A Wintry Race Recap: Zena Road Runs

A little bit of snow and wind wasn’t enough to stop Chloe Hallyburton and Greg Mitchell from taking part in the 50th annual Zena Road Runs, the oldest road race in Oregon put on by Willamette Valley Road Runners. Both Hallyburton and Mitchell opted for the 9.5 mile race, covering the 15K loop that has defined Zena Road Runs throughout its 50 years.

In his first race since the USATF Club XC National Championship in December, Mitchell covered the course in 52:38, taking the overall win over Justin Banks, 3rd place finisher in the 2017 Portland Marathon. The RCTC head coach wrote on Instagram, “Debuted the @rosecitytrack singlet today at the Zena Road Run. Battled snow, wind and some ridiculous hills but came away with the win. Gonna be sore tomorrow.”

Hallyburton cracked top 15 among the overall women finishers, finishing with a time of 1:17:04 and placing fifth in her age group. Here is her race recap:

I signed up for the 50th annual 9.5 mile Zena Road Race because I knew my friends were doing it, and it seemed like a fun, different kind of course. It is the oldest race in Oregon, starting in 1968 when the Willamette University track team charged 25 cents to run.

I almost regretted signing up on the morning of the race though, when I looked out of my window and saw an inch of snow on all the cars. The race was held in the mid-Willamette valley north of Salem, and on the way down I was cheered by sunshine as I got closer to the venue. Of course, as soon as I parked, the clouds swept in again and fat snowflakes started to fall. This would be the theme of the day.

Fortunately, the start like was at the St Innocent winery, a beautiful venue with a large, warm indoor area to wait for the race to start. We were supposed to take off at 10am, but delays in shuttles taking people from parking to the race start resulted in being told it would start at 10:15.. then later.. eventually starting at 10:30.

We got to enjoy sunshine for the first 4 relatively flat miles, and I had a great time running with friends. Then the first big hill came at mile 4, and that’s about when the clouds rolled in again. We proceeded to climb over 800 feet in elevation over the next three miles, including some gravel road. The snow came down in fat, heavy flakes, making it hard to see. What was supposed to be a fun, relatively easy effort turned into a complete slog, and I was so happy when course volunteers told us “it’s all downhill from here!” at about mile 7. The snow let up around then, and I just put my head down and ran down that hill as fast as my freezing legs could go.

They had warm pasta at the finish, as well as normal post-race fare. Every runner got a stemless wineglass, which I could have filled with wine if I was in any mood to drink. I heard it was delicious. Again, the warm, indoor post-race area was clutch. Overall, it was a tough course, but in a beautiful area area with great post-race perks, and has a fun history behind it.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Hallyburton will next take on the 2K steeplechase and 400m portion of the DMR with RCTC at the 2nd annual Teddy Twilight on March 3rd.

Racing this weekend will be Jaime Musgrave, Ashley Meagher, and Juliana DePietro in the Phoenix Marathon and Half Marathon. Be sure to tune in on Instagram and Twitter for real time updates!

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