Into the vineyards and through the woods

For the News-Register

Editor’s Note: Rebecca Quandt, 28, of McMinnville, is a marketing coordinator for the McMinnville Downtown Association. An enthusiastic runner, Quandt signed up for the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, held this Sunday across Yamhill County, and wrote an essay about her first-ever entry into the race.

I run because I can.

I am not a consistent runner. I tend to woefully undertrain for races, which is exactly what happened in the weeks and days leading up to the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon on Sunday.

This was my ninth half-marathon and by far the hardest. I have run races all over the country and in vastly different weather conditions. I’ve endured a frigid winter’s morning in Philadelphia, the heat of Chicago in August, Seattle’s light rainfall, and the high elevation of Moab, Utah. You name it, I ran in it.

But nothing delights me more than to wake up Sunday morning to sunshine and a crisp 54-degree temperature here in Yamhill County. Perfect running weather.

Driving to Stoller Vineyards with the sun rising in the distance was breathtaking. The previous day’s rain perked up the leaves on the vineyard in the grass on the farms, providing a picturesque backdrop to the start of this race. Once the starting gun went off, the 2,000 runners started dodging and weaving within the crowd, looking for the best place to maintain a smooth pace.

I used to listen to music during long races and only within the last two years have opted not to. My, what a difference it has made. Hearing encouraging words of support among friends, shamelessly eavesdropping on group conversations, and chatting it up with fellow runners is the best part of running races. I take that back: It is one of the best parts of running races.

People run for all sorts of reasons.  To lose or maintain weight, for the challenge, the social component, to relieve stress and anxiety. While I run for all of these reasons, my main reason for running is to explore a city, town, or countryside in a manner that cannot be experienced while in a car or on a bicycle. Running allows you to slow down and really, truly see your surroundings; running in a race forces you to do so with gratitude.

A simple barn along the way can become the most beautiful structure you have ever seen. I saw parts of Yamhill County I had never noticed before, some I had, but now in a whole new way.

The blinking stoplight in the middle of downtown Carlton will now and forever be the place I finished the hardest 13.1-mile run of my life. Yes, I didn’t train and I was dreadfully unprepared. If it wasn’t for my friend driving from Seattle to run it with me, I would have probably skipped the whole thing altogether and slept in.

But then I would have missed out on that sunrise, on meeting a fellow runner, on receiving water from the cutest little girl at mile 12. Most importantly, I would have missed seeing my community in a completely different light. I might not be the fastest, the most prepared or the most consistent runner, but I run because I can.

And I was reminded of that Sunday morning while drinking a glass of pinot noir with a friend while wearing our finisher’s medals.


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