Official Results – 1:50:37, 51/334 finishers
I’ve been getting over a cold all this week and struggling with some sciatica since Wednesday, so I knew this one was going to be something of a struggle. But I also knew it would be worth the effort: the scenery in Silver Falls State Park is absolutely incredible. This was the fist half-marathon ever held in the park (and the first running race of any kind that I’ve ever heard of there). The route covered every inch of the park’s amazing “trail of ten falls” as well as a bunch of lesser-known paths and trails in the vicinity.
It had been about 15 years since I had been to Silver Falls (as a stroller, not a runner, back then), so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from the terrain. My recollection was that the main trail was fairly level, but that getting into and out of the gorge involved some steep inclines. This turned out to be mostly true, though the inclines (and the stairs!) turned out to be a bit more punishing than I was expecting. I chalked most of that up to my cold.
It was a cool and misty morning but the rain had let up by the time we started. The first three miles were mostly flat, and partly on pavement, and I found myself running pretty fast. When we hit the first sustained uphill, headed up the Rim Trail toward North Falls, it got hard. My lungs weren’t giving me enough air and my legs felt heavy. Eventually it leveled out and we reached the top of the falls. We headed down a steep set of staircases and ran behind the falls through a large, dim cavern, emerging on the other side onto the main canyon trail.
We were now headed downstream and downhill. That made this next section pretty easy. Eventually, though, the stream we were running along curved off one way and we started making our way up another branch. The first set of brutal uphills and stairs presented itself as we made out way behind and past the Lower South Falls. Not much later, and even more brutal climb (with lots and lots more stairs) got us past the spectacular South Falls (shown in the first picture) and finally out of the canyon. The last aid station was at the top; they must have thought we were all really out of shape, given all the panting and walking going on at this point.
There were about three miles left at this point and it seemed like they were going to be pretty easy, since we were out of the canyon and back in the gently rolling lands around the South Falls day use area. Miles 11 and 12 were indeed easy. The race director had fun planning the last mile, though.
We turned off a main path onto a moss-grown soft dirt track, that headed painfully uphill for a half mile or more. Then we switched onto a little barely-there footpath cut through dense bushes. After a scant few hundred meters of level ground, the path looped back toward the finish line and we barreled downhill on the steepest section of the course. Wide awake now, the few hundred meters through a field and over a footbridge passed in a blur.
I’d recommend this race without hesitation. It was low-priced, had incredible scenery, was well-marked and wheel-measured (it even had mile markers), came with good support, and was just one terrific trail race.