Race Preview: Birds of Prey Half Marathon and 5k (AKA a $25 half marathon and a $10 5k)

You know we love our local. And we love saving money. Throw in a volunteer race organizer we know personally that is donating all proceeds to a non-profit organization and you have a race Run Oregon is going to highly recommend to our readers. RunOregon-Logo-nonprofit Let us introduce you to the Birds of Prey Half Marathon and 5k. Scheduled for Sunday, April 19, 2015, this race raises funds for the Stevenson (Wash.) High School Cross Country Team, which didn't even exist a few years ago. Here are the vitals: When: Sunday, April 19 What time: 10a start for both races Where: North Bonneville Park Pavilion in North Bonneville, Wash. According to race organizers, the WA-14 route to North Bonneville is probably your best way to get there, just because the scenery does a nice job of truly getting someone in the "zone" before busting off for 13.1 miles or a quick 5k. Course notes: There are two aid stations for the half: before miles 5 and 10, stocked with electrolytes, water, and "a small collection of easily digestible foodstuffs." There are four bathrooms/porta-potties on course, at miles 3, 4, 6, and 7. There is also one about 1/3 of a mile from the start. Keep in mind, too, that it's usually 3-5 degrees cooler in the Gorge than in the PDX metro, and it's the Gorge, so ... prepare for wind. Register: Online here by April 17 for the half marathon for $25 or the 5k for $10

Only in its second year, the Birds of Prey Half Marathon and 5k are smaller events but I would expect the field for this year to at least double last year’s turnout. In 2014, there were 44 finishers in the half marathon and 24 in the 5k. (There would have been 45 finishers in the half marathon, had I not sprained my ankle the day prior and made my husband stay home to take care of me.)

I got some info from co-Race Director Cody Barton (great name, right?) to share with those of you considering this event:

Run Oregon: Can you describe the course?
Barton: The course starts at the park in North Bonneville, Wash. For the first mile you are on the paved pathways that weave their way through the town until you reach Strawberry Island, a wildlife preserve under the control of the Army Corp of Engineers and the home course for Stevenson High School XC. You will hit this point later on around mile 10, but that is where one of two aid stations are located. Once you reach the grass trails you will make your way for 2 miles around west end of the island before you reach the first of three bathroom opportunities on the course and put yourself on a gravel and dirt path which goes along the Columbia River all the way to the base of Bonneville Dam,  just shy of mile 5.

Can you pick out the Strawberry Island Hill on this course elevation profile for the Birds of Prey Half Marathon?

At the Bonneville Dam turnaround is the 1st aid station. At this point, you will head back and make your way into the Fort Cascade trail system which is located in some uniquely dense forest. Up until this point you have been on nearly perfectly flat (yet rugged) terrain, but will need to gear up for  the long ascent up Strawberry Island Hill, a half-mile, 200-foot grind that gives you picture perfect views of Hamilton Mountain, Beacon Rock, the green folds of the west end of the Gorge and if you decide to turn back the way you came, a portrait of Bonneville Dam and the surrounding industry comes into view. You will then head down hill and back around the grass and gravel pathways to the 2nd aid station just short of mile 10 at the edge of the island.

