I was wrong about you, Fueled by Fine Wine half marathon. I was wrong when, a few days ago, I e-mailed a friend who ran it alongside me last year:
Back in my day, the Fueled by Fine Wine half-marathon was difficult.Having run the event today in 1:43:44 (7:55 mile/min), I now realize you maintained your humbling, mind-boggling level of difficulty despite the course changes. As it was last year, so this year: no race has ever given me a stronger urge to stop and rest along the way.
Last year's course -- http://www.mapmyrun.com/s/routes/view/run-jog-map/oregon/dundee-hills/18961712
Kids these days have it so easy. This year's course -- http://www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/34887742
This year's version managed to begin breaking spirits from the very start, when we looped through lovely neighborhood streets of Dundee, Oregon along a path that only a sadistic track coach could dream up. I exaggerate not at all when I report that very fit looking runners were already reduced to walking within the first two miles. Subsequent miles had us passing over hill after hill on a thorough sampler of ground surfaces found in the Willamette Valley: asphalt, concrete, gravel, grass, dirt, and the tractor ruts of tilled fields. I adore that those surfaces did this to my shoes (today's shoes on the left; a previous generation of the same model, size, and style of shoe on the right, shown for contrast):
Shoes after a race should look like they've been in a race.
As I said, I was wrong. You retain your reputation for difficulty, and that would make you extraordinary and worth cherishing, but you also continue to tower above all other races in my experience in quality of swag (see above for a sample), quality of post-race treats (wine from the very same vineyards we ran through; excellent bread and cheese; fresh strawberries and bananas), and quality of finisher shirt.
On top of all that, I can think of one or two races that match, but none that exceed the natural beauty of your course -- every vista atop every hill looked like a well-composed pastoral painting. I only wish I had been freer to take my concentration off my footing to enjoy it more.
This race's organizers deserve to be counted as the models of all race organizers. The volunteers were unfailingly generous, and as I always say, but with more emphasis: I heartily congratulate everyone who finished this race today.