Race recap: Backpack 5K

Global Backpack Project

On August 17, a warm, sunny Sunday morning, I got up to run the Backpack 5K in Cook Park, Tigard, courtesy of a comped entry provided to Run Oregon by the race benefactor/organizer, the non-profit Global Backpack Project. GBP’s mission is to provide backpacks and school supplies to children in need both in the Pacific Northwest and globally. (Having just gone through the process of gathering the required school supplies for my kids for the upcoming year, I can say, the cost of fulfilling the supply lists is more than you might expect!)

Race time was at 9 a.m., and I live relatively close to Cook Park, so I didn’t have to get up too early – often a consideration for me for shorter races. As usual, there was plenty of parking available. I had missed the previous day’s packet pick-up, but check-in was very easy: one table was for day-of-race registration, and the other was for pre-registrations. I received my racing bib (one of those Road ID-branded ones) and a Backpack 5K-printed cloth bag, which came with a Global Backpack Project sticker, a coupon for naturopathic medical treatment, and a 3-day guest pass to L.A. Fitness.

As I noted above, I’ve run a good number of races at Cook Park, but now that I think about it, always in the late fall-early spring timeframe. I have lots of memories of getting there 20-30 minutes before race time and huddling under the shelter or near the portable heaters (if the race organizers brought them). With this race being held in August, there was none of that. Just basking in the sun, enjoying the mild warmth before the day would really heat up.

Pre-race warm-up led by L.A. Fitness (photo by Tung Yin)

In addition to the pre-race warm-up pictured above, the race emcee announced that the Global Backpack Project:

• Has delivered more than 4000 backpacks with school supplies to children around the globe.

• Has delivered new backpacks and school supplies to children in Jordan, Uganda, Turkey, Palestine, Morocco, Cyprus, US Virgin Islands, and here in the Pacific Northwest

• Envisions a world which supports education for all girls and boys so they may reach their unlimited potential in school and life.

• Supports the education of 650 children at the Bwetyaaba Primary School in Uganda. GBP has provided backpacks, school supplies, uniforms and shoes to girls and boys at the school.

• Has been awarded the Soroptimist International Ruby Award of the Portland Chapter for its work helping women and children.

• Delivers backpacks to children all year long, not just during Back-to-School season

• Will deliver more than 1300 backpacks this year to children around the globe, thanks to generous supporters like you.

With that completed, we gathered at the start/finish line. Although the two kids’ races were still to come, there were a good number of kids in the 5K; from looking at the results page, at least 15 of the 62 finishers were under the age of 18. And it seemed like most of those 5K kid runners were bunched up at the front of the pack. No kidding, if you look at the “time to start” column for the kiddos, you’ll see that they’re pretty much all 0:00 to 0:02.

I took a leisurely 0:05 to get to the start line and managed to get past most of the kids as we headed south toward the Tualatin River. I didn’t see a published a race route on the Backpack Run website prior to the race, but there are only so many ways to run on the trail in Cook Park and its neighbor, Durham Park, so the route still seemed mostly familiar to me. The race route was easy to follow between the cones, the chalk-drawn arrows on the trail, and the good number of race volunteers.

There were non-racers on the path, some running on their own, others walking. At one point, one of the lead runners alerted them, “A bunch of runners heading this way!” At this point, I was in eighth place. The eventual winner, a 13-year-old boy, was way up in front, followed by a young male runner, and then some male masters runners, and then a teen-aged girl and her younger brother, and then me.

Just before the Tualatin River, we turned east on the Tualatin River Trail, which soon became the Wetlands at Durham Wastewater Trail. (I’m not making these names up; that’s what the RunKeeper plot of the route tells me!) Going under the railroad tracks took us into Durham Park, where we turned north on Fanno Creek Greenway.

The out part of the route took us into a wooded portion of Durham Park. A wooded and smelly part, I might add. Quick Googling didn’t turn up an answer as to why, but the last few times I’ve run through this part of the park, I’ve noticed the smell of hydrogen sulfide.

The trail in that part of Durham Park ends in a loop with a brief, steep hill. I noticed that the race organizers had written in chalk “You can do it!” and “Love2run!” – nice touches! Then, at the start of the descent on the way back, they had written, “Slow down” and then at the point where the trail leveled off, “Okay, speed up now!”

Back in Cook Park, we followed the Tualatin River Trail past where we had first merged at the beginning of the race. Just past the 2 mile mark was the water station. We kept going past the baseball fields to the turnaround just shy of the soccer field. That was the 2.5 mile mark; from there, just a short sprint back to the start/finish line. Not long after I passed the water station again, two kids still on the way to the turnaround asked me how much farther they had to go. All I could manage to respond was, “Just keep going!” which in retrospect was not very helpful but I was trying (not too successfully) to keep up my pace.

I don’t remember if there was a 3 mile marker, but as the finish line neared, I kicked into a half-hearted sprint and finished in sixth place (having passed the sister and brother pair back around the hydrogen sulfide-smelling area). I was also first in my age/gender group, but being first out of two is a bit anti-climactic.

I ended up with a slower than usual time in this race. A small part of that is that the course, per RunKeeper’s GPS plot, came out to 3.2 miles*. A larger part of it, based on my not-so-scientific inference, is that it’s probably not conducive to optimal race performance to spend the previous day gorging at a brunch buffet and then later at a backyard BBQ, and then going out to a movie (Guardians of the Galaxy)…. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

* Although smartphone GPS’s aren’t always perfect, I’m inclined to think that my phone was correct because (1) my finishing time is more consistent with the longer distance, (2) a few other runners with GPS watches also seemed to think the course was long, and (3) I’ve tested my smartphone GPS at a track and found that it measured the 1/4 mile perfectly.

Anyway, all that aside, this was a fun, well-organized race with a focused charitable vision. There were plenty of water, coffee, bananas, and even donuts available; the course was well-marked with the aforementioned messages to help cheer runners along; and it was a very family-friendly event. The race also drew runners from a surprisingly wide range: not just Oregon, but also France, Palestine, Egypt, Afghanistan, Japan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Syria, Belgium, Dominique, and Ireland.


For complete results, click here.

5K Male (Open)

1. Cole Grieb+, 20:43

2. Kyle McDonald, 21:02

3. Steve Thoennes*, 21:49


5K Female (Open)

1. Sadie Pettigrew, 25:02

2. Rebecca Ball, 27:30

3. Emma Thoennes+, 28:49


5K Male (Masters)

1. Phillip Bentley, 22:14

2. Andy Shotts, 22:30

3. Tung Yin, 22:42


5K Female (Masters)

1. Inga Deckert, 28:53

2. Amanda Dixon, 29:18

3. Sarah Mutal, 29:57


+ denotes runner under 18

* denotes Masters runner

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