Portland Marathon Race Recap 2015

2015 Portland Marathon Race Recap

First off, thank you all so, so much for your super kind and encouraging comments, Tweets, and emails before and after the race! Your support just floods my heart with happiness.

If you are considering doing a race in the Pacific Northwest (which you should, because it’s beautiful and temperate out here), the Portland Marathon is the race for you.

Yes, I missed my goal and endured some rough miles during the race, but overall, I had an incredible first marathon experience. The Portland Marathon was beautiful, flat (with a couple decent hills to keep things interesting), a smaller race with a big city feel, and very well organized. I would run it again in a heartbeat, especially because there’s a brewfest after next year.

Pre-Race

As soon as we arrived in Portland on Saturday afternoon, we stopped by the expo to pick up my bib. The Hilton in downtown Portland, which was the official hotel of the race, hosted the well-organized expo. We got my bib and pre-race goodies (which included a cloth gym bag and a poster), browsed through the vendors, and were out of there within 30 minutes.

Before checking into our Airbnb, we each enjoyed a delicious IPAs at Hopworks Urban Brewpub and then headed to mass at a nearby Jesuit church. 

Portland Marathon Race Recap 2015
                                                                         I’m serious about my beer tasting.

The Airbnb ended up being a bit of a disappointment, especially when we had booked it so that we could have a kitchen. It was a clean apartment in a safe neighborhood just ten minutes from downtown, but it did not have a kitchen like we anticipated. Rather, it was supplied with a microwave, a toaster oven, and a hot plate. So, instead of cooking up chicken and baked potatoes, we ended up grabbing food at the Whole Foods hot bar.

The bed at our Airbnb was stiff, uncomfortable, and not conducive to a good night’s sleep. After tossing and turning for a while, I finally got 5 hours of sleep. Ryan and I both woke up at my 4 AM alarm feeling stiff, at which point we decided to next time just book a hotel near the start line, even if it costs more. I tend to be overly-frugal, even when it’s not at all necessary, and this was a time where spending just $50 more would have been very much worth it. It would have also been nice to stay closer to downtown Portland to experience the city even more.

Portland Marathon

I fueled with coffee, water, a bowl of Chex and a banana shortly after waking up. The weather was cool and pleasant, so much that I didn’t even need a warm-up layer or throwaway for the corral. We arrived downtown around 6AM and were easily able to find parking close to the starting line. Portland is very walkable and easy to navigate, so we found the starting line without any hassle. The lines for the porta-pots were long but thankfully moved quickly, and by 6:40 I was lined up in my corral. I found the 3:35 pacer (my plan was to start slightly under goal pace and break ahead somewhere around 16-20) and started chatting with a group of women all aiming for the same goal. Everyone was so friendly at the race! I took my first GU while waiting in the corral, to top off my energy before the race. My nerves calmed and I felt confident, despite feeling bloated and a bit off from some GI problems I had been experiencing over the past week.

The Portland Marathon does have tight security, so Ryan couldn’t stand near the corrals or right at the finish line. Spectators were allowed within about a quarter-mile of the start and finish lines, so I got to see Ryan both those times. I didn’t see him for the rest of the race, since many sections of the course were closed off to spectators.The course didn’t lack crowd support, however; many of the closed areas were through residential neighborhoods and the residents came out to cheer on runners.

The first few miles flew by. The Portland Marathon features instrumental bands along the course, which provides a significant amount of entertainment during the race. I ran without headphones or any of my own music for the entire race, which I’m really glad I did. I barely noticed the gradual 140 foot elevation gain over miles 2 and 3. The effort felt easy and conversational as I settled into 8:05 min/miles after the course flattened out.

Portland Marathon Race Recap 2015
                                                                            From the final quarter mile.

The Portland Marathon offered exceptional pacers. They were experienced (the 3:35 pacers had each paced this marathon about 5 times before), chipper without being cheerleader-y, and steady. They started us out slow, and once we got past the first hill, they settled us into goal pace.

I was chatting with another runner during the early miles and found out she reads my blog! It always makes my day when I find out someone reads, and I really enjoyed talking to her. It’s the little things like that that make blogging definitely worthwhile.

I made sure to grab water and drink along the run at a few water stops and took my GU at miles 5-8. Somewhere between miles 10 and 11, my stomach started cramping up. Not just a little cramp, but my entire stomach area, from my ribs to below my navel.