From the aid station, you make your way for the remainder of the race on the paved paths and back roads of North Bonneville until you finally find yourself near the start of the race with the finishing line at the top of a small hill conveniently located right next to the gathering of food and refreshments. 13.1 miles in the books!
The 5k takes places exclusively on the paths around town, a speedy way to get to know one of the great communities located in the vastness of the Columbia River Gorge.
Run Oregon: What do top finishers receive to celebrate their efforts?
Barton: A cool little wooden plague made by the Stevenson High School wood shop class for the male and female winners of the 5k and Half (Overall and Masters). All participants get a cool race experience and know that they are helping develop an awesome program that allows opportunities for dozens of kids!
Run Oregon: How has the community supported you and Esther Holman, the other Race Director?
Barton: The cool thing about Stevenson is that even though this is a community with no distance running tradition, many individuals and organizations have been incredibly supportive. Sure, there is the Columbia Gorge Running Club which has done a great job supporting not only the event but also the team financially and with volunteers, but otherwise 15 years is a long time to go without having a [high school XC] team. Having 28 kids come out the first year was huge. Honestly, a lot of them were kids I taught last year as freshmen and decided to come out as sophomores because I talked up the experience. We could not have done any of this without the community jumping in like they have. Its rare to have a group of kids and parents who are so willing to embrace something that has no local tradition or presence.
As mentioned, we couldn’t do this without the Columbia Gorge Running Club. Anna Bates, the club president, has been awesome, allowing us to team up with her organization and she, along with the entire club, is committed 100% to spreading the sport and supporting the community. Also, Jill Cole, the head XC coach at our rival high school, Columbia HS (White Salmon) and the entire Columbia HS XC team have been some of the biggest supporters we have had. They helped volunteer at our race last year and Jill, who went through the process of starting a team from scratch a couple years ago, walked us through the entire process and has made it really hard for people in Stevenson to root against their rival high school. Finally, Stan Holman, Esther’s husband, has been a great resource and volunteered way too much time helping start a program for a bunch of kids that aren’t his. Of course there are dozens more that made this possible, and their commitment to the sport makes this whole thing possible.
Run Oregon: How has Stevenson High School’s XC team grown from last year to this year?
Barton: The whole XC thing actually started last spring when I was hired to coach the distance events in track. I had 9 runners — 8 freshmen and a sophomore — none who had really ran anything longer than a lap on the track. It started out rough. We didn’t have anyone who could run more than a mile without having to walk. Coming from a competitive running background (I competed for Eastern Washington University and the University of Portland) it was a humbling coaching experience. Stevenson hasn’t sent a team to state in anything since 2012. It is a community that has been, for all intensive purposes, forgotten … timber made everyone rich and timber laws made everyone equally as poor. I don’t want to take credit for anything I didn’t do, but XC starting here has had an instant impact in school culture. We have over 120 kids out for spring sports this year, which is half the school and this is in contrast to barely being able to fill sports teams the year before. Stevenson is a great place to coach; the kids are great and make every day the best day ever.
Run Oregon: What makes the Birds of Prey Half Marathon and 5k unique?
Barton: This race is unique because it gives runners a chance to experience some of the most geologically significant scenery in the entire world while helping cover the costs of a program that will benefit kids for years to come. Not to mention you get to run on grass, gravel, dirt and paved paths all in one race. How many runs do that? Also, the volunteers on the course are the kids you are helping to support. Which makes them the most pleasant aid station workers in the history of running events; they are thankful for your contribution and you are thankful for their water and snacks.
Run Oregon: How do you keep costs low, and how much money did you raise last year?
Barton: Last year, we had 44 half marathon runners and 24 5k runners, and we raised $1,500. We keep costs low because the city of North Bonneville and the Army Corps of Engineers are nice people and let us use their resources. All of  the race “staff” and people on the course are volunteers from the community, the XC team and the Columbia Gorge Running Club. We could charge more for the race but I’m old school and think that races are a lot more fun to run in when your wallet is full. The best donation you can give to the SHS team is not your money but showing these kids how this is something they can do for the rest of their lives and have fun with.
Run Oregon: What is your fund raising goal for this year and how is registration going?
Barton: With money raised from last year’s race we were able to fund our trip to Seaside for the 3 Course Challenge and made sure every kid got a technical warm-up shirt they could keep and take home with them. This year we would like to fully cover the costs of uniforms along with continuing to cover those other expenses. I’m not the type of guy who stresses about dollars and cents but decent uniforms for 30 kids comes to about $1,700. That makes $3,000 a nice number to shoot for. Registration has been excellent thus far. We had 20 people sign up the same day I posted it to the Clark County Running Club Facebook page, and since most of our runners were day of registration last year, we are only getting good vibes right now about the prospects of this years event.

Check out last year’s results and a course map with elevation profile on this page of the Columbia Gorge Running Club’s website on the Birds of Prey Half Marathon and 5k.

About Kelly Barten (1152 Articles)
I started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because I felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. I also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support LOCAL race organizers. I'm a Creighton Bluejay (undergrad) and an Oregon Duck (Sports Marketing MBA), and I live in Tigard with my husband and two kids. My "real job" is working for an incredibly awesome math textbook company doing marketing and production.
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