Running Away From Home: Portland, OR

As a transplant to the Pacific Northwest, I’ve come to appreciate all that this region has to offer: a mild climate, scenic beauty, and an abundance of clothing made of fleece. However, one of the drawbacks to this area is the absence of major cities within a reasonable driving distance.

Unfortunately, living in the greater Seattle area means having few urban options when it comes to weekend getaways. I can head north of the border to Vancouver (a great option), east to Spokane (a much less great option) and, of course, south to Portland.

And that’s pretty much it.

Over the years, the Rose City has become a regular destination for me thanks to its devotion to craft beer and the fact that one of my best friends lives there. Regrettably, his spare bedroom and I haven’t seen much of each other this past year, so a reunion was long overdue.

Last weekend I returned to Portland and, as fate would have it, my training schedule required me to put in a long run on Saturday. While running 8+ miles during a mini-vacation may seem like a downer, the truth is I was excited about the outing. Over the years I’ve done a lot of running in the PDX, including long training runs and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half back in 2013. It’s one of my favorite places to run and was #6 on Runner’s World’s list of America’s 50 Best Running Cities.

My humble course… in map form!

My outing began at Grant Park in the city’s northeastern quadrant. From there I made my way through the Irvington neighborhood’s flat, tree-lined streets. (While Portland has some hills, overall it’s much flatter than Seattle, which was a change I welcomed whole-heartedly.) After running a mile or so west, I turned south and headed towards the Moda Center, home to the NBA’s Trail Blazers. Across from the arena, I descended to the pedestrian level of the Steel Bridge and crossed the Willamette River. By the time I reached the beautifully paved trail at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the frosty morning had given way to sunshine and more moderate temperatures.

The Steel Bridge’s lower walkway cleared for my arrival.
A beautiful morning at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Once I reached the Hawthorne Bridge, I crossed over to the Eastbank Esplanade which I followed north. This side of the Willamette offers picturesque views of downtown Portland and a lot fewer strolling tourists. After my enjoyable urban trek (and some minor Ipod issues), I picked up the pace and ran back through Irvington, returning to my parked car where precious hydration awaited me.

The mighty Willamette and the skyline of downtown Portland.   

The only downside to this great run was the number of traffic lights I had to wait at. As a small town runner, I’m not used to navigating busy intersections and deplore the jogging in place that usually accompanies them.

After a pint of chocolate milk, a banana, some stretching, and a shower I spent the day replenishing the many calories I’d burned by joining a group of friends for an afternoon pub crawl. I spent hours patronizing some outstanding watering holes, including Zoiglhaus Brewing, N.W.I.P.A, Vintage Cocktail Lounge and Brew Works.

Needless to say, there was no running on Sunday.


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