Last year was the inaugural running of Portland R 'n R half. Almost all the runners I know signed up for this race. I was one of the few in my running circles that didn't participate. After hearing glowing reports from everyone, I instantly regretted not being part of it. So when registration rolled around this year, I immediately sent in my name.
|Interesting fitting rooms...|
My friend Cami was equally fired up to participate. The day before the big race we migrated to the expo to pick up our bibs and t-shirts. After procuring our stuff, we wandered into a large exhibition hall chock-full of vendor booths. Emerging three hours later, bags stuffed with tons of free samples, we voted it the best race expo ever.
|Race day morning|
The next day found my friend and I depositing our jackets at the bag drop and trying to stay warm in the chilly spring morning. But we did take time to pose for some goofy shots. Gotta get in the rock 'n roll vibe!
|In our corral - ready to go!|
Although I did some half-hearted training for this race, my main goal for today was to simply have fun. Cami and I found our designated corral and passed the time people watching. Lots of people dressed up for the event. We even had an Elvis sighting! At the expo, I'd purchased some psychedelic colored arm warmers especially for the occasion and I fit right in with the other wacky outfits.
|The shuffle to the starting line|
After a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, the announcer began to release each corral in order. Being in corral 7, our wait wasn't very long. Loud rock music boomed from speakers. The crowd cheered. One had to be a total grouch not to be fired up.
|Approaching the Hawthorne Bridge|
And then the countdown .... and we were off! Cami and I sped down Naito Parkway, dodging and weaving through the pack of runners. The mood was lighthearted. It wasn't long before the cool temperatures we'd shivered in that morning felt just right.
|Scene on the Hawthorne Bridge|
Cami had been battling a bum knee all winter. Knowing she wouldn't be 100 percent for this race, she had the knee bolstered with K-T tape at the expo. Sadly, all this work was for naught. Shortly after mile one, the wheels began to come off, and Cami pulled over to the side of the road, rubbing her knee. She was in pain and knew if there was any chance of her finishing she'd have to do a slow walk/run. Not wanting to hold me up, Cami told me to go on without her.
|A banana sighting!|
I thought about it for a minute. Feeling strong, I knew I was capable of running a fast time. But I wasn't gunning for a PR today. And the R 'n R was a fun race - the type of race meant to be shared with a friend. It wouldn't be the same covering the distance by myself. So I told Cami, no I'd planned to have a good time and wanted to run with her. Like it or not, she was stuck with me!
|Enthusiastic cheerleaders high-five Cami|
So my running buddy and I made our way through downtown Portland, running a short distance until Cami's knee began to throb, and then stopping to walk. We saw a man running in a banana suit, and we caught up to him again and again.
|Hawaiian running man|
About mile four, the route crossed over the Hawthorne Bridge into southeast Portland. Races are usually run on the west side of the river, so it was nice to have a different course leading through a new part of town.
|Struggling up the Hawthorne hill|
One of the things the Rock 'n Roll Half Marathon series promises is entertainment, in the form of rock bands along the course. On the east side of the river, I encountered several bands pumping out loud raucous music. The only problem was you didn't really get to hear much of the song. It was a race after all, which didn't afford any time to linger.
|One of the many lovely neighborhoods we ran through|
After winding through the inner eastside industrial district, Cami and I popped out on Hawthorne Blvd, one of the main drags through SE Portland. And I discovered this street has a hill. Yep, a long steep hill. That didn't help poor Cami and her knee at all.
|Fired up Alaska airlines volunteer|
We'd been following the costumed "banana man" for about six miles. It was fun to see the crowd's reaction to the guy. Everyone cheered and lots of folks yelled greetings. One lady at an aid station waved a banana at him. All these antics kept us entertained and I think helped keep Cami's mind off her knee. But once we hit that cursed Hawthorne hill, it slowed Cami enough that we lost Mr. banana guy.
|Time for a water stop|
Finally, the hill leveled out, and we turned off the main drag into some lovely residential neighborhoods. I kept Cami's mind off her knee by pointing out all the beautiful older homes all with perfectly landscaped yards. Everything was in bloom, adding splashes of color to the already great scenery. At a port-a-potty stop, I chatted with a lady from Virginia who'd traveled here specifically to run this race. She was very impressed by all the green vegetation and colorful flowers.
|Heading towards the Steel Bridge|
Not only did this race offer entertainment in the form of musical acts, they also recruited a bunch of local cheerleading squads. These perky young ladies were stationed at strategic points along the course, jumping, shouting, waving pom-poms, and high-fiving the runners. Their happy energy gave Cami and I some much-needed boosts when we needed them most.
|Finish line in sight|
Cami is one tough lady. I know she was hurting, but she didn't once consider dropping out of the race. I tried to set a slower pace, hoping it would be better for her knee. But by mile 10, we both realized there wasn't much more either of us could do. Cami would just have to gut it out to the finish.
Finally the mile 12 marker came into view. Almost there! All that was left was a jaunt across the Steel Bridge and a short stride along Naito Parkway. I urged my friend on, telling her the end was very near.
|You can tell the race participants|
As the finish line drew close, the crowds lining the course became thicker. But they were totally non-responsive. No cheering whatsoever. What the heck? We'd just run a long race - and Cami with a bum knee. We deserved some encouragement. So "obnoxious Linda" kicked into gear and I started yelling at the crowd "C'mon! Ring your cowbell! Give us a cheer! We just ran 13 miles!" That got most of the folks going. Their loud applause carried my friend and I through those final steps to the finish line.
|Another half in the bag!|
Finishing a race - no matter how fast or how slow - is always a huge accomplishment. And double if you've battled an injury the entire way. Cami was elated on her finish and so relieved to be done. After a visit to the medical tent to get an ice bag for Cami's knee, we both decided a hot beverage at Starbucks was in order.
Even though we took it slow, I still had a great time running this race. I loved the course, the entertainment was top-notch, and the participants all gave off a relaxed, happy vibe. Will I be back next year? Oh yeah.