Friday, September 13, 2013

Running in Oregon

Oregon is an amazing place to run, not only because of the beauty of the land, but also because of its rich running history. The famous middle and long distance runner Steve "Pre" Prefontaine was a track star in Eugene, OR at the University of Oregon and was trained by the equally famous track coach Bill Bowerman. Bill Bowerman first introduced Pre to a new kind of sneaker made specifically for running by a fledgling local company, Nike. Today, Nike is an international running powerhouse but it still keeps its roots in Oregon, keeping its HQ in Beaverton, just outside of Portland.

During the time that I was in Portland, there was a festival called Music Fest North West going on. Nike was one of the sponsors and they had a really cool and unique idea to give some of the tickets away by having festival goers participate in sports events. The night that I arrived, Nike sponsored a midnight 5k through Portland that resulted in the finishers getting tickets to two shows: Diplo on Thursday night and Flume on Friday night. I really wish I could have run it-- I would have loved it! Unfortunately, my flight arrived at midnight to PDX so I didn't make it. But what a great idea!

I had the opportunity to run in Beaverton, just outside of Portland and where the Nike campus (aka HQ) is located. If you're looking for a scenic, wooded run or bike, definitely check out Tulatin Hills Nature Park. The park consists of "primary" and "secondary" trails. The primary trails are totally paved and the secondary are either gravel or dirt, but they are immaculately maintained, which is amazing because moss grows like crazy there so I feel like it must be hard to keep everything so tidy and not slippery. When you arrive at the parking lot, there is a great "interpretive center" (I guess a nature center?) and there is a information board with great maps that I highly encourage you to grab. These maps give great detail for distance, so it'll help you to figure out how far and fast you ran. There is really only one large loop you can do, but its only about 3miles, however that only really covered half the park, so definitely feel free to just run around for an hour checking out all the trails, you just might have to double back a few times since they're not all connected and there aren't a lot of loops.
Tulatin Hills Nature Park main path

At the end of one of the trails in Tulatin Hills

What's really awesome about woods running in Oregon is that you feel as if you've been transported to an ancient land. Because Oregon is so wet (it's technically a rain forest!), everything is insanely green and covered with moss. The trees all seem to have that iconic dark, reddish-brown trunk that us easterners think of when we think of western tress (especially redwoods and sequoias). What's nice about the nature park is you get a slice of wilderness in a very urban area. There were definitely a good number of people around, but not so much that you had to stop running to let people pass. I would say the whole half hour I saw about 10 people.

While in Beaverton I also had the opportunity to run the Nike Campus. Just as a warning, if you go on a weekend, most of the buildings are closed, but if you need to use the bathroom then if you run to the back of the campus at SW Walker Road and the main building there should be open to the public. Running around the campus is a great way of scoping it out; I was really impressed by the size and beauty of the campus and on the weekend there was no one around so I could pretty much run anywhere without hassle. There is a beautiful man-made lake with a gravel path around it, outdoor seating that overlook the lake, and cool bronze statues that overlook the lake as well. They have all kinds of neat things, like tennis courts and soccer fields, and there is a nice trail that goes around the outside of the campus and you can run over bridges that are elevated over the entrances, so you get to go high up which is kind of fun. Across the street from the front of the campus on SW Jenkins road is a woodsy 1.5 mile path, which I saw one distance warrior doing repeats on.
The gravel trail around the man-made lake at the Nike Campus

A statue at the Nike Campus by the lake

The running path across the street from the Nike Campus

Another great place to run at (though I didn't) is Hagg Lake, about 45 minutes from Portland. It is a massive man-made lake with beaches, boat launches, fishing, hiking and more. I feel like my photos don't do it justice at all. It was such a warm, sunny day and the lake was such a nice relief. It' really safe there too with not a lot of people, even on a Saturday, so you can go for a really hearty swim across the lake if you like. I could really see a great triathalon happening there. If you do go, its $6 for parking and I suggest parking at Boat Launch C, where there are beaches, picnic tables, boat rentals, and a snack stand. From there you can jog down the road and you'll see lots of trails into the forest. I really wish I had gone for a run, but I also loved chilling and swimming with my friends, so that was a good "cross training" day. 
Beach at Hagg Lake

If you are visiting Portland and want to scope out more running spots, I would definitely check out Arlington Heights, near the Oregon Zoo, which is much more accessible by public transport. I didn't have the chance to run there this time, but I've gone hiking there before and it's great-- and huge!

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Special thank you to Bob Ferguson, Christopher Mortweet, Elizabeth Norman, Maryliz Uihlein, and Beth Seickel for contributing to my fundraiser this week! You guys rock!