Runner: Coach Brian Comer
Race Date: 03/13/2022
Location: Portland, Oregon
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- It is a big race with a lot of camaraderie and holiday spirit. With how many people there are (~15,000 in all 4 races combined), it’ll be a challenge to find yourself in that dreaded no man’s land.
- The swag is pretty cool, everything from what can be found in the merchandise tent to the finisher medals. Not to mention the nice long sleeve race shirt you get at the expo.
- The start/finish area along the waterfront is nice and packed with energy that’ll motivate you to a strong finish. The 5K and 8K courses are relatively flat out and backs while the
15K and half marathon offer some challenging hills. This race really has something for everyone.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Honestly not much to report here, could have asked for some better weather but there isn’t much control on that. There was quite a brutal headwind on the way back during the 8K but on the other hand, it was at our backs (much like in a popular Irish blessing) on the way out. In a way, the weather was very much a PNW (or Irish) squall and made the experience all the more authentic.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
Nothing overly so but being a St. Patty’s race in Portland, your bound to find some people fully decked out in leprechaun costumes and other St. Patrick’s Day festive attire.
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
I decided to give myself an extra challenge by racing both the 5K at 8 AM then coming back to race the 8K 2 hours later. The legs definitely felt cooked by the end of the day likely to being in racing flats for so long and for the first time in awhile, but I wound up placing pretty well in both races (10th overall in the 5K in 16:23 and 13th overall in the 8K in 26:47). I think I came through the 5K split of the 8K around the same time I ran in the 5K a couple hours prior so that was fun and was still able to finish strong despite the challenges brought on by the fierce headwind. All in all, both races were solid efforts and I once again was able to run relatively evenly in both races as well.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
It can be a bit of a body crunch in terms of the crowd so if your trying to meet up with people on race day at the start/finish, it helps to be specific. Also don’t be afraid to get on the starting line earlier than normal. In the 5K, I had to make my way through the crowd sort of last minute in order to get up to an appropriate start corral and even then still had a fair share of maneuvering to do in the opening strides in order to carve out some space for myself/get into race rhythm. Despite being a “local”, I spent the night before the race at a nearby hotel, which really helped in terms of logistics race morning. I’d start my warmup at the hotel heading in the direction of the start/finish area, do drills and strides along the waterfront, where there’s plenty of space to do so, and even do some stretching and drills undercover in an effort to get a slight break from the rain.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
As mentioned, getting on the start line with plenty of time to spare and the fact that there is no such thing as packing too many warmups. In my case of running multiple races, having dry clothes to put on between races is helpful and it made a trip to the merchandise tent necessary in order to accomplish this. All in all, be prepared for anything that may come your way, especially if you need to factor in multiple warmups and cooldowns or anything else that would make for an extended period of time in the elements. Also another big thing to keep in mind was that the race was held during Daylight Savings. It made for a somewhat brutal awakening as it felt earlier than it really was but in the event of Daylight Savings Time still being around, make sure to factor that into your race morning routine so you don’t miss the start of your race or get thrown off your game otherwise.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
Since I raced the 5K and 8K, I’ll try to keep it specific to those races. The 5K going out is hillier than you’d think it is but on the other hand makes for a pretty decent downhill coming back that could make for a fast, strong finish. On the way out, you also get routed off Naito Parkway and make a couple turns downtown in order to get to the 5K distance so in a sense it isn’t a true out-and-back. The finish also comes up before you make it back to the start in the 5K while the 8K, you actually go past the start to the finish. In both races, the turnaround point shouldn’t be taken too sharply, especially when it was wet like it was this year. Running slightly wide but not breaking stride is a better option to taking the turn too tight in hopes of running tangents/shortest distance possible.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
I’d say that it is a pretty course. This year, the weather somewhat socked in any views you’d get following the climbs you encounter in the longer races but each race has some variety to keep things interesting.
Difficulty – Is it a tough course?
In the longer races, yes it is a tough course with an added variable of train crossings. The shorter races are easier in regards to hills by comparison but even still I was somewhat surprised at some of the hills encountered, particularly in the early stages of the 5K on the way out to the turnaround.
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Absolutely, this was the 44th edition of the race and with all the variables provided with the different races offered, it ran like a well-oiled machine. Despite the over 1,000 day hiatus since the Portland Shamrock Run was last held, it was as if they didn’t lose a beat after all that time. The community was of course much appreciative and excited for the race’s return as well.
Competition – Is there a strong field?
Absolutely, each race has a strong field with blistering times up front. It’s also not everyday that you get to line up behind an American Record holder (Alan Webb) like I did in the 8K. Fortunately I was able to keep the fanboying to a minimum (though the photo ops were still plentiful) but as this is a big event in the Portland running community, there is no shortage of local or out-of-town talent to be found regardless of what distance you sign up for.
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.
Nothing overly specific, make sure to visit the Fitness Fair to pick up your race bib (held at the Oregon Convention Center Friday and Saturday prior to the race). I’ll also echo my earlier sentiment on staying at a hotel. It was nice simplifying race morning by doing this despite being a local. Didn’t have to worry about driving to the race start as we were close enough to go by foot (and utilize that for the purpose of warming up). With that said, the hotel I was at wasn’t as full as I expected it to be given the race was going on. Other hotels were likely more full with Shamrock participants but with where I stayed, we lucked out in terms of booking. Having the hotel was also really nice in my case given I ran two races. I was able to get a break from the elements, take off my flats, stretch, get a small bite to eat, and get in warm dry clothes while letting my race gear dry out a little courtesy of the bathroom heat lamp.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Pretty standard fare, for the 5K and 8K there really is only one station in each (which you hit twice since the course is out-and-back) but the longer races have more.
Weather and typical race conditions
Be prepared for anything, depending on the year, it can either feel like spring or feel like winter. This year felt more like the latter with the wind and rain.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
Nothing too out of the ordinary, especially when just doing one race, but if you got inspired to do a Shamrock double like I did this year, then make sure to have plenty of gear if less than ideal weather conditions are expected.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
If the spectator is dedicated, then they can catch you at multiple spots along the out-and-back route or if they prefer to not be as mobile, there’s always great race viewing to be had at the waterfront park despite the large crowd.
How’s the Swag?
Great, there is no shortage of gear available at the fitness fair or merchandise tent from multiple shirts, sweatshirts and quarter zips to stickers, hats, and refrigerator magnets (which were a giveaway the first day of the Fitness Fair until they ran out of stock). The race shirt is also a long sleeve with nice material (which I got two for running two races). The finisher medals are also pretty cool with bottle openers and are appropriately festive for St. Patrick’s Day with a four leaf clover design.
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
5 stars for sure, I’d recommend it to others and I’ll definitely be coming back to this one, maybe I’ll see you there too? Like my previous race so far this year, the Shamrock Run is another hallmark on the running calendar here in Portland that brings out runners of all kinds.
Brian Comer is a coach with Team RunRun. To learn more about him or to work with Coach Brian, check out his coaching page.