Around mile 11, I dropped my pace a tiny bit to try to relieve the cramping. By the half marathon mark, my stomach started getting worse, even as I tried to take another gel. My pace dropped significantly from about mile 14-19. I actually pulled over and stopped for a few seconds, convinced that I was going to throw up. I retrieved my phone from my SPIBelt and texted Ryan that I felt sick and wasn’t sure I could make it. He told me to keep on pushing, which were the exact words I needed to hear. Runners were passing my constantly during these miles, which was a bit discouraging, but I just kept moving forward. I wanted to stop, walk, even quit, but I wasn’t about to let my stomach get the best of me.

The major hill of the course appears at mile 16, as you ascend a steep hill to then go up and over the scenic St. John’s Bridge. I ended up taking a couple walk breaks around here, as I felt genuinely awful. There were a few medical people running along the course to provide aid to runners, so I asked one of them for some advice. Since I was taking in carbs and water, he recommended getting extra electrolytes. The course supplied Ultima, which is a no-carb, no-sugar (stevia-sweetened) electrolyte drink. Since my stomach cramps couldn’t get much worse, I decided to give it a try and started drinking a cup of Ultima and a cup of water at every water stop.

Admittedly, I walked through the water stops through the rest of the race to make sure I got enough fluids. The electrolytes and extra fluids helped my stomach, so I wasn’t about to stop doing this. I took my final GU at mile 18 and could just barely stomach it. Around mile 20, I realized I could still easily finish within 4 hours, so I focused on picking up my pace and just moving forward.

Around miles 21-22, I started passing people. My mile splits finally returned back into the 8:xx’s for the first time in several miles, even with walking through the water stops. I did the math and realized that, if I kept a this steady pace, I could finish in under 3:50.

Portland Marathon Race Recap 2015
                                                       Pushing it to cross the finish line: what a surreal moment!

The last 10K honestly went by in a bit of a blur. I know there was a bit of a climb somewhere around 24 or 25, but hiking has strengthened my legs so much that I barely felt it. I kept passing runners and pushing for that sub-3:50. I just focused in on thinking about Ryan, on making him proud, and on seeing him. Finally, my pace returned to near my goal marathon pace in the last couple miles, and I heard Ryan cheer my name just before I rounded the corner to the finish line.

The clock read 3:51, but since I started in corral B, I realized I was just at 3:49.  I raised my arms in the air as best I could, since everything hurt, and crossed the finish line. The sensation was one of utter relief and overwhelming accomplishment.

My Garmin read 3:49:22 for 26.29 miles (it was easy to run the tangents since it had only 21 turns); my official time for the race was 3:49:32. Later I found out that I placed 1033 out of 5550 runners, 294 out of 2841 women, and 69 out of 500 in my age group. Not too bad for my first marathon. I was ecstatic with my time, I ached all over, and I immediately needed to sit, so I sat on a curb in the middle of Portland and just marveled at the fact that I was officially a marathoner.

Portland Marathon Race Recap 2015
                                                                           So happy just to finally be sitting.

Post-Race

As soon as Ryan and I met up, I realized I desperately needed some bland carbs. I had not grabbed any of the post race food, since my hands were full from the medal, a finisher’s jacket (instead of a Mylar sheet), a race shirt, a rose, and a tree sapling that they gave to finishers. Einstein’s Bagels was about two short blocks from the race, so we sat outside, ate coffee and a bagel with cream cheese, and enjoyed the beautiful Portland weather.

A couple hours later, we grabbed lunch at Deschutes Brewery in downtown Portland. We love their beers, and the brewpub did not disappoint. It had beautiful wood carvings and plenty of seating, and even on a busy day we were seated and served with much-appreciated expediency. We had their Inversion IPAs, elk burgers, and fries. I couldn’t finish my food, so I ended up getting a to-go bag so I could eat it on our drive home.

Portland Marathon Race Recap 2015
                                                                            Portland knows their beer.

On Missing My BQ

Honestly, I am so happy and proud of my finish time. I met my “B” goal and am still glad that I set the “A” goal I did. I’m a dreamer, a reacher, a shoot-for-the-stars personality, and the experience of pursuing goals means as much to me, if not more, than achieving the goal itself. I had such a successful training cycle and pushed myself beyond my previous self-imposed limits, which is as valuable to me as that BQ. The fact that I then pushed through stomach pains, rather than quitting, shows me that I’ve progressed so far in my ability to overcome discomfort.

