Portland Winter Solstice run

If you’ve followed this blog for a while or know me well, you’ll know I’m not a fan of smaller runs. While many like them for the friendliness, I generally find them quite isolating as I’m often alone at the back of the pack and wonder why I would want to pay to, effectively, run on my own.

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So how did I end up heading to Portland for their Winter Solstice run? It started with my friend Vanessa. A few years ago, she took photos of the event, of bright Winter skies and people moving at their own pace, having a fun time. She sent me a couple of photos and suggested I add it to my calendar for the following year as she thought it was an event I’d like and was a great excuse for us to catch up in her home town after far too many years. The following year came around and I was tempted but something else got in the way then, last year, the chance for a catch up with Vanessa was lost forever as she died, far too young, from cancer. I couldn’t take back my previous choices or get back that time but I could definitely jump in and run this one for her so I signed up.

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We turned it into a weekend of running and started with Portland parkrun on Saturday which, as you can read about here, was incredibly friendly and set the tone well. It was lucky this had been such a good experience as the weather was not so welcoming. In fact, as I lay in my cabin and listened to the rain and hail on Saturday, I wondered whether I would actually be able to convince myself to get to the start line in the morning. Remembering that this ‘hard’ thing was something I got to choose, unlike what Vanessa had to endure, got me out of bed.

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We rugged up, got our kit ready and headed off to the starting area where the winds were out in force and the organisers quickly got us on board the bus to keep us warm. It was a short drive out to Cape Nelson Lighthouse where we were shepherded inside for a run briefing, the run director competing with the weather outside to be heard. We were given the great reminder that, while we might be prepared for some ‘extreme’ running weather, it was the volunteers we really needed to thank along the way as they were standing out in it without the chance we had to get warm.

And then it was time to start. 87 of us headed off along the road, grinning despite the weather which was at least a tailwind for us most of the way. There are certainly some undulations on the course but nothing terrible and, overall, it’s downhill as you head back into Portland. While the roads aren’t closed for the event, they’re wide and not busy so, as long as you’re alert to any traffic, you have a lot of space to enjoy. And enjoy it we did. We were sheltered from the worst of the wind by the high bushes which had gaps every now and then through which we could see the incredible coastline with vicious waves being whipped up.

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At various points, the weather threw itself at us with full force including some rain and hail but, now that we were out in it, it didn’t feel so bad and, besides, we had no choice but to keep running. The volunteers were all fabulous – so friendly and encouraging, despite the fact that we were at the back of the pack.

Before long, we had arrived on the outskirts of town and then were turning onto the canal path for our last stretch down to the waterfront. The time had gone so quickly as I’d been running with my friend up until this point but was struggling a bit to keep up so we split up for the last 2 kilometres. Running past the place where Vanessa’s memorial service was held and the hospital also had me a bit emotional so I was glad to be on my own to quietly remember and be thankful that I had her as a friend. I did some running and a lot of power walking and managed to overtake a couple of people in the last kilometre as I came up to the second of our day’s lighthouses. Then I ran past it and down to the finish line, where I was greeted warmly by my friends and by the ever friendly volunteers and organisers. Despite being one of the last to arrive, there was food and drink on offer and my medal placed around my neck. It’s the first medal I’ve had since Disney which I thought had cured me of my need for bling but I felt I really earned this one and was grateful to receive it.

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This was seriously one of the friendliest, most encouraging events I’ve been part of and I loved it, despite the weather. The course is fantastic and the volunteers were all wonderful, never once making me feel like I was holding them up or anything but welcome. I’m sorry it took so long to do this one but it’s definitely an event I’d do again.

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