Racing Through Wine Country at Runner’s World

I’VE GOT TO TRY THIS ONE DAY!!! so going onto my bucket list!!!

Racing Through Wine Country at Runner’s World.

A Vintage Run


I am a wine lover. As such, I’ve visited Napa and Sonoma, Tuscany, Alsace, and the Rhine. Nothing but grapevines cloak those vast expanses. What I found in Oregon’s rolling wine country, however, were acres of land covered in fruit trees, olive groves, and pasture, its vineyards more like the finishing brush strokes on a colorful canvas. This diverse landscape is home to some of the best Pinot Noir in the world, said to rival that of Burgundy. The Dundee Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley have another notable characteristic—they harbor one hell of a tough race.

The Fueled by Fine Wine Half-Marathon combined everything close to my heart: running, wine—and with the abundance of locally produced organic meat and produce—food. Even the race vibe fit my style. Instead of the typical prerace anxious buzz and the controlled chaos of runners warming up in all directions, runners stood about and engaged in friendly conversation. When the announcer called us to the start, we all strolled casually to the line.

The course quickly left the road and turned into a gravel trail mixed with dark, rich, volcanic soil. It wound through green vineyards punctuated with acres of golden wheat and pastures of goats, sheep, and rare cattle breeds. Absorbing the view, I realized what was missing. Noise. Most races I’ve run are lined with screaming fans. But I passed more farms than houses and more livestock than spectators. Even with 900 other racers, silence permeated the morning. Without any boisterous encouragement, I looked to the beauty of the environment for motivation.

Which was a little harder to do after mile four. The course began a gradual ascent—Just a false flat, I assured myself. Then at mile seven, I saw it. The signpost read: “Elevation: 200 ft. Rising to 1,067 feet!” The road shot up and into a steep switchback. I slowed to a shuffle and looked for the tops of the trees, for a sign the climb was nearly over. All I saw were meticulously planted grapevines, lavender fields, olive groves—and an endless stretch of dusty trail snaking toward an unknown summit. The hills that just a few miles ago had inspired my senses now demoralized my body.

I finally crested the climb to sweeping views of the bucolic Willamette Valley, snow-capped Mount Hood, and the craggy Cascade mountain range. My exhaustion nearly overwhelmed my appreciation of such a breathtaking sight. I couldn’t wait for that first pour of Pinot.

When I crossed the finish, I collected my burgundy glass, and entered the tasting tent. Fifteen local wineries were pouring their finest vintages, and tables overflowed with locally made foods like cured meats, cheeses, and artisan breads. I swished a taste of the ’07 Archery Summit Premier Cuvee Pinot Noir. The earthy notes reminded me of the volcanic soil paths I’d just run. Raw-milk cheddar and fresh-baked bread slowly revived me. The sun was shining, reggae music filled the air, and friendly locals embraced me as their own. I was utterly at ease.

I didn’t get a PR that day—not even close. But what I did get was a brief, delicious taste of the good life. I think I’ll have another.

RUN IT: July 10


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