This recap was submitted by Run Oregon reader Cindi Morrow. Feel free to Submit a Guest Post in the “Contact Us” tab if you are wanting to recap your experiences as well!
The weather forecast called for rain, and lots of it, but the dark skies stayed dry for those running and walking the 2nd Annual Garden Gnome Run in Corvallis on May 4th. This benefit race for Community Service Consortium Youth House drew me in with the design of their race shirts and will have me coming back next year for the course and the cause.
Arriving in Corvallis from Vancouver, Washington, I easily found street parking directly across the street from the start/finish area. If I hadn’t been there specifically for the race, the festive atmosphere might very well have drawn me into a race day registration. There were booths offering crafts and plants for sale, a food booth selling crepes, coloring tables set up for the kids (and unabashed adults), wooden gnome cutouts with whom to pose for a photo-op, busy volunteer gnomes moving about, music playing, a raffle, racers warming up, and kids, some wearing gnome costumes, coming in fast to the finish of the 1K run/walk.
The lines for day of race packet pick up and registration kept the volunteers busy but the folks of Eclectic Edge Racing accommodated the long lines with a slightly delayed start. Eclectic Edge did their normal outstanding job of explaining how to line up for the start of the race and how to move through the finishers’ chute. They orchestrated a smart line up formation for the port-a-potties so the 5K participants could use the facilities prior to the 10K/15K racers who would be starting five minutes after them.
Each participant was given a race bib, a sharp-looking reusable shopping bag, a voucher for a free tomato plant, a plastic water bottle, and two raffle tickets. Those who paid an extra $12 for a race shirt scored a smartly designed “Are you gnome enough?” race shirt that sports the most handsome of gnomes. Really, the shirt is sharp! It alone was worth the ninety-two mile drive and the nine mile run.
Runners and walkers were offered “loaner gnomes” to carry with them along the course. Those who invited gnomes to join them were encouraged to stop along the course for photos with their small friends. I saw two intrepid 5K runners make their choice from the table of loaner gnomes. At the out-and-back one of the racers was carrying both gnomes. It looked like the gnomes were having a blast!
The race hosts a flat, paved 5K, 10K, and a newly added 15K. Having run the 15K, I covered the courses for each distance. The 5K runs on a bike path through Avery and Pioneer Parks. The 10K and the 15K include the path in Starker Arts Park. The 15K adds distance through a well-kept neighborhood and rural roads. The only noticeable hill — a 60 foot climb over a quarter-mile after a very gentle climb over 1.5 miles — was at the half way mark of the 15K course.
With a flat course I was expecting a fast field. Another indication of a fast field was an announcement at packet pick up that they were out of extra-small shirts. What I wasn’t expecting was being the dead last finisher! There was plenty of time for me to absorb the reality of my fate as I watched the field of sixty-three 10K and thirty-four 15K runners race away from me and out of my view prior to the first quarter-mile. In a brief moment of self-pity it occurred to me that I’d be running alone on “just one more long training run” but I set my mind to RACE to the finish. It would simply be my race would be slower than the others.
Soon I came across the last of the 5K walkers who had taken off five minutes prior to the start of the 10K/15K. I “used” these cheerful and unsuspecting folks to quicken then maintain my pace as I “picked them off” one after the other (my victories are small and mainly in my imagination).
The best part of an out-and-back course, for me, is seeing the leaders fly back toward the finish as I’m still making my way out on the course. It was a joy to hear a group of 5K walkers talk excitedly about the lead runners as they tried to calculate how far those runners had already raced and how fast they had covered that ground.
Having passed the 5K turn around mark I was now on the course of the 10K. Looking at the map prior to the race I’d expected this portion of the course to be my favorite but that would come later as I found the semi-rural roads of the 15K to be nearly ideal – quiet with almost no vehicle traffic and unexpectedly scenic.
The course was marked at each turn with simple, clear, uniformed signs AND with chalk markings on the ground. Those marking would have made navigation easy but nearly every turn also included a cheering volunteer! Intersections requiring a runner to cross traffic were staffed by two volunteers wearing road hazard vests and holding large official stop signs. These volunteers knew how to watch for traffic and how to efficiently keep the race moving. Job well done!
The well positioned aid stations were staffed by volunteer gnomes (and a few humans) who handed out water, electrolytes, high fives, and much cheer.
Near the finish, a volunteer photographer snapped my photo, which I could later download for free, and gave me a sincere atta-girl. As I came closer to the finish line I saw that nearly all of the runners had left but all of the gnomes had remained for the dead last finisher to come in. Eclectic Edge announced my name, the “crowd” cheered, I was given my gnome finisher’s medal made of glass, and offered post-race refreshments. While I was still on the course, there had been an awards presentation for the top three finishers in each ten year age division for both males and females. I picked up my complementary tomato plant and made my way to lunch before heading back north to plan my return trip to next year’s race.