Bill Aronson Track (BATH) Half Marathon Race Report – Brian Comer

Race: Bill Aronson Track Half Marathon (BATH)

Runner: Coach Brian Comer

Race Date: 02/12/2022

Location: Portland, Oregon (in-person event 2/13) Vancouver, Washington (virtually 2/12 for me)


Strava Activity Link:

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. It’s really unique and low key. Somewhat of a time honored tradition in the Portland area since 2014. Originally founded after experiencing frustration over mismeasurements at local road halfs. Much of the same runners come back year after year and there’s a real sense of camaraderie amidst the misery of running so many laps.
  2. There is no entry fee, it is free to run.
  3. Particularly to my benefit, like in 2021, there was also the option for runners to complete the event virtually within the approximate 3 week time window. Although I think if I attended the live event in Portland, I could of maybe snuck out a PR from having people to run with. Either way though, the weather was unbeatable that weekend. Sunny and in the 60’s by afternoon? I’m sure no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t replicate those weather conditions again if I tried considering this was mid-February in the PNW.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

There isn’t any race swag to speak of like at most races. But considering the free entry fee, you can’t complain too much, though you’ll get to wear the badge of honor for successfully completing a half marathon around a track (roughly 52 and 3/4 laps around your standard 400 meter track). The truly speedy are rewarded with some one-of-a-kind trophies that make for quite the conversation piece. But seeing as they’re only for the top 3 men and women overall, that could be a deterrent for some that aren’t as fleet of foot.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

Have I mentioned the fact that this race takes place on a track? Despite the common misconception, you won’t get too dizzy from all the laps. For quality assurance in results, runners are asked to take manual splits either every lap or every 4 laps in order to “insure mileage exactness” (the I, M, and E in the race’s full acronym, BATH TIME). I found this particularly helpful in staying engaged and focused, not only was it a physical exercise, it was also mental. There is even an entire page on Runnerspace dedicated to the event, which I’ll be sure to link.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

Considering I was solo and in trainers (Hoka Mach 4s), I was pretty surprised by my result and coming so close to my PR. I had done some solid long tempo runs in the leadup to this that made me think such a performance was possible, but I started having my doubts the week of in particular and even starting about 10 days out. I decided to trust in my training, cut out the negative self-talk, and just run. I ended up running fairly even, consistent splits, which is a rarity for me. I was dialed in and went out and had a great race.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

I’d say it would be wise to not think too far ahead but still keep it controlled especially early on. Don’t go too fast too quick in the hope of “banking time” cause you’ll pay for it later. The number of laps can be daunting but taking it piece by piece (i.e. mile by mile through manual splits) can help keep things in perspective. You have to run the mile your in first before you can start thinking about the next mile or the mile after that.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

To not doubt myself early on and stay the course. Throwing in occasional surges, like taking the splits, are a good way to stay engaged too. I wish I implemented more of them especially in the second half.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

Considering it is on a track, there isn’t anything really to discuss. You know that you won’t have any hills to deal with but the mental game from the number of laps can for some make up for that flat and fast nature of the track. Getting lost isn’t an issue, just run your oval, taking the occasional left turn.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

The course itself, no not necessarily, but it can depend on where you are located. For instance, if someone were to run this at the track on the Nike Campus in Beaverton, with all the trees lining the track, I’d go out on a limb and say that would qualify as a pretty course.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Again considering it’s on a track, nope, flat with a lot of left turns. However, your calves will likely be feeling it by the end.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

This was the 9th year of the race. Despite the casual, low key vibe, the race is pretty well organized. As mentioned, while there are steps for quality assurance in results, due to the self-timed and self-reporting nature, it ultimately is on the honor system though splits really spell it out for the most part. The submission window was also expanded by a week in a sort of impromptu fashion.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Usually it is pretty quick especially considering the fields tend to be fairly small. Not many women but top 3 were all running ~1:33. For the men, the top 10 were anywhere from 1:11-1:17. The winner set a new Master’s record while the Open record is right around 1:10 flat.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

On the Runnerspace page, in the info it has the race founder’s email listed in which you can email if interested in running. He’ll then send you race information and registration link.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

The live event tends to have a table set up if you want to set anything at that you’ll want or need during your run. Water sometimes is provided but not always so it’s best to prepare for yourself. I personally didn’t set up an aid station as I didn’t feel I was running long enough to make one necessary but this depends often on the individual runner.

Weather and typical race conditions

Normally your in for a squall in mid-February in the PNW. Cold, rain, wind, you name it. This year though it was sunshine and record heat.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Not specifically, you can wear flats if you wish though I felt that a shoe like the Mach 4 was really beneficial. It’s light enough to not feel clunky like a normal trainer but cushioned enough that your saving the legs a little bit.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Absolutely, that is the benefit of a track race, people can watch you without having to move if they desired. Or with the lax nature of this event, they can bop around to different parts of the track throughout your race to offer encouragement as well if they wanted.

How’s the Swag?

As mentioned, pretty non-existent.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

I’d give this race 5 stars for sure. Even without race swag or with the loose result submission window, it is well run while still being lax at the same time. For lack of better description, the event is very Portland, very weird. A cult classic amongst the local running community that runners keep coming back to year after year despite the sometimes unforgiving nature of the event. While you may not want to make this a yearly tradition on your running calendar, I’d say to at least give it a shot once, if anything to say that you have in fact done it.

Brian Comer is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Brian, check out his coaching page.