The city of Cascade Locks more than doubled in size this past Sunday as runners from all over the Gorge and the world came to compete in the Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon and 10K races.
The event, which had its successful inaugural year in 2014, brought a total of 1,372 runners (1,009 women and 363 men) to Cascade Locks, along with numerous race attendants, spectators, as well as friends and loved ones.
The race, which is presented by Breakaway Promotions — an event company that also puts on other races in the Gorge such as the Gorge Roubaix and Hood 2 River Relay — saw a significant uptick in attendance this year, as last year’s race brought a thousand people to the heart of the Gorge. Race organizers Chad and Laurie Sperry were pleased with the turnout, but said the race sells itself because of the beautiful location and the course, the majority of which runs along the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.
“Generally when you start an event, it take years to grow into this kind of size and growth pattern, and this is only our second year and it’s, like, unbelievable how fast this has grown, but it’s the magic of the Columbia River Gorge,” Chad Sperry said. “I’d love to take credit, but you could be an average promoter and still do well, because it’s so spectacular. It just kind of numbs people and the one thing I wanted to stress is how wonderful it has been working with the people of Cascade Locks. The hospitality and progressive thinking in letting us do something like this has been astronomical.”
“Today was a great day, the weather was beautiful, we have a lot of happy smiling faces,” Laurie Sperry said. “The course is beautiful, we don’t have to do much to sell it, and it’s just the opportunity to run across the bridge, the view is so amazing.”
The race started with buses shuttling runners from Marine Park and the Cascade Locks School parking lot, across WaNaPa Avenue, over the Bridge of the Gods to the Highway 14 junction with the bridge. (Individual Breakaway Promotions cars were also picking up runners on the west end of downtown who had to park farther away from the shuttle site). The bridge was closed at 7:50 a.m., and the half marathon started about 10 minutes later. Once the runners were across the bridge, the span was opened for 10 minutes to those cars that were detained in the first closure. Then, the bridge was closed again for another 20 minute to let the 10k participants safely cross to Cascade Locks.)
Once the racers finished, they were quickly supplied with a medallion, large cups of water, the offer of a free massage, and a hot meal, with cold Thunder Island beer and HR Ciderworks cider for sale as added refreshment. Runners stretched out on the ample park lawn, or repaired to the neighboring wooded area. The Port broke out plastic chairs normally stored in a shed on the island for the numerous weddings that take place in the grove.
Meanwhile, announcer Randy Mead was tracking every finisher as their information came upon his computer screen as runners hit the chute, greeting them by first name and hometown, and adding commentary such as “Prineville, home of the Cowboys,” and “all the way from Bethesda, Maryland” and “yes, Julie, you have the right to be happy!”
Sperry said racers came from a surprising 42 states and five countries – the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Germany and New Zealand. Top finishers in the 10K were Randy Newman, of Portland, as overall male (time of 38 minutes, 1.5 seconds) and Nicole Watson, also of Portland, for overall female (39:52.9). In the half marathon, the top overall female was Katie Herzog, of Vancouver, Wash., (1 hour, 31 minutes, 22.8 seconds) and the top overall male was Erik Soreng, of Portland (1:22:44.2), who just beat out second-place finisher Stevey Hargerman (from Detroit, Mich.) by little more than a second and a half.
“What an epic battle,” Chad Sperry said of the half-marathon finish between Soreng and Hageman; Soreng set a new course record.
While the race attracted plenty of people from out of town, numerous runners from the Gorge participated as well. Erika Didier, of Hood River, was one of the runners, and commented on how she enjoyed the scenic quality of the run.
“Beautiful. Beautiful,” she said of the course, after finishing the 10K with her friend, Erin Black, of White Salmon. “We got to go across the bridge and that the rest of course was amazing.” It was their first time at the event and they joked that they mainly ran so they would have a chance to visit with each other. “We never seen each other because we’re both such busy Moms.”
Randy Newman of Portland, the top male finisher in the 10K, said he enjoyed the course for being “beautiful and challenging.” First female finisher Nicole Watson, of Portland, and her husband, David Watson, won the 10K in 2014, also enjoyed the race. David Watson took second in the race this year, while pushing a stroller. Their son, Cameron, 13 months, slept for the last couple of miles but woke up about 20 yards ahead of the finish line.
“It’s a beautiful race. The view, the topography, differing surfaces, just the general attitude of the race, it’s kind of laid back, chilled out,” David Watson said.
For full a list of searchable race results, go to bridgeofthegodsrun.com and click on the “Live Results” tab.