I think this was my very first year doing the Winter Wonderland of Lights run/walk at Portland International Raceway! It’s an event that friends have mentioned numerous times around the holidays, but it was one I had never been too keen on doing because I figured it would be too cold walking around PIR after dark, and in prior years, its frequently been rainy. However, Winter Wonderland is well prepared for this event. While it was definitely COLD this year (a little warmer than freezing), AA Sports provided a large tent with plenty of heaters, and long-sleeved tech shirts were included with registration. There was also plenty to see and do, so wandering around kept me warm too! I also lucked out that it was dry, and there wasn’t any wind that evening.
My friend Darhl and I arrived plenty early so that we would get decent parking and I would have time to pickup my packet and take pictures. There was tons of parking and it was fairly close to the start/finish, which was good because there wasn’t a bag check. The check-in volunteers
The race area was very nice, with plenty of photo ops outside the main tent with Santa and Mrs. Claus, lots of fun Christmas decorations, snack samples, and snow machines both inside and outside. The DJ played lots of fun Christmas music to set the tone–it definitely had a very fun and festive feel!
Just before five, as the sun was setting, they requested that we head over to the starting corral. There were plenty of people, many of them dressed up in fun holiday outfits. There were people of every pace. Darhl and I were walking the 2 miler (there were also 4 mile and 6 mile options–adding another lap around PIR for each additional two miles). Walking it was actually really fun–I could stop and take photos, and honestly, even those strolling along leisurely were moving faster than cars move through PIR for the light show. I really enjoyed just taking in the experience, and while it’s not a race where you’d hope for a PR since the course can get a little crazy with wandering children, dogs, and grownups, it’s still a WONDERful time being active and enjoying the lights. I’ve driven through the lights at PIR several times, and I definitely prefer the opportunity to be outside actually walking the course at my own pace, even if it is a little cold!
After the race, there was PB & bread, oranges, and chex mix. There was a coffee cart shop, noodle vendor, and a beer vendor offering food and drink for sale. I bought a beer and snacked on Chex mix while we waited for the costume contest. We huddled close to the heat lamps, but it was pretty comfortable inside the tents with all of the people. I appreciated that there were lots of tables and chairs for everyone. Stephanie from AA Sports made sure to have the announcer give me a shoutout, and also a shoutout to Run Oregon, which was very cool. While I didn’t win the costume contest, all of us “runners-up” received prizes as well (I was given two 22’s of beer! YESSS!!!)
Overall it was a really fun holiday event, and it’s a great opportunity to run/walk around PIR and see the Christmas lights. While there are other holiday nighttime walks around PIR, if you’re interested at all in doing a chip timed race, and getting a fun Winter Wonderland souvenir shirt, this is definitely the event to do. I’m putting this one on my calendar for next year!