The Volcano Race on Mt. Tabor: Happiness at an Angle!

This recap was submitted by Run Oregon reader Kathren Cavanaugh. Feel free to Submit a Guest Post in the “Contact Us” tab if you want to get involved.

First, a confession: I don’t like racing. All that adrenaline at the starting line, the crowding, the competitive fervor, the groups trying to stay together – I get just a bit claustrophobic and enormously nervous. And I’m not that great on hills either. (Just ask my boot camp instructor: she’s seen me write “beat the hill” as one of my goals for almost five years.)

But I’d run a volcano before – albeit all downhill on Mt. Haleakala on Maui; I’d signed up just for the 5K – how hard could that be? – and (full disclosure) I’m on the Board of Young Audiences (the Volcano Race beneficiary) so I had to sign up just to be able to recruit my friends. You can’t ask people to run a race you’re not running, right?

So I deliberately arrived at Mt. Tabor late on race day, missing the yoga session and the start of the 10K. I told myself it was to keep my crowd time to a minimum, but in truth I was hoping for some kind of divine intervention to keep me off the course. I joined the 5K runners, who were just starting to assemble. Right then and there I could feel a difference in the air. First of all, there was Timber Joey surrounded by dozens of kids running around, some in goofy masks. Young Audiences had set up an Art Zone and the kids could blow bubbles, paint their faces, make masks and create puppets while they waited for the Kids Dash. With the accompanying music and drumming, the atmosphere was festive and a little chaotic – and took my attention away from the run.

Then two volunteers took us through a giant blow-up of the course map. They were smiling as they told us the course was pretty straightforward, and they positively beamed while tracing over the uphill sections – what looked like the first half mile, the third half mile and the sixth half mile. I had the sinking sensation that 3.2 miles was going to feel much longer.

And then we were off. Straight up hill. But I started passing people, and I heard my boot camp instructor’s voice in my head telling me to pick out someone to pass, pass them, and pick out another and so forth until you’re done. That strategy got me to the top of Mt. Tabor where the incredible view took away the little breath I had remaining. I had never been to Mt. Tabor and I was tempted to stop for a minute and just enjoy, but I was on a flat section, so I kept on running.

After a downhill section, we left pavement to run around the reservoir. I run un-groomed, gravelly trails in Tryon Creek Park a lot, so that wasn’t a challenge, and it wasn’t very long. And then we were back to running uphill. This time I heard my husband’s voice urging me to use the Army Shuffle to power through (no stopping, but you don’t make a ton of forward progress either)! And then it was on to the water station, a short downhill a final uphill and then the race was over. And the crowd cheered wildly with every finish, capping a beautiful run with a sense of communal good will.

I didn’t check out the beer garden, because I had to help police car traffic, but as I ran to the park entrance, the 10K runners were hitting the infamous Mt. Tabor staircase. And they were smiling, too! Happiness at beating the volcano may have trumped speed for quite a few runners that day, including yours truly!

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