“This is the Best Race Ever!” – A Run Oregon review of the 2014 Winter Wonderland of Lights

– Photo courtesy of AA Sports

“This is the Best Race Ever!”

– My 5-year-old daughter

The Winter Wonderland of Lights is one race that has been on my list of “to-dos” for quite some time. The late November/ December race calendar is relatively slim, but I usually find myself running in at least 1-2 events over the month. Since this was going to be my 25th race this year, and one of my final 2 or 3 of 2014, I wanted to share it with my family. I have run a couple of races with my kids, but my wife, being the non-runner that she is, doesn’t typically frequent my races, let alone run in them. I figured this could be one for the whole family – and boy was I right!

If there ever was a race that felt like Christmas, this was it. First of all, the weather was BRISK – a bone chilling 35 or so degrees. The sky was clear, but there were reports that it had snowed earlier in the day. We got there a bit early as we were unclear of how parking and packet pick-up were going to be. We needn’t have worried about either, as both were a relative snap.

– Photo by AA Sports

That left us with time to take in some of the sights before we hit the raceway. We meandered around the tent and threw bubbles at each other from the bubble machine. My 2-year-old and I also had a “snowball” fight with fake snow from the snow machine. She was giggling and making snow angels while Christmas music blasted. My 5-year-old was waving and smiling Santa, who was taking present requests and had also come to send us runners off.

With about 15 minutes to go we set off for the long corral to the start line. This was where our little family race ended, as I was running in the 6 miler and my wife and kids were walking the 2 miler.The first little quarter-mile straightaway was a little bland, but then BAM! Christmas awesomeness! I had my Christmas playlist on  in my headphones and the whole scene just came together amazingly well. Light displays galore lined the track, we ran under tunnels of lights, and got to experience the 12 Days of Christmas in all their light-up form.  I am not typically a fan of courses with multiple loops, but this race was completely the opposite – I was pumped I got to experience the great displays 3 different times.

– Photo by AA Sports

I ended up passing my girls right after their mile 1, and my mile 3. We waved and I trekked along, now finally warm in the cold winter air. I know my wife was cold and said she only survived due to my extra coat I discarded prior to the start. But she wasn’t running, so I imagine it was a lot worse. The energy and Christmas cheer, combined with the run, kept me warm on an otherwise chilly evening. There was definitely some maneuvering that went on beginning around mile 2.5, when we started to come back up on the walkers. There was weaving, but honestly I could not have cared less. Perhaps I am getting relaxed in my “old age”, but moving in and out of traffic of slower runners really doesn’t affect me negatively like it used to – especially in runs that are designed to be a family affair.

I ended up crossing the finish line of my 6-miler about a minute after my girls. We grabbed a few quick snacks under the warm tent before we hit the road back to Salem. Piling into the car was when my oldest daughter dropped her quote, to which I couldn’t help but smile. At the end of the day, the pace, swag, and race course pale in comparison to what is the most important part – fun.  Running is supposed to be fun. So let’s take a page out of AA Sports and let’s just have fun with running this holiday season. I know we did!

Results can be found here.

About Author

Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching hockey, going to as many breweries (618) and wineries (152) as he can, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.

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