I also now know that I can’t keep ignoring my digestive issues. I can’t blame my bad miles on anyone other than myself for not better preparing my stomach for the stress of a marathon. Crohn’s and IBS/IBD run in my family and I have endometriosis, which can lead to inflammation in the gut. Thankfully, my medication manages my endo symptoms fairly well, but the medicine can disrupt gut bacteria. My mom and Ryan have been suggesting that I get into a gastroenterologist to figure out why my stomach turns against me so frequently, and it’s about time I stopped being so stubborn and do so. It’s not a recent thing by any means; I don’t mention it on the blog because I don’t want to be “that runner with endometriosis” and no one wants to know the details of my stupid stomach. My training went so well that it is mildly frustrating to realize I could have done better if I was more proactive in taking care of my digestive health, but I’m still so proud of myself for overcoming the pain as I did.

Questions of the Day:
Is the Portland Marathon a race you would want to try?
What’s the most beautiful race you’ve ever run?
How do you handle stomach issues during a race or training run?

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54 Responses

  1. Amazing!! I ran the Portland Marathon last year 🙂
    The most beautiful race I have run is the Reykjavik Marathon in Iceland. Seriously incredible!
    Also BMO Vancouver Marathon in May is awesome and so close to you….maybe the next one!!! (I’m from Vancouver so i may be biased!!)

    1. Thank you, Allegra! Reykjavik sounds so incredibly beautiful – I’ve always wanted to visit Iceland! I’ve heard that the Vancouver Marathon is a good one – and I’ve heard the BC is stunning!

  2. So proud of you! And you know that I’m going to say about the first time just needing to be positive, so I’ll skip all of that. This sounds like a fantastic race (as I have heard), I’m glad that you enjoyed yourself, and now you have things to work on (which I know you like). Plus, you’ve got plenty of time to get your BQ for the same qualification year! So you are gooooooood. ROCK IT OUT mama!

    1. Thank you so much, Susie! All your encouragement and support has meant so much to me! It is nice to know that there’s still time to qualify for Boston – and there are a few more races in the Portland/Vancouver, WA area (Seattle = too hilly to BQ, even though the Eastside has some awesome flat half marathons) before the 2017 window closes. And if not, there’s always 2018!

  3. Congratulations! You had an amazing first marathon and will absolutely reach your goals in the future!!! Sorry to hear about your stomach problems. They really are the worst, but you pushed through and showed you are mentally tough.

    I’ve always wanted to go to Portland, I hear amazing things! So glad to hear you liked the course so much!

    1. Thank you so much, Beth! You should really visit Portland – as much as I love Seattle, it has less traffic, friendlier people, along with beautiful rivers, mountains, and great food! There were people from all over the country for the race, which is impressive considering that it’s a smaller marathon in terms of the big city races.

  4. Congrats Laura! Great day for your first marathon and especially when you had to struggle through some tough GI issues. You rocked it!

    Funny–we were running marathons on opposite coasts, same day, same basic outfit–Oiselle distance shorts and tanks!

    1. Thank you so much, Amanda! Congrats on Wineglass, from what I saw on Instagram, it looks like you had a great time and a fun race! That is funny – of course, I can’t blame you on the outfit! 🙂 The Oiselle shorts and tanks have never chafed for me, and it was a relief to get through my first full with minimal chafing.

  5. I’ve just started reading your blog as I’m preparing for my first marathon in Chicago this weekend. I had my mind set to do a BQ, but your post has made me realize that I need to remember to enjoy it and that finishing it is still a huge accomplishment!

    1. Best of luck to you at Chicago next weekend! So many of my friends have run it (I went to school and used to live in Valpo, Indiana, about an hour from Chicago) and I’ve heard it’s an incredible experience. Whether you BQ or not (which I’m wishing you luck that you do!), you’ll still be marathoner at the end of the day – what a huge accomplishment!

  6. Congratulations on your marathon and for your first marathon, you did an amazing job! You can train super hard and ace your runs, but 26.2 miles is a long time for something to go wrong, no matter what. You finished with a good time and injury free and smiling and that’s the biggest victory! I do hope you get the tummy issues figured out soon- heat always makes that worse for me but I think it happens to all runners sometimes.

    Portland’s Marathon looks so amazing- it’s neat you get a finisher’s jacket as well as a medal and that they have spectators on the course and pacers for you. You definitely picked a good race.

    1. Thank you so much, Amy! I am definitely so grateful that I finished injury-free – definitely a plus of the Hansons plan! Good point on the heat – it was a bit warm during the later miles (by the standards of us weather-sensitive PNWers) and some of the stretches that were in the sun made me feel super thirsty, so I wonder if that came into play. The finisher’s jacket was so great; it’s not the fanciest thing, but it’s reusable and helped me stay warm – more races should do that instead of the blankets, I think!

