HOOD RIVER — Runners from all over the United States strapped on their most comfortable pair of shoes last Sunday for the seventh-annual Columbia River Gorge Marathon and Half Marathon.
But even if the runners’ feet were aching by the time they crossed the finish line, at least they could enjoy the spectacular Gorge scenery along the way.
“People from all over come here every year because they love the area and they love the course,” said Dr. Steve Becker, who ran the half marathon in a personal-best time of one hour, 34 minutes, two seconds, good for 19th place in the men’s division.
“It’s a great race for the locals to show off our beautiful surroundings, and everyone you talk to says it’s one of the more attractive courses around,” he said.
Becker was the second local finisher in the men’s half marathon, crossing the finish line roughly 13 minutes behind Tom Moline, who placed third overall with a time of 1:21:18. The Hood River Valley High School distance coach placed fourth last year, and says his students have inspired him to keep pushing himself.
“The high-school distance team had so much fun this year that it has been contagious,” he said. “Their enthusiasm has me excited and eager to race. And any time you have fun doing something like running, you will continue to do well and improve.”
One of Moline’s former prodigies, Christy Paul, fared just as well on the women’s side, placing third overall in a time of 1:31:18. The Cornell University sophomore had never run a race of this distance (13 miles), but said that she would do it again — just not for a little while.
“The half marathon was twice as far as any race I’ve ever done, so it was difficult in that respect,” said Paul, the 2001 state cross-country champion. “But I didn’t have any reason not to do it. I just had to figure out the pace, and after that, it was fun.”
Paul said that despite her stellar finish, she didn’t treat the half marathon as a race. She was more focused on trying something new and representing her home town.
“My college coach doesn’t want us to ‘race’ this summer, so I just went out and ran the best I could,” she said. “It’s always fun to do the local races, but I will probably focus on 10K’s or less for the rest of the summer.”
Joining Paul atop the local women’s half marathon results was Heidi Engbersen, who finished 10th in a time of 1:46:50. Lyndee Talmage placed 37th at 1:59:09, while a trio of ladies placed consecutively at 47th-49th.
“It’s amazing to me how many people turn out every year,” said Leslie Cogswell, who finished in 2:02:55, just ahead of Kathy Mellow (2:03:08) and Carolyn Bock (2:03:09). “This race has a lot of meaning to me, personally, and I hope it continues to live on.”
Cogswell’s husband, Jim, also competed in the half marathon, placing 81st in a time of 2:10:20. Steven Juhnke of White Salmon, Wash., rounded out the local men’s results in 26th place (1:36:50).
In the full marathon, a pair of Hood River runners posted elite finishes. Long-time distance runner Ali Hilden placed 10th in the women’s race with a time of 3:50:38, while Todd Hanna placed 11th on the men’s side in a time of 3:25:14.
Also representing Hood River well in the men’s race was Rutger Engbersen, who placed 36th in a time of 3:51:43. Brandon Braam rounded out the local men’s results in 81st place (4:45:38).
Meanwhile, joining Hilden in the women’s marathon were Kelly Wallis (14th, 4:01:50), Susan Donnan (19th, 4:08:11) and Barb Smith (30th, 4:16:06).
The overall winners for Sunday’s full marathon were 30-year-old Heather Flynn of Portland (3:19:21) and 39-year-old Roger Scott of Clive, Iowa (2:56:09). Myra Klettke of Lake Oswego won the women’s half marathon in 1:27:14, while Mark McManus of Portland won the men’s race in a time of 1:16:46.
The Columbia River Gorge Marathon and Half Marathon are both part of GorgeFest, the second-annual sports and lifestyle festival put on by X-Dog Events.
Event coordinator Kevin Foreman was unavailable for comment, so official numbers for attendance and participation were not known at press time. GorgeFest will conclude this weekend with the first-ever Gorge Adventure Relay.
For complete results from the seventh-annual marathon, visit: www.athleteslounge.com/events