In just its second year, the Blooms to Brews race is already becoming a local phenomenon. Boasting a flat race course, unique event choices and a USATF certified Boston Qualifier, its appeal among runners and walkers is growing. This weekend, I ran the Half Marathon distance. Here’s how it stacked up!
Distance reviewed: Half Marathon
Elevation gain: About 92 feet
Size of field: Around 1,000 participants (all events)
The Charity: Scott Hill Park and Sports Complex, a new park being planned by the Rotary Club of Woodland
The Beer: Micro-brews from Alameda Brewing Company and Heathen Brewing and Ghost Runners Brewery
The Course – I liked the course for Blooms to Brews. I’d compare it to the Helvetia Half course, without any hills. We’re talking flat flat flat! It runs between fields, with lovely rural surroundings and views of the Columbia and Lewis rivers over a large portion of the race. The route is well-marked and USATF certified, so you know the distances are correct. It’s also a Boston qualifier, if you’re that kind of marathon runner. 🙂
Good on-course support – Plenty of support along the course, aid stations with water and Gatorade, and porta johns along the way.
Marathon relay – This is a fun option where you and three of your friends can get in on a marathon, each running a portion. It’s not an option you see at every race!
Free Parking – As it should be. Leave parking fees behind in the city! And the event parking is in a bumpy field. Something buried deep within my small-town past loves parking in a field.
Good swag – Each event gets a unique Blooms to Brews medal. The swag bag had goodies like coupons and samples of food, lotion and (haha) Advil.
Lilacs – The course runs right past the Hulda Klager lilac gardens during prime blooming time – and you can smell them before you get there!
Decent after-party – Micro-brews from local breweries are a big plus, as was the pulled pork sandwich from Family Mann BBQ for participants. Also, hello! Family Mann offered a vegetarian option! How many BBQ places can say that?
No tulips. – When signing up for this race, I thought we’d be running close to a huge, beautiful field of tulips! As it turns out, the Holland America tulip farm in Woodland chose to plant a different, smaller field this year. It wasn’t close to the road. Which resulted in this sad state of affairs:
I talked to a runner who had stopped in front of me to try and get a selfie with any tulips at all in the background. She said, “I figured this was my only opportunity. Well, I guess you could come back and tour the tulip field after the race.”
How disappointing, for a race that’s centered so much of its branding around beautiful blooming tulips! But, if the lack of one species of flower along the route is the biggest complaint I can find about a race, I’d say they’re doing pretty damn well.
Barely any spectators – Which makes most of the experience a quiet, contemplative sort of run. Okay by me, but not great if you thrive on the cheers of a crowd.
Traffic – There were some points late in the Blooms to Brews course where the roads were not fully closed, and cars were traveling in both directions, trying to weave around Half Marathon runners. To their credit, drivers were patient and careful, but it’s always a difficult situation for everybody trying to share the road during a race.
Do the Blooms to Brews if you want to get away from the city and take in some rural views, or want to split up a marathon distance with a few friends. Definitely run this puppy if you need a flat Boston Qualifier without a crowded race field. Don’t sign up for the race expecting a bodacious colorful tulip backdrop for your race photos every year, because it ain’t there.
Is a lack of tulips a deal-breaker for you? Share your thoughts in the comments!