  7. Once again, congrats and welcome to the marathoner club!! I’m so happy to hear that you loved your first marathon and that the experience generally went well. There really is nothing like the feeling of crossing that finish line. It changes you.

    I’m proud and impressed that you have such a positive attitude about missing your goal. I have to admit, I know I would not take it as well as you are, so it is very inspiring to read about how you are finding the good and not feeling mad or disappointed at yourself. Enjoy your recovery, you’ve earned it!!!

    1. Thank you, Hanna! The finish line was such a rewarding and changing moments – I haven’t felt that accomplished since college graduation (yep, not even my thesis defense felt that life-changing!). I’ve definitely had to work mentally to cultivate that attitude, so your words mean so much to me! I think you and I both tend to be goal-setters, doers, and perfectionists, and it’s hard but necessary to give ourselves some grace! A priest at my grad school told me to start listing 5 things of gratitude each day in order to cultivate a positive attitude. It helped so much over the past year and I started focusing things I’m gracious for during the race, which really helped!

  8. I love Portland and would love to run that marathon one day. I think you did amazing, and yes I have gut issues (Suzy Has the Runs for a reason!) and I deal with it on race day by taking anti diarrhea pills after my morning poo! Sorry. Gross. But true! Works like a charm.

    1. Thank you so much again, Suzy! Portland is really such an amazing city – maybe we’ll see each other at the marathon sometime in the future! Not that I could keep up with you :). I took two anti-diarrhea pills before the race and one during, but my problem is (ahem) the opposite – I can’t go. Gut issues are no fun, but it’s so inspiring to see a runner like you who’s overcome them to run some seriously amazing marathons!

  9. Congratulations on a fabulous first marathon! I have Crohn’s and have a very difficult time with my GI during races/long training runs. Majority of reason why I run fasted. But I also found that some days just don’t go my way – my second marathon I completely cramped and ended up walking the last six miles. After that, I now walk through every single water station from mile 15 on to ensure I get the electrolytes and water that I need. You have so much to be proud of – can’t wait to see you crush that A goal 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Jamie! I definitely found your post today about how fasted runs have helped with your Crohn’s. Getting the electrolytes definitely helped me, so I’ll have to keep in mind your tip about walking through them all. Now I’m excited to see you crush it at NYCM 🙂

  10. AMAZING Laura!! You did such a great job and should be so proud! Congrats to rocking your first marathon and pushing through some really though stomach issues. Wow!! You’ve taken a great perspective on it all and that will take you far! It sounds like a great race and after reading your recap, it gets me excited about training for my first marathon. Congrats again!!

      1. I have not yet. Its just not the right time for me yet with different life circumstances. I would like to run a few more half marathons before doing the marathon but when I do I will definitely be referring to your blog for training!

        1. I totally get that – it really is a personal decision and good for you for not giving into any pressure! I felt like I was late to the game in running a full but it’s not the right choice until it can work within your life because it needs to – not your life around a marathon. Half marathons are a huge and major commitment in and of themselves (so excited for my next one, I love that distance) and I know you’ll have several great races!

          1. For sure! I want to be able to be all in when I do it so I am waiting for the right time. Thanks for your encouraging words; it is hard sometimes to not feel pressure. I really like the half so it will keep me going until the right time. Thanks again!

  11. I would love to run the Portland Marathon! I’ve only been to Portland once, but I really liked the feel of the town, and the people were honestly some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

    1. You should run it sometime, it’s an amazing race! I noticed that also in Portland – people were genuinely kind and friendly, which added to the very welcoming feeling of the city!

  12. I have been trying to comment all day long – such issues with the servers today! SO super proud of you, congrats on a strong race! Even though you had dreaded stomach issues, you pushed through when you really could have caved. You didn’t, and you finished a marathon! I think sometimes we lose sight of just what an extreme accomplishment it is to run and to run so many miles.You have an amazing finish time for a marathon, especially your first. Truly inspirational..

    1. I don’t know what is up with the servers! Some blogs have been loading super slow for me as well. Thank you so much, Meredith! It really did amaze me during the race just how many miles 26.2 is (and how much 13.1 is!) and how big of an accomplishment it felt to just cross that finish line. Running is a series of little accomplishments every day, and races help us step back and remember just how much!

