The original plan was to double this weekend with the Crater Lake Rim Marathon in Klamath Falls, Oregon, but a late arrival to PDX coupled with me starting to fall asleep on the 4.5 hour drive in the middle of the night mean I had to forfeit the start in Oregon in favor of not flying off a mountain or into a redwood grove. As disappointing as it is I think it’s probably for the best another double I managed to mangle up. Add to it that means I probably won’t be able to finish the 3rd round of the states this year after two failed Oregon attempts. There’s always 2020 I guess.
After a rest I continued the 7 hour drive to Eureka, stopping off near Crescent City, CA for a hike in a redwood grove. There’s nothing quite like 300ft tall redwoods to make you feel insignificant. I hadn’t been to Eureka before, but on my way back from Revel Kulia one of my seatmates said he was from Eureka and mentioned the beautiful redwood highway drive, and popping out in his little city that he rather unflatteringly described as having some substance abuse issues.
I stopped into a coffeeshop in Old Town to do a bit of work, and met up with Chris, a Californian I’d met up with on my way back from New Zealand. He was the 3:50 pacer for the Humboldt Marathon tomorrow. We chatted a bit about the drive and went to pickup our race packets. The event seemed pretty low key, but there was quite a line for packet pickup. After we made plans to meet up for dinner at a soup place near my AirBnB and Chris’ hotel.
Race morning it became very clear the race was quite small (a total of 58 marathoners, of whom something like 6 were pacers). I said hello to Cowboy Robert, a fellow Floridian, who manages the Marathon Globetrotter gear sales. Robert was pacing 6:00. Pretty quickly we were off to start the race. I had hoped to catch up to Chris and run with him for maybe a mile or so before I’d have to drop back, but try as I may for the first 7 miles I wasn’t able to match his pace. Eventually he fell out of view and I dropped back to a more achievable pace for me. I would pay for those 8:30ish miles toward the end, particularly the last 3 miles when there were some small bridge climbs.
We ran along the bay and a eucalyptus-lined Highway 101 before being shunted on to a bike path and finally out into a lollipop out and back of farm land where the road surface was in need of a resurfacing. What in a car might not be a perfectly smooth ride makes for a lot of uneven footing when running. This portion of the race I could have done with out, but after burning up a good 10k in the farm country we came back along the other side of the bay into the little village of Manila and back over a series of bridges into Old Town Eureka past the Carson Mansion to end in Madaket Square.
The course could be a bit odd at times (We’re running behind a Target? okay…) But there were definitely some very pretty parts, and one big point for me: the locals support their marathon. There were easily as many enthusiastic volunteers as there were marathoners. Every aid station was staffed with people who seemed happy to be there. I think if there’s a reason this race is so small it’s mostly because it’s largely run by locals, it’s not in a heavily populated area (136,000 people in all of Humboldt County) and the nearest major airport, SFO, is almost 5 hours away.
Fun fact: The 20 tallest trees in the world–in fact, the tallest living things on Planet Earth–are all redwoods in Humboldt County, California with names like Hyperion, Helios, Icarus, and Daedalus. The exact location of these trees is kept secret to prevent damage to their ecosystem from tourists.