• Jakob Irwin

West Coast Running

Updated: Mar 17, 2019

Being born and raised in Northern California, I am always excited when I get to return to my West Coast roots and get a few good runs in. Just recently I had the pleasure of running Both in Portland, Oregon and Tacoma, Washington. While both cities are only a couple hours a part from each other, The running vibe in these two areas could not have been more different from each other.

Portland - I think it is safe to say that Oregon is a state built for runners. After all, this is where Nike was created! Bill Bowerman, whom created Nike, is probably one of the most famous distance running coaches in the world! Aside from creating Nike, he is also the coach that brought the famous Steve Prefontaine to light! In fact, Steve Prefontaine is the first athlete ever to wear a pair of Nike shoes!!

.But let's put The history of running aside and forget about the many legends that have come out of this amazing state. Portland itself seems to have been built by runners...for runners! Everywhere I went, There was a designated path or lane for runners and cyclists! Each bridge that I crossed had this path and each pathway was full of runners when I was out and about.

The best part however was the views! The advantage of running on the west coast is you get to run to a morning sunrise without worry of getting frost bite! People on the East coast don't get this luxury in the Winter time. At least not without paying the price. So I made sure to take full advantage! My first morning in Portland I was up at 5:30am, and felt like a kid in a candy store! My hotel location was ideal considering it was just minutes from the water, so a short walk was all it took to run along the beautiful paved trails of Oregon and run across some wonderful bridges that with some breathtaking scenery that no picture could truly do justice.

Downtown Portland just before sunrise

I must have seen at least 40 other runners while out on my 6 mile run along the water. Each bridge I crossed consisted of runners desiring the same sunrise experience that I was. Along my run I got to see some of the great history that Portland had to offer, and see my first ever "Keep Portland Weird" Sign. I would later discover from some of the locals that Portland is known for its diversity and lack of judgement which often results in its population being deemed as weird when in truth the people in Oregon are simply just original. Yes, Portland has a strong art culture that is heavily planted within its population. And yes, Portland has a strong running community and runners are naturally deemed as weird or free spirited, but this is all what makes Portland so great!

Voodoo Doughnut stands proudly next to this "larger than life" Keep Portland Weird sign.

Knowing that Portland had even more to offer than its beautiful trails and Bridge crossings, I met up with a friend who lived in Portland whom also happened to be a runner herself and took advantage of her as my personal Downtown running tour guide. She showed me that you can essentially run in any area of Portland without worry. This was a true treat! Downtown Portland had so much originality to it that I could have ran at a faster pace and not have felt it simply due to the distractions to the beauty around me.

At no point during my run with my friend did I feel like I was in a bad neighborhood. When I asked her to show me where such a neighborhood was, she informed me that she was not aware of such a place. Running around Portland, I did discover that there was a high homeless population, but at no point was i bothered by anyone. My friend informed me during our run that the homeless population within Portland is known for the kindness they possess.

In short, Portland so far, has quickly become my favorite city to run in and I am eager to get back as quick as I can and run more of it's streets and trails. Sadly my days were numbered in Portland and I was soon on my way to Tacoma, Washington.

Tacoma - Having been spoiled with the awesomeness of Portland, I had high expectations for my running experience in Tacoma. Perhaps my expectations were just too high. As I first arrived to Tacoma I was greeted by an awful smell that can best be described as dead fish. I suppose this isn't an uncommon smell considering it is a coastal city.

However the horrible smell was partnered with a complete lack of cleanliness throughout the entire city. Garbage on the streets, buildings covered in gang markings and tags, at no point did I see a place where I thought..."I can't wait to run here". In fact I couldn't have been in more of a hurry to get to my hotel!

The first night in Tacoma I took advantage of the gym at the hotel. As runners alike will all agree, treadmill running is usually a last resort. 6 miles on the treadmill in this tiny gym felt like a marathon! Knowing that I couldn't do this two days in a row, I asked the front desk staff if there was a safe area to run and to my luck, I was pointed to a newly renovated park that had a running path that outlined a man made pond. The path itself was about 0.8 miles in length for each loop. Not a long loop, but it was in a nice area and had a ton of people out running and walking there dogs.

The weather on this particular day ended up being fantastic which I am told that is rare for this time of year in Tacoma. I would later read that Tacoma is known for it heavy rainfalls and darkened skys.

I am sure that there are other areas in Tacoma that are in fact more runner friendly. However I will have to wait until next year to hunt for such a spot. Until then, Portland definitely remains the better of the two cities in terms of being a runner friendly place.

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