My daughter turned 3 in April. She’s a pretty typical 3-year-old. Whatever she is doing at the moment is her favorite thing to do, and planning any activities in the future is a little boring to her. “Do you want to take swim lessons?” might elicit a heartfelt “YES!” one day and an apathetic “No” the next. So for the week before the Kiwanis Kids Runs in Wilsonville on Saturday, we talked it up every chance we got. The morning of the race, though, she was still a little unsure of what “You’re running a race today!” meant. Fair enough, since usually it meant she would ride in a stroller – either slowly in front of me or quickly in front of my husband or “Uncle Joe.”
There were two reasons we made the drive from Tigard to Wilsonville. First of all, the race offered age-appropriate distances and segmented the ages into logical groups. Eliza ran in the Pre-K 3 and younger race, which was just after the Pre-K age 4 race. It’s no fun for a little kid to be racing people twice their size, so these groupings were pretty smart. The other reason was the price: Free! We made a donation when we registered online, because all participants received a t-shirt and a medal; and I felt like it was well-worth it.
We headed down under cloudy skies, with a few extra changes of clothes for both Eliza and my littler one, Nate, who is just four months old. My in-laws were in town, so while one car went to Biscuits Cafe to get a table, I went with Eliza to the event to pick up her bib and t-shirt. The Clackamas County Sheriff and Cadets were there to provide traffic assistance, showing me where I could park temporarily and be on my way. Check-in was quick, the volunteers were friendly, and I was on my way to bacon and french toast in no time. (Unlike a grown-up preparing for a race, kids can eat whatever they want before they run.)
Because the race for Eliza’s group wasn’t until 11:30, we returned to Wood Elementary School around 10:45. There were one or two sprinkles, but that didn’t deter Eliza from making a beeline to the State Farm “bouncy chair.” Lines were short at all the vendor booths, and she took at least four turns on the inflatable bouncer; playing with our friends’ kids in between turns. At 11:15, we headed to the staging area. The meet was organized so that the staging area was a place to wait for officials to bring your group over to the warm-up area, where we found ourselves heading at 11:20. Three friendly young ladies led the kiddos and parents through a stretching warm-up, with plenty of exuberant jumping around by the toddlers.
At 11:30, right in time for our race, it started to mist. Not even quite a sprinkle, but definitely chilly. The field ambled over to the start line, which was at the 100m start line (the extra little stretch of track, off turn four). I helped Eliza identify the start line and the kids took turns false-starting; the parents took turns saying, “Not yet, buddy! Come on back!” Because Eliza is in a “Always Mommy!” phase, I was going to run it with her while my husband attempted to take photos, and I was impressed with how friendly and cordial the parents at the event were. Normally when I go to a kid-centric event, I find that there are always some parents who are willing to do whatever it takes as long as their kid gets what they want … even if it means ruining another kids’ day. Not at this run! Everyone seemed to be on the lookout for all the kids to make sure everyone had a good time.
The volunteers said “Go!” and the kids took off, on individual frantic serpentine paths down the track. Eliza took one look back at me and I told her, “Run as fast as you can!” and then she just smiled and took off.
Being only 50 yards, the race was over before I could even get my phone out to take a picture; she turned around and said, “I want to do it again!” So we ran on the infield back to the starting line and ran it again, her finisher’s medal dangling well past her little knees.
And then … the rain let loose. Undeterred, Eliza decided it was time to go check out the bouncy chair again, where I ran into fellow Run Oregon blogger Geli Heidelberger. Her kiddos were running the “Big Kid’s Fun Run,” which was abbreviated from two races into one of just two laps (the 7th-8th graders were supposed to run 3 laps) because of the weather.
In all, this was a fun event and you can’t beat the price. The fact that it’s solely dedicated to kids makes it really fun – it’s a day all about youth running with all the perks of a “grown-up race” – shirt, medal, bib with safety pins, and a big, inflatable finish line. If I could make one suggestion, it would be to run various heats within each age group, especially for the younger kids, so that it’s not so hectic and parents can more easily keep track of their