Thousands of runners, wine enthusiasts, sponsors and spectators will converge at the finish line of the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, presented by Subaru, in the “great little town” of Carlton on Sunday, September 2. Now in its third year, the race is one of the most scenic half marathons in the country, and features four days of events beginning on Thursday at the Sports Authority store in Beaverton.
Two-time defending women’s champion Carre Heineck is returning to attempt to win her third-in-a-row. The 30-year-old Portland resident set the women’s course record last year at 1:18:44 and looks to better that mark in 2012.
“The Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon is a big, competitive race, but it doesn’t seem like it, because people are so friendly and supportive,” comments Heineck in a brief moment between being a full-time middle school teacher and the mother of a two-year-old. “It has a great community feel to it. At most big races, you never really talk to the other competitors, but at this race, everyone hangs out. Last year, I met Eva Vail, who finished 3rd and now we’re friends and we train together.”
The 13.1-mile race starts at Stoller Vineyards and winds through scenic Yamhill County in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine region before finishing on North Pine Street in Carlton. A Wine & Music Festival, awards ceremony and other activities follow the race in Carlton. New for 2012 will be the Winery Team Challenge, in which local wineries field teams of runners and compete for the winery trophy.
According to Matt Dockstader, the Event Director, two course changes and new elements such as the Winery Team Challenge have been added to enhance the event experience. “Oregon has such a strong running community which is even evident within the wineries. Many of them pull together teams to compete in the race, which gave us the idea to incorporate this challenge into all our races. It gives it a fun, local flavor, although we draw from all over the country.”
Each race participant receives a specially designed technical running shirt, colorful finishers medal with a wine-stopper and corkscrew, plus a Riedel Oregon Pinot Noir wine glass and entry into the post-race Wine & Music Festival, where 24 wineries and one brewery from the region will be pouring. Additional glasses and tickets for the festival can be purchased for friends and family.
With so many people visiting the Willamette Valley before, during and after the event, local businesses thrive. “On that weekend, we are extremely busy, especially on race day,” bristles Retta Carl, co-owner of Cielo Blu Restaurant in Carlton. “We get not only the race participants, but also the event staff, the volunteers, and the friends and families that come to watch the runners cross the finish line.”
The Health and Fitness Expo is held on Saturday September 1 from 10:00am to 6:00pm at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, and is free and open to the public. Under the wings of the Spruce Goose, the expo features exhibitor booths, seminars, wine tasting and packet pickup for registered runners, plus discounts on other Evergreen attractions. Other ancillary events include early packet pickup at Sports Authority in Beaverton on August 30, a welcome reception on August 31 at Grand Cru Estates, a pre-race dinner and a post-race wine tasting tour.
Adam Goucher and Tim Catalano will be guest speakers at the Expo. Adam was a 2000 US Olympian in the 10,000 meters and co-authored “Running the Edge” with Catalano. He is also the husband of Kara Goucher, who will compete for the U.S. in the marathon in London.
The primary beneficiary of the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon is Carlton Together Cares, a non-profit organization that operates the Carlton Community Center and develops programs for youth and families in the Carlton-Yamhill area. They are largely focused on providing youth with useful roles in the community, and safe and healthy activities.
Registration for the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon is still open and can be accessed through the event website, www.run4oregonwine.com. A team competition with six or more runners is offered, in addition to a 2-person relay. A registration price increase goes into effect on Saturday, July 28. The race is part of a series produced by Destination Races, who also produces Wine Country Half Marathons in Napa-Sonoma, Healdsburg, Santa Barbara and Virginia. For more information on the series, visit www.destinationraces.com.