2012 Portland Marathon

The Portland Marathon was held on October 7, 2012. I signed up to participate in it last October as an incentive to stay active, when I found out it was “walker friendly” (Beth knew someone that had walked it in the past). When I registered I estimated my time at 7½ hours (walking pace).  Since I’ve been running in the past year, I changed my goals and hoped to run the race, although my main goal was to finish, and finish injury-free.  I became concerned when I sprained my right ankle 3 weeks before the race, and a little apprehensive as to how it would go (I ended not doing any running during those last three weeks, to allow the ankle to heal).

I was nice of Ruairí to hold up his Dad; I could barely stand

I ended up completing the race in 5:22:59, and while I was very sore at the finish, it was without injury.  My last marathon was 25 years ago in New York.  Looking up the finishing times for the 1987 NYC Marathon in the online archives, my time this year was about 6½ minutes faster than my official time back then, not too shabby.  I felt very good during the first half of the race and it seemed that a time around 4½ hours was possible.  Around the halfway point though my shin muscles on the right side cramped up pretty badly, probably due to working overtime stabilizing the ankle.  I had to slow way down for a few miles, and ended up mostly walking over the St. Johns Bridge, the only real hill on the course at around Mile 17-18.    After that I felt better, and was able to run the remainder.

For a big race with about 6600 participants, it was very well organized.  At the start, we were divided up into about a half-dozen “corrals”, each with a staggered start several minutes apart.  Since I had put such a slow estimated time on my entry form, I was in the last group, the “walkers”.  Even so, the Start line stretched across the whole width of Broadway (both sides), so there was plenty of room for folks to take off as fast or as slow as they wanted.  Since everyone had an individual timg chip mounted on their shoe (that’s the red loop tied to my left shoelace), their time wasn’t affected by when they crossed the Start line.  I got started about 20 minutes after the first starters.

The first 10K or so was in and around the downtown area; first going through Chinatown and then up and down along the river.  This was very nice; I’ll have to look for a downtown 10K some time.  After that, the route headed north into the NW industrial area.  Alot of people don’t like this section (it’s not very scenic), but I liked since I was familar with the area (Crosscut Hardwoods is along the route), it’s dead flat, and on a Sunday morning it’s completely empty of traffic.  After that it headed toward the NW 23rd Avenue neighborhood, where my shin started complaining.  It was disheartening to start to be passed by lots of people, especially when it just feels that one little thing is holding you back.

Eventually the route dumps you out onto Highway 30, headed in a NW direction toward the St. Johns Bridge.  This was easlily my least favorite section.  Not only was I feeling lousy, but only the leftmost lane was closed to traffic, so there was a constant, loud rush of vehicles passing right next to the route.  There were few spectators in that section, which made it even more inpleasant.

Thankfully the route eventually leaves Highway 30 and heads up the steep approach ramp to the bridge.  I pretty much walked the whole bridge, except for those sections where the photographers were stationed. 😉

Once on the other side the route heads into the residential area of the St. Johns neighborhood.  Finally, quiet streets and cheering spectators once again!  One nice thing about this race is that the bib numbers were all personalized with the participants’ names, so perfect strangers were able to cheer you on by name (or whatever nickname you put on the entry form).    The route then goes through the residential area near the University of Portland, and along the bluffs overlooking Swan Island.  This was a very nice-looking neighborhood, with established homes and large, shade-providing trees lining the streets.  When you see the Mile 20 sign, you begin to think that you’ll actually be able to finish.  In this section is where they close the course, for those particpants going slower than an 8-hour pace.  Those going slower than that must use the sidewalk and obey traffic signals (they do keep the Finish line open, though).  I definitely wanted to get through this section below the cutoff time, and even with the time I lost from the shin cramp, it was no problem.

A few secends after finishing; it feels so good to stop

Next, the route heads on down a long, sweeping, southbound downhill with a gradual grade, before leveling out just before the Broadway Bridge.  Get over the bridge and the Mile 25 sign appears shortly thereafter.  You run briefly through Old Town again, where for the second time the route crosses the MAX train tracks.  Some unlucky runners sometimes have to wait for the train to pass (the race organizers will adjust your time accordingly), but I got lucky both times.  Soon you’re on SW Naito Parkway along the riverfront again, and you start to hear the PA announcements from the Finish area.  There’s a right turn, one more block, a left turn, and then you see the Finish line only a few hundred feet away.  Finally. You. Can. Stop.

One new “toy” I got before this race was a Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch.  On a race this long, I thought it would be handy to be able glance down and check my pace at any time, rather than having to wait until the next mile marker.  It turned out to be very helpful to know not only how fast you’re ging, but to also know exactly where on the course you were, at any time.  ‘won’t be doing a long race again without it.   A nice thing was when the race was over, not only did it tell me I went over 26 miles, it said I burned up 3049 calories doing so. 😉   The watch has a USB connection that lets you download the recorded track to your PC.  You can see it on the Google Earth widget below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The "Hat Patrol" on Mile 24 😉

The last turn just before the finish

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