By Dan Cruz, Competitor Group
At the first ever Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland Half Marathon, it was an Oregon sweep Sunday as two in-state residents took home titles. Ryan Bak of Bend and U.S. marathon star and Olympian Kara Goucher, who trains locally with the Oregon Track Club, each prevailed in dramatically different fashions.
Beneath a steady Portland mist along the scenic Willamette River adjacent to Tom McCall Waterfront Park, runners from 49 states and 16 countries kicked off Portland’s annual Rose Festival. The lead pack of 6 men, who all owned half-marathon personal bests within one minute, ran an opening mile of 4:57 through the downtown streets, before crossing the Hawthorne Bridge into east Portland.
Bak, Arizona’s Tibor Vegh and Philemon Terer of Kenya separated themselves from the competition at mile six after the steady uphill climb past the swanky business district section located along Hawthorne Blvd. The three runners stayed together until they reached the scenic downtown views on Lloyd Blvd just before mile 12, when Bak, 30, made his move to take home the victory with a time of 1 hour, 5 minutes and 26 seconds.
“This was my third weekend in a row racing and it was great to have a decent pack of guys who were all competitive. When the three of us were together until mile 12, I was thinking this is really going be a race,” said Bak, who finished fifth at last weekend’s USA 25k Championships and will run Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth on June 16th. “There was a lot happening with little surges here and there, and it was a great feeling to win with the sprint at the end in front of the spectators in my home state. This was my first Rock ‘n’ Roll event and it was a lot of fun and great to have it so close to home.”
“The race was a lot of fun, but I picked up a stomach bug on Friday afternoon and considered not running; however, I couldn’t pass up a chance to run in Portland. I had hoped to run faster and simulate marathon pace a little bit more, but sometimes things don’t go according to plan,” said Goucher, whose time was a far cry from her half-marathon personal best of 1:06:57. “The crowd kept me going all the way to the finish and it was awesome out there with all the people cheering. I moved out here seven years ago and Portland has really embraced me and my family, our son was born here, we love it here and it feels really good to get out and run here in my local community.”
With her race goal dialed down to a 5:25 per mile pace, Goucher started off strong, executing her Coach Jerry Schumacher’s plan to perfection after hitting the 2-mile mark with a split time of 10:50. However, the topography of Portland also proved to be a challenge, and with the up and down nature of the course taking its toll, Goucher was unable to complete another mile at her goal pace, clocking 34:14 at 10K but running within herself, with a solid form all the way through the finish line.
“I might have to rib (course designer) Alan Culpepper the next time I see him. Portland is a hilly town, so I didn’t expect the course to be pancake flat, but I didn’t expect it to be quite so hilly,” added Goucher. “Sometimes it’s about effort and it was a good hard effort and sometimes the clock doesn’t really matter. It’s just about getting out there and challenging yourself and today was certainly a challenge.”
The first ever Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland Half Marathon is a signature event of the Portland Rose Festival. Participating in his first half-marathon, Rose Festival CEO Jeff Curtis completed the event in 2:08:17. Other notable runners included running legend Mary Decker Slaney, the only athlete ever to hold every American record from 800 meters to 10,000 meters, pacing her sister who was completing her first half-marathon finishing with a time of 2:17:26. Battle Ground, Washington resident Craig Blanchette, who holds 21 world records in elite wheelchair racing, won the wheelchair division with a time of 58:44.
With more than 11,000 finishers, the event has become the largest inaugural half-marathon in the United States to-date this year according to Running USA. The second Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland Half Marathon, a signature Rose Festival event, is set for Sunday, May 19, 2013.
Inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Portland 1/2 Marathon
Portland, OR, Sunday, May 20, 2012
1) Ryan Bak, 30, Bend, OR, 1:05:26, $1500
2) Tibor Vegh, 28, Flagstaff, AZ, 1:05:34, $850
3) Philemon Terer, 27, Kenya, 1:06:05, $600
4) Sage Canaday, 26, Sheridan, OR, 1:06:16, $400
5) Craig Leon, 27, Eugene, OR, 1:07:49, $250
1) Kara Goucher, 33, Portland, OR, 1:13:05, $1500
2) Sheila Croft, 37, Redmond, WA, 1:16:51, $850
3) Hallie Jansen, 37, Portland, OR, 1:19:11, $600
4) Eva Vail, 27, Portland, OR, 1:21:34, $400
5) Renee Knapp, 31, Eugene, OR, 1:22:20, $250
For complete results, photos and more, go to: http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/portland/event-details