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Race Recap: 2015 Freedomthon 5K

Portland has been in the midst of a blistering heatwave, which made the idea of a Fourth of July race a bit scary. Because Uberthons had enough foresight to schedule the Freedomthon at 7:30 a.m., the heat turned out not to be an issue. (I normally prefer my races to start a bit later, like say 9 a.m. or even 10 a.m., but for this, I was happy to get up at 6:30.) It was 64 degrees at race time, with steadily increasing temperature as the race and post-race festivities went on.

I wasn’t able to attend the pre-race packet pick-up because of travel plans, but it sure sounded like fun – bowling at Big Al’s! I arrived at 7:10, found parking pretty easily at the Beaverton Library lot, and waited in a short line for my personalized bib. Yep, because I had registered early enough (with a comp courtesy of Uberthons), my race bib came with my name on it, just underneath the bib number.

At last year’s Freedomthon, I had been unable to get a GPS lock on Runkeeper before the race started, so I ended up racing “naked,” so to speak. As a result, I switched on my Garmin Forerunner much earlier today. It took a while to get a GPS lock, and then lost it, and went back and forth before finally locking on for good a minute or so before the start. I wonder if there’s some kind of dead GPS spot around the library.

Anyway, 360 runners and 37 walkers showed up for the 5K, and 40 kids signed up for the 1 mile race.

There were five volunteers holding up pace signs: 1) those running at 17 minutes for the 5K; 2) those running at 19 minutes for the 5K; 3) those running at 21 minutes and over for the 5K; 4) fitness walkers; and 5) “two-fers,” meaning those with strollers. I started near the back of the runners. I caught a cold last week, and it was transitioning from sore throat to runny nose phase, so I figured it would be a slower run for me.

Hanaila Starks sings the national anthem to kick off the Freedomthon (photo courtesy of Uberthons)

We were treated to a very nice rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner by 18-year-old Hanaila Starks of the Ke Kukui Foundation, a non-profit Hawaiian/Polynesian cultural center located across the river in Vancouver.

It hasn’t been the fastest course for me, but the Freedomthon should be fast. It’s nearly as flat as Kansas, and it has very few turns. It’s basically an out-and-back along and L-shape: a little more than 1 mile east on SW 5th, turn right on SW Western, go for about half a mile, turn around at the aid station, and head back.

Because I started near the back of the runners, I ran into a fair amount of clogging for the first 50 yards or so before I was able to skirt along the side of the road. The Beaverton police had blocked the side roads so that there were no cars on the road (although I later noticed some cars trying to get out of an industrial parking lot on Western). I tried to wave an acknowledgment to each police office in appreciation for his or her being out on a holiday – and a toasty hot one at that.

My left ankle hurt for the first half mile or so. Uh oh, I thought. I had been dealing with some Achilles tendon pain since the world’s longest 10K race. In the last couple of weeks, the tendon and I had reached some sort of accord: I could run at least as fast as my 10K pace on the treadmill, or at a slow pace outside, and it wouldn’t bother me. Now, though, I was testing the fragile peace treaty. Fortunately, it stopped hurting after that (and has been fine since).

I was about a mile and a quarter into the race, heading toward the aid station, when I saw Brian Bernier and another runner (eventual winner James Malkin) having already made the turn and well on their way back toward the finish. They were running step for step and looked really smooth. Obviously, I wasn’t there for the finish, but this is what it looked like:

The first two finishers of the 2015 Freedomthon (James Markin and Brian Bernier) (photo courtesy of Uberthons)

In his preview of this race, Brian Bernier noted that “[t]he worst part [of the race] is being able to see the finishing arch when it is a bit more distant than it appears.” I do remember that from last year, but maybe I was better prepared for it this year, as I had a pretty accurate sense of the end of the race. (Well, and I could tell from my GPS watch.)

With less than 0.1 miles to go, there were two volunteers, one on either side of the road, handing out small U.S. flags to carry for the last little sprint. I took mine and kicked toward the finish line. Cold or not, I finished 2 seconds better than last year. Not a PR, but not bad all things considered.

(photo courtesy of Uberthons)

The finisher’s race medal is a pretty hefty one, and those of us who registered early enough (i.e., as with the racing bib) received ones with our names laser-engraved on the back. Afterward, there was a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, and fruit (bananas and oranges) available as part of the race, or for purchase by spectators.

About 40 minutes or so after the start of the race, Darwin Rasmussen announced the overall winners, as well as age/gender group winners, who all received gold, silver, or bronze pins. (Uberthons experiments with different race bling; in past years, age/gender group winners got ribbons, or separate lanyards to attach to the race medals. I like the pins because they can be attached easily to the race medal lanyard.) The age/gender group winners who were still present got to have their pictures taken on the medal podium. Here’s a great picture of the Crowley family:

The Crowley family – they all run! (photo courtesy of Uberthons)

The 2015 edition of the Freedomthon was another perfectly executed 5K race – a very simple course that didn’t need much marking at all, plenty of water at the aid station and at the finish line, and a killer finisher’s medal. It’s hard to imagine anything that could have been done better.

For full results, click here. (In case you are wondering, Malkin edged Bernier by 1 second.) For photos of the event, click here (finish line), here (elevated perspective of the finish line), or here (kid’s race).

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