Every weekend in October, thousands of people dig out their dirndls and lederhosen and funny hats and head to Leavenworth, Wash. for Oktoberfest. On the first weekend of the festival, the Leavenworth Marathon and Half Marathon take place, putting a minor damper on Friday night’s revelry but guaranteeing an I-earned-this good time after the race on Saturday.
The half marathon begins and ends at the fish hatchery south of town. Distance runners can tend toward seriousness when it comes to their races, but this crowd is decidedly here for the party. Many participants run in the same costumes they wore in the beer halls the night before, and a few others are visibly feeling the effects of last night’s barley and hops. Most runners, though, just adopt a lighthearted approach to the race.
After 3.5 miles on a pretty country road, the course takes runners across the Wenatchee River and onto the trails of Waterfront Park. During the 2-mile trail stretch, which runs alongside the river and through groves of deciduous trees, the wind just might stir enough to shower you with gorgeous orange and yellow leaves through the mottled sunshine and blue skies beyond. The trail is soft and wide. It deposits runners on the other end of town, and the next segment is on residential streets. The two out-and-backs in this segment occur right about the time you’re ready to be done, but it’s heartening to get a different view of your fellow runners and cheer each other on. The final segment again goes off-road. The course teases runners by taking them near enough to the finish line to hear the cheering spectators, and then right back out into the trees for another 2 miles. In the last few meters in the trees, the trail winds around and narrows to singletrack, forcing a single-file line until it opens to a field and the finish line.
“We offer a unique experience in terms of being a stunningly beautiful course,” says race organizer Ian Crossland. “Runners begin near the Alpine Lakes Wilderness and pass through rolling farmland and forest trails along the banks of Icicle Creek and the Wenatchee River. And Oktoberfest in Leavenworth is a great, festive experience.” There is also a full marathon option, which has a 10-mile downhill start before joining the half marathon course. Teddriven.com/leavenworth-marathon. //