What is your favorite race? Do you live for the marathons or crave a 5k? Would you rather race in the morning, afternoon, or at night? Do you like big races with tons of people and encouraging crowds or do you prefer the smaller hometown races?
My answer to this question came to mind immediately. My favorite type of race is also my very favorite race—that is, the 15K and, specifically, the Fairhaven Waterfront 15K in Bellingham.
The 15K is a pretty difficult race to find, and in fact, I've only done it five times, three times up in Fairhaven and twice in Portland (the Shamrock Run). But I can honestly say, in all those five times, I have never not had a great experience!
A 15K satisfies all my racing preferences. I like longer distances better than shorter, and 15K (9.3 miles) is long enough to be a challenge but short enough to be a little bit easier on the legs and time schedule than a half marathon (or longer).
Both Portland and Fairhaven are (relatively) big races in small cities. You get all the big race amenities—chip timing, good organization, nice pre- and post-race events and amenities—in a fun, homey, interesting town. In fact, I would readily recommend either Portland or Bellingham for a visit, with or without a race!
Here's what I love about the Fairhaven 15K, in particular.
- The course is, inexplicably, fast. Don't ask me why, because it is twisty and quirky, lots of small hills and a combination of roads, paved trails and, sometimes, a stretch of gravel path. But somehow, I've always been happy with my time there and this last year I managed a huge PR.
- It's in Bellingham in September. The weather is almost always nice that time of year, not too hot (thanks in part to marine air) but probably not rainy either.
- The race finishes at Fairhaven Village Green (and starts just around the corner). There is a fabulous post-race spread on the green, including the most delicious breads and baked goods from Avenue Bread and other local venues. Plus free post-race massages!
- If you make your reservations early enough, you can stay at the Fairhaven Village Inn.
If you've never run a 15K, though, hopefully you can find one to try. I think you'll find it the perfect compromise between a 10K and a half-marathon (and you can still burn off a thousand calories doing it).