If a picture is worth a thousand words, then let’s begin with this:
Living in Oregon and willing to travel to run, I have had the privilege of running some beautiful race courses both near and far from my home. I treasure each racing experience, and try to seek out new and spectacular races each year, finding delightful redundancy in my exclamation of how “gorgeous!”, “amazing!” “etc!” many of these races are. This race, however is truly exceptional. I ran this half-marathon in the rain with two sprained toes and did not want it to ever end.
The Silver Falls Half-Marathon winds through the Silver Falls State Park, just outside of Salem, Oregon. It is predominantly on a trail that runs behind and around several majestic waterfalls, and a serene creek.
The trail runs behind two large waterfalls, with slick footing and low clearance that lends to a sense of adventure.
And this is the view from behind the first waterfall.
And some bottle-necking on the trail, but only intermittently, and the trail’s beauty distracts from the foot traffic. There are several points during the race that were extremely slick, and footing was unsteady, often causing significant slowing and heavy trail traffic as runners negotiated the terrain, but this is a non-chip timed event, and there is really no hurry. At one point, the trail descended up several (5 or 6) flights of very steep stone stairs. I wore a sturdy pair of Brooks Cascadia Trail runners and I’m extremely glad that I did. The race director sent a set of instructors recommending trail shoes-when a race director comments on foot wear, I listen. As a physical therapist and a human being, it is imperative that I recommend trail shoes for this race. There are several rocky steep ridges, and if you do this race you will need stable and grippy shoes.
Brooks Women’s Cascadia 8 Trail Running Shoes, Color: Aquarius/Hibscs/BearingSea/Blk, Size: 7.5 saved my hide! I’ll do a shoe review on these later, this was my first time breaking in and racing in a pair of trail shoes and I’m very glad that I did. This trail is slick as snot, with wet leaves and slick rocks interspersed throughout the trail.
Here is the second waterfall that we ran behind
And here is what it looks like to run directly behind a waterfall
As I said, this was a truly unique experience. All you can do in a race like this is run around with a big dumb grin on your like the running nerd that you are
Which brings me to my next topic: it’s wet. This race is run during the first weekend in November, with the Marathon, Ultra Marathon, and 7 mile race on Saturday, and the Half-Marathon on Sunday. Rain in northern Oregon is de rigueur. It can also be chilly. I wore full length running tights, a long sleeve T-shirt, and a lightweight water resistant running jacket and hat, and felt the Goldilocks running version of “just right”. There were runners in less than that and runners in more, but I highly recommend bringing layers. There is a clothing drop point at mile 3.3 if you feel ready to loose layers at that point, but I did not, and there was a very light sprinkle throughout the race, in addition to the precipitation that splashes on you while running behind the waterfalls.
The final mile of the race is crudely yet appropriately named “Nutcracker Hill”. This might also be renamed “Mud Luge”. It was steep going up, and equally steep coming down, and comprised of a thick wet clay-like mud. But alas, hot stew, local brewed coffee, and micro-brew beer await the finisher. The finisher medal is a unique memento of the truly unique race, and one that will bring a smile to my face when I see it, and remember my morning with the waterfalls.
One happy runner
Some travel ideas if you go:
The state park has both tent and trailer camping available with full electricity bathroom and shower facilities. Camping in Oregon is cool, but you had best be thick skinned and well-tarped to do it in November.
Salem is the state capitol and only a 40 minute drive away. There are several hotels right on the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 22 leading to Silver Falls State Park. My husband and I took the hotel route with our 10 month old, no longer the sturdy camp in the rain folks we once were.
Salem has an excellent selection of food and a very walkable downtown area. If you are a “sushi the night before a race” runner, I recommend Fuji Japanese Restaurant. This amazing traditional sushi fare is exceptional and fairly priced. We ordered takeout and took it back to our hotel room to relax.
This is fast becoming a cult classic race. Last year the site crashed and the race closed in 15 minutes. This year, there were two waves of runners, however the race still closed within a day or two of opening. It is worth it to be waiting at your computer the morning that registration goes live. This is a bucket list race, and one I will never forget.
Take care, and make your day great!