting!
|Shannah's still happy|
Shannah was going strong at mile five. No hip pain whatsoever, she was smiling and chatting away. I attempted to grab of photo of her running, but this was the best I could do. It's a little blurry, but captures Shannah's joy perfectly.
|Views of the scenic course|
Still following the bike path, we emerged into an open area of golden farm fields. Ahead was a forested hillside, marking where the path turned and headed back into town.
|The wonderful mile marker signs|
Having someone to run with helps so much! As Shannah and I chattered away, the miles seemed to pass effortlessly.
Finally just before the halfway point, we left the beautiful bike path for the shoulder of a busy country road. From there, the course climbed a slight incline until it leveled out at a local park. Waiting for us at the park was Denise, two of Shannah's family friends, and Shannah's boyfriend holding a sign that read: "Go Shannah!" What a nice surprise!
|Still smilin' at mile 8|
From the park, the race course wound through several residential neighborhoods. I remembered from last year that the people who lived here were great! I wasn't disappointed. The streets were lined with spectators clustered around streetcorners, waving signs, cheering, and ringing cowbells. So nice and much appreciated at this point in the race.
|Funny chicken entertaining runners on the course|
Miles 10 through 11 were tough for both of us. My energy started to flag, and I could tell Shannah was feeling fatigued. The course passed through an area full of student apartments, and there were no spectators to be found. I figured the college students had all slept in. Even passing the fraternity houses, which had some of my favorite spectators last year, produced only a couple of guys looking out a window. But rounding a corner, we came upon a race volunteer in a chicken costume, and this funny sight restored us a bit.
|Finish line celebration|
Approaching the outskirts of the OSU campus, we were greeted by screams of encouragement from the Girls on the Run. Most welcome at this point! Passing the mile 12 marker, I decided it was time to put the hammer down. Shannah gave me permission to go on ahead so I reluctantly left her behind as I accelerated. Looking at my watch, I knew I'd miss the sub 2-hour mark, but I was hoping for a finish time around 2:04-ish.
|I finish just behind Shannah|
Oh, it was hard to keep up this fast pace late in the race. But Reser Stadium looming ahead seemed to give me some energy. Then, with about 400 yards to go, I heard a voice, turned around, and was surprised to see Shannah passing by. She had her afterburner on big time and was making a beeline for the finish. I had enough time to yell "go Shannah!" before she left me in the dust.
Turning the corner into the stadium, I could hear the cheers of the spectators. I flew down the ramp and emerged onto the field. Aiming for the finish line I gave it all that I had. I crossed the line and my watch read 2:04:25, only 30 seconds slower than last year.
Shannah was waiting for me at the finish and we gave each other a sweaty hug. Having finished her first half marathon, she was euphoric. We wandered through the maze of spectators until we located Denise and Shannah's boyfriend. And then, as if on cue, the skies opened up and rain began to pour down.
|Denise was a great support!|
It was an amazing race. My body behaved, the rain held off until I finished, and I helped Shannah complete her first half marathon. And she totally kicked butt! What a great start to my 2013 running season.
If you're interested, here's last year's race recap.