If you follow me on Instagram or regularly read this blog, then it’s no secret that I am head-over-heels in love with the Pacific Northwest. The mild climate suits my fairweather preferences, the scenery is ineffably awe-inspiring, and the whole place is a runner’s world full of uninterrupted scenic running paths and trails.
While I’m not a fan of destination races, I signed up for the Portland Marathon last year before we knew when we were moving to the Pacific Northwest. After visiting Seattle and experiencing glorious weather in the middle of February (Feb-dreary as we called it in Indian), I knew I wanted to race in the beautiful and temperate PNW, even if it meant a trip halfway across the country.
Of course, Ryan and I moved to Seattle a year ago, so now I’m spoiled and only run Pacific Northwest races because they offer so much: ideal weather, scenic courses, and a wide variety from big city to trail races.
Why You Should Consider Signing Up for Pacific Northwest Races
Summer Races All Around
Spring and fall are the traditional race seasons across most of the United States, but what if you want to race in summer? Look no further than the Pacific Northwest. Why? Summer months are rarely rainy in the PNW, but rarely do temperatures increase above highs in the 70s.
Summer races include:
- BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon
- Rock and Roll Seattle Marathon and Half Marathon
- Missoula Marathon and Half Marathon
- Jack and Jill Downhill Marathon
- Rock and Roll Portland Marathon
- Eugene Marathon and Half Marathon
- Foot Traffic Flat Marathon
- Vancouver USA Marathon and Half Marathon
- The Beats Half Marathon
Racing during rainy season? Follow these tips for surviving rainy runs!
Don’t let our rainy reputation fool you: the Pacific Northwest is not very humid, especially compared to the Midwest or the South. I bitched and moaned the other day because it was hot and humid on my run; Accuweather revealed to me that this “high humidity” was only 65%. Oh, and the “hot” temperature was 62 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat and humidity are not common words in this part of the country, so if you want to race without PR-threatening humidity, consider the PNW. (Just don’t go East of the Cascades, because places like Spokane are hot, humid, and a bit of a desert.)
Wine and Beer After the Race
The fragrant smell of hops wafts through the air and the sprawling scenery of vineyards entertain me on my daily training runs, and many races in East Seattle finish in this area so runners can enjoy a craft beer or glass of wine. The Vancouver USA Marathon gives every finishers free beer at the Vancouver Summer Brewfest. The Woodinville Beer and Wine Valley Half Marathon runs through the wine valley before rewarding participants with wine.
Trail Races without Elevation
Into trail racing but train at sea level? Head to the Pacific Northwest for your destination trail race. Unlike Colorado or Utah which are at a lung-busting 5000 feet minimum altitude, the Pacific Northwest offers challenging trail races at sea level to 2000 feet. Trail running is immensely popular in Washington and Oregon, with distances from the 5K to 50 miler and beyond through the numerous mountain ranges, forests, and parks in these evergreen states. Even the big cities such as Portland and Seattle offer trail races in locations such as Forest Park (OR) and the Issaquah Alps (WA) if you want to be near an airport for easy travel.
You Truly Cannot Beat the Scenery
No matter how well-trained you are or how smartly you run the race, each race has that moment of “wow my muscles really hurt, can I keep going?” PNW races offer mountain views and evergreen trees to distract you from the burning sensation in your legs. My most recent half marathon ran along the coast of a sparkling blue lake with views of the mountains in the distance, and I’m positive the scenery helped me push hard through those last 3 miles that always are a sufferfest.
Urban or Scenic, Take Your Pick
Whether you love big city races or scenic rural races, the Pacific Northwest has the ideal race for you. Urban races include the Seattle Marathon (hope you like hills!), the Portland Marathon, and the BMO Vancouver Marathon. Do crowds make you anxious or you just prefer the quietness of the less-beaten path? Then you may like the Leavenworth Marathon and Half Marathon, Whidbey Island Marathon and Half, or Columbia Gorge Marathon and Half.
Don’t Fear the Hills
Here’s a thing I’ve noticed about races out here: many courses pride themselves in being flat. Sometimes it’s even noted in the name, such as Skagit Flats Marathon and Foot Traffic Flat Marathon. Numerous races in East Seattle are flat and run along bike paths and through river valleys to minimize incline. Don’t let the topography of the Pacific Northwest deter you from racing here.
If you are looking for a hilly challenge – say you live in Illinois and want a race that isn’t flat, flat, flat, and more flat – then you can also race up and down as many hills as you wish. If you really want to experience hills, try the Seattle Marathon. You notice those hills even when driving downtown, so imagine running on them!
Linking up for Thinking Out Loud.
Have you ever done a destination race? Where?
If you have run one, what is your favorite West Coast race?
What do you love about racing in your city/part of the country?