The grass and dirt course was very wet and muddy, but I settled into a workman like pace and embraced the slop. I had chosen my shoes based on their dark color and my willingness to get them dirty, rather than traction, so I made a point of careful foot placement, not pushing off too strongly, and maintaining a low and stable center of gravity.
The race was a fundraiser for the Oregon City High School cross-country team, and I had noticed several high school runners lined up at the start. Other volunteers from the team held arrows at the turns to keep us on course. They, along with some large chalk arrows on the ground, made it very clear where to go.
During the first couple long stretches through the tulips I could hear someone right behind me. I tried to seek out the driest, flattest ground through the muck, but sometimes there was nowhere to go but right through the thickest, slurpiest gunk, much to the good-natured amusement of other farm visitors and a tour group in a tractor.
As we came to the end of one of the rows, I headed down a slight incline beside a barn, running side by side with one of the high school runners. In his pre-race instructions, the race director had warned us that this area was especially muddy.
We approached the bottom of the hill and prepared to take a left turn on a slight side slope. I could sense trouble brewing, and sure enough I was caught in a perfect storm of slippery mud, smooth-soled shoes, and gravity. My feet went out from under me and I made a perfect baseball slide into an imaginary 2nd base. Probably because I anticipated it before it even began, it was a relatively well-coordinated fall, and I bounced right back up.
The high school runner had kept his footing and passed me, and asked if I was all right. I told him I was fine, then laughed and said I knew that was going to happen. One more long row between the tulips brought us to a farm road, and soon we entered my favorite part of the course, a loop through the tree-lined corridors of a filbert orchard.
Here the surface was a higher ratio of grass to mud, and that, combined with a slight downhill allowed me to pick up the pace a little. We did a loop around the far end of the orchard and then returned one row over from the way we had come, giving runners and walkers coming and going a chance to cheer each other on.
A return trip along the slippery mud of the farm road led to a final section across some grassy fields and up a slight hill to the finish arch, where 5k runners concluded their race and 10k participants continued for another loop of the course.
Though this was a bit of a no-frills event (no chip-timing or finisher’s medals), it included a nice shirt, the course was well-marked and thoroughly staffed with volunteers, and the novelty of the mud and running through the hazelnut trees made this a uniquely fun race. I ran with a smile on my face most of the way.