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Race Recap: 2015 Stride Toward Freedom 5k in Salem

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The Stride Toward Freedom 5k in Salem started with Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, and continued with a wonderful morning for running. It was definitely a great small race organized by Willamette University’s Multicultural Affairs office.

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Simple and straight-forward race course

Being a graduate of Willamette AND the fact that I work and run in downtown Salem, I knew the race course like the back of my hand. The race featured a  cross-country grass starting line at Brown Field on campus – which made it super lucky that the day was sunny and dry. I have been at Brown Field in the rain, and let’s just say there’s probably a second reason why the name “brown” makes sense.

We completed a small loop around campus, which brought back good memories and was a great look into the cool historical buildings and Quad for those who have never been before. We passed back through Brown Field and made our way over to the famed Bush Park. Bush Park is home to the storied Willamette Cross Country and Track and Field programs – including Nick Symmonds.

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The start of the race, with the Capitol looming in the background

The park features a variety of bark trails and we took to them in a counter-clockwise motion after entering from Church Street. Although the day was dry, the paths seemed uncharacteristically muddy and were a definite challenge to maintain pace. The long straightaway that ran parallel to High Street is a relatively short and gradual climb, yet provided an added challenge with the “squishy” trail. Once the top of the park was pinnacled, we looped around on a paved trail that eventually ran just outside the outfield fence of my old baseball stadium, and returned to Church Street. We followed the same sidewalk back to the finish at Brown Field.
All-in-all, this course is extremely straight forward and one of the better areas to run in downtown Salem with only a few small street crossings that are manned well by volunteers.

The 5k was paced by local Salem speedster Gabino Oropeza and Run Oregon phenom Joe Dudman – who finished 1-2 in the end. Full results can be found here. The post-race spread was simple with oranges, bananas, bagels, and hot chocolate. In the end, the race surprisingly had over 150 runners this year – a new record high in this 8th annual event.

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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