When you think of going on a wine run, the last thing you might consider doing is throwing on your sneakers. But some races in Oregon are beginning to make running and wine the best combination since wine and cheese.
Chris Nagy, president and race architect of the Fueled by Fine Wine half marathon, was working for a winery and participating in the Dundee Hills Winegrowers Association — which represents 66 wineries, vineyards, retailers and restaurants — when she thought of mixing running and wine.
While running on a treadmill, Nagy came up with the idea of combining a half marathon with vineyards in the Dundee area as a way to attract new fans from across the state and country to local wines.
For runners, it’s more than just introducing them to wines of Dundee Hills, though. When runners line up at the starting line on July 8, it’ll be the ninth year of providing them rare access to usually private vineyards, slogging over fluctuating elevations.
In addition to giving runners a chance to see where some of the finest wine in Oregon is grown, when a runner — or walker — crosses the finish line, the race also gives out a medal, T-shirt, large pinot noir wine glass and an invitation to an after-race party where they can taste some of the finest wines of Dundee Hills.
Lauren Moe, store manager at Run Hub Northwest in Eugene, is quite the seasoned runner, with 10 marathons and 20 half marathons under her belt, and she defines herself as a wine person. So Moe sees running in these races as a way to have fun with her friends at the finish line.
“It’s for anyone who doesn’t want to take their running too seriously but still have that sense of accomplishment at the end,” she says.
Moe adds that, because of uphill runs and rugged unpaved vineyard roads at Fueled by Fine Wine, she was too busy avoiding potholes and enjoying the Dundee country scenery to focus on getting a personal record on a half-marathon race.
That’s the point of the race, according to Nagy. “You won’t run your best time — but you’ll have the best time,” she says.
Mixing wine and running is gaining popularity here in Eugene, too.
When Piper Ruiz, who also owns Pink Buffalo Paint & Sip in the Whiteaker, opened her race company in 2012, she says she asked herself what kind of experience she would want as a runner who prefers the half-marathon distance.
The result was a series of eight run/walk events throughout the state of Oregon.
One of the races, Grapes of Half, is in its sixth year and brings together local wineries Noble Estate, Sweet Cheeks and Silvan Ridge. The race has runners start at Noble Estate Winery and finish at Sweet Cheeks Winery, running along the back roads of southwest Eugene.
“It’s very scenic. It really showcases the countryside,” Ruiz says. “It’s just really beautiful, untouched countryside.”
She adds that it offers runners an on-foot tour of three of the best wineries in the Willamette Valley, and that its popularity is rising to become a destination event. It typically attracts runners from 17 to 25 states, and people fly in just to run it.
Best of all, after the race, runners receive a chance to get one full glass of wine at each partnering winery.
This year the race is held May 20 and offers runners a chance to represent their favorite wineries. When registering, runners can choose one of the three partner wineries to represent. Silvan Ridge usually has the fastest runners, Ruiz says.
Since both races start at 8 am, it means wine tasting starts before noon, but early morning wine tasting after a long run shouldn’t be confused with day drinking — not that there’s anything wrong with that.