The Shamrock Run in Portland, Oregon is one of the most popular running events in the PNW, with 20,000 participants across its 6 distances. The St. Patrick’s Day themed race draws all kinds of runners, from those in costume to professionals.
I did the 5k and my friends did the half in 2023, so here’s a quick recap of what to expect for both distances, plus some spectator tips for the half.
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Shamrock Run 5k Race Recap
You had the two days before the race to get your bib and shirt. If you plan to arrive the day before the race, keep in mind that packet pickup ended at 4pm on Saturday for 2023. You can have someone else pick up your packet, but that friend needs a photo of your ID and your bib confirmation number, and you need to have signed your race waivers.
The expo was at the Oregon Convention Center close to downtown Portland. It took a bit of walking around to find the right section of the convention center, as there was a lot going on there that weekend, but we eventually found it.
It was quick to get our bibs and shirts—there wasn’t a line. There weren’t too many vendors, but there was a cool Road Runner store stand selling cheap shoes ($60) that had been tested out and returned. There was also a wall with names of all the participants.
We walked to the expo, but there are paid parking lots nearby, as well as light rail stations.
Daylight Savings happened on race day, so we lost an hour and I made sure to go to bed early the night before.
Since it was around 40-50 degrees and kind of rainy on race morning, I wore a mockneck thermal long sleeve and my fleece jacket with long leggings. I brought gloves as well. For shoes, I wore my Allbirds Tree Flyers.
I took the bus downtown from the Hawthorne District and got there 40ish minutes early. I dropped off my bag easily with no line. The 5k was the first race, so things were definitely quieter when I arrived.
I did a quick warmup by the water and was able to use the port-a-potties easily with no line either (I liked how they were spread out in clumps, so there wasn’t a massive crowd at any single set of potties).
The 5k course was out-and-back along SW Naito, a major road in downtown Portland. There was just one tiny section in the first mile where we had a couple turns before getting back onto the main street.
At the start line, there was some confusion as to which way to face, as the different races started in different directions at the same place. They had the runners actually line up in the corrals facing the wrong way and then loop around to go the right direction (going towards the Morrison bridge and not the Burnside bridge).
The first half of the race is basically a long incline—my watch registered 167ft of gain, which is a lot for a 5k. The good news is that the second half is all downhill, so you get a powerful finish.
It was a rainy day, so there weren’t that many spectators along the course until the finish area, but there were plenty of other runners to keep the energy at a good level.
One thing to note is that there is an intersection where the light rail cuts across the course, and the police officers did stop runners for that (you can’t really stop a train for a race I guess?). I was extremely surprised by this, but I luckily didn’t need to stop since my timing just happened to be right. I wouldn’t recommend this event if you’re going for a PR since all races go past this intersection.
The 5k medal was wooden, which was kind of cool since it looked different and made it easier to pack in my suitcase.
The shirt was a cotton poly blend, and is perfect for sleeping in. While I typically like to opt out of race shirts, this race didn’t have that option, and I like the shirt enough to definitely keep wearing it anyways. I wish races wouldn’t keep giving tech shirts since the cotton shirts are the most comfortable!
Everyone also got free hot oatmeal and beer. I ended up eating two free cups of oatmeal since they weren’t taking tickets for it, and I waited around a few hours for my friends to do the half, so I got cold and hungry. I gave the beer ticket to my friend’s partner who was watching my friend run.
I was recovering from a bone stress injury and just getting back into running, so I wasn’t in racing shape. I was supposed to run the half with my friends, but had to switch distances because of my injury.
Luckily, you are able to drop down distances easily and with no fee up to one week before the race. If you miss that deadline, you can still do it at the expo for $10. If you go up distances, you have to pay the price difference.
So, I basically ran a very expensive 5k haha. I ran the first 2 miles at a brisker regular run pace (8:41, 9:17) and then did the last mile in 7:19, thanks to the downhill. My finish time was 26:18 (8:30/mile), which is far off from a PR, but I was glad to be able to do any race at all, and glad to still have some speed in me after some time off.
Shamrock Run Half Marathon Race Recap
My friends Hana and Tessa ran the half, so I asked them for their tips. Here’s what they had to say:
- Strengthen your joints and knees, as the last few miles are downhill and they hurt a lot. There’s also over 600ft of gain, so do some hill training, especially for the long incline from about miles 4-8.
- The fuel stations were every few miles. The first only had water and Gatorade, and the others had GU as well (3 different flavors). The order of the stations was usually water, Gatorade, then GU.
- Bring your own gels if you want to PR, since there could be traffic at the fuel stations. I personally like Huma gels since they’re easy to get down.
- Be prepared to stop because of the light rail intersection.
- There isn’t much spectator support outside of the downhill area, so be mentally prepared for that.
- They really enjoyed the oatmeal and beer at the end, even if the beer was not a great quality brand (on the bright side, there were a lot of oatmeal flavors, including blueberry hazelnut, which was a favorite of ours).
- One thing I noticed: the half and 4-mile walk were finishing at the same time, but they sectioned off different sides of the road for both races. At one point, everyone was mixed up and runners were having to weave around the walkers, so be prepared for that just in case.
Spectator Tips for the Half Marathon
Since I ended up watching the half marathon, I wanted to share some quick tips for your friends and family who may be spectating:
- Navigating to the race and along the course is tricky because of road closures, so plan ahead.
- The half comes back around the downtown finish/start area a few miles in, so stick around for that.
- Bring warm clothes and umbrellas since the weather is historically bad for this event. Bonus points if you prepare blankets and dry clothes for your loved one who’s running (or have them use the bag drop).
- Go to George Himes City Park and park on SW Nebraska St. to see your runner at the intersection of SW Capitol Hwy and SW Twillinger Rd (around mile 8). It’s part of that brutal incline and it’s a great spot for cheering. The park is just a short walk away from this intersection, and it’s beautiful. If you go down SW Nebraska St. to the neighborhood, you can also get a nice view of Portland on a clear day. Depending on how fast your runner is, you may also be able to catch them at the finish if you drive downtown.
- Live tracking updates didn’t work—I only got notifications when my friends finished, not during the race, so don’t rely on that. Have your runner use live tracking on Strava or Garmin instead.
Let me know if you have any questions about the event, and happy running! If you want to follow along my training, you can find me on Strava.