  13. I can relate to the GI stuff, in fact I got major sympathy pains just reading this! Honestly, I know you could have run your A goal time without the stomach pain! 100%. I have to be really careful as you know with what foods I eat especially with marathon training. Also, you’d be surprised how many people DO want to hear about your stomach, because so many people go through similar things and feel alone. It’s the #1 thing that people email me about!

    1. Thank you so much, Michele! You do bring up a very good point that I never thought of! That is surprising about the number of people that email you about stomach stuff, but then it makes sense. I find it helpful and inspiring to read about others dealing with it, but I just never thought that someone would find the same with my little blog.

  14. Congrats on an amazing first race! Sorry to hear about your stomach issues- they’re the worst! I’m glad you had a good experience and learned that you can keep pushing even when it gets tough! Excited to see what’s next for you.

  15. Congrats on a great finish time! I’m impressed that you were able to push through those Gi issues! I have a lot of GI issues, and I’ve used Tailwind Nutrition with really great results. I cannot take more than one gel. After 10 miles, my intestines are toast. I hope you get some answers! IN the meantime, just bask in your great race!

    1. Thank you so much, Wendy, both for you kind words and the tips! I can handle gels just fine during training, but I guess not so much when the stress of racing really begins to mess with my stomach. I’m glad you found what works for you – I should consider liquid nutrition, especially after how well the Ultima worked for me.

  16. GREAT JOB! You have great perseverance. Stomach issues can definitely ruin a run. I am fortunate that I seldom deal with issue during a run, but can have stomach pain after a challenging workout. I would love to run the Portland Marathon. I signed up for it one year and was so excited for it. Unfortunately, due to work conflict, I was unable to do it. You should definitely be proud of yourself 😉

    1. Thank you, Eugenia! You should really do the Portland Marathon if you can – you get that big city race experience without the super crowded race or insane price tag. That’s a bummer you had to miss it, but hopefully you can in the future! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Courtney! I’m a bit biased towards Brooks and Oiselle since they’re both Seattle brands, but I love how those shorts never chafe and can hold everything in the pockets. 🙂

  17. Hi, Laura! I was standing on the sidelines of the marathon this last weekend and am pretty sure I saw you! I wasn’t in the marathon, but just visiting Portland, and on the way to a bistro, ran into the blue barrier near the Trade Center. I stood there for nearly an hour, overcome by the bravery…and the celebration on the faces of family on the sidelines. I have a question…would you email me, please? 🙂

  18. I did the same thing after Portland a couple of years ago, headed straight for Einstein’s Bagels! What an awesome time for any marathon and especially for your first!

  19. I just found your blog and I immediately read about your Portland Marathon experience. I have been a runner for a long time but I just ran my first half marathon earlier this month (Whidbey Half) and loved it so much I decided to sign up for my first marathon – Portland in October. I can’t wait, but I am nervous. The thought of running 26.2 mi is daunting but I think I’ve got it! I’ll be keeping up with your blog!

    1. Thanks for reading! I’ve heard Whidbey is a beautiful but hilly course – congrats on completing your first half! Portland is SUCH a fun race for a first time marathoner – very well organized, big but not overwhelming, and scenic – and mostly flat 🙂 I’m actually offering a marathon training camp for runners of all levels training for fall marathons if you’re interest – I could help especially with course-specific training since I know the course 🙂 Here’s the link if you are interested! thisrunnersrecipes.com/marathon-training-group/

  20. Hi Laura, I stumbled across this when researching where to do my second marathon. Portland 2015 was my first as well! Although belated, thank you for this post. It was fantastic to read it and I could relate to it as well since much of it was shared experience. Congratulations on pushing through the difficult times – I would have helped you out but was a few minutes behind! I thought the runners on the course were friendly and the experience was just amazing. Plus, what a city to relax in afterwards. I had come from New Zealand to do this race and it was everything I had hoped. I am hoping for another destination run soon. October is good time of year for us to travel so maybe the Wineglass would be an option. Thanks again for this inspiring post.

    1. Hi Justin, congrats on completing Portland as well! It was such a friendly city and wonderful race experience – one I hope to run again someday. I’ve heard great things about Wineglass as well! Thank you for your kind works and good luck on your training!

  21. Hi Laura! Love this recap. Glad you had a positive experience, minus GI issues. The Portland 2015 was my second marathon, and it was pretty rough for me actually. Not so much physically (although, obviously that too), but I just lost ALL motivation to run after mile 21. It was bad. lol. Training for my third full coming up this this November and hoping for redemption at the 26.2 distance :). I just discovered your blog, and I totally dig it, PNW running blogger to PNW running blogger.

    🙂 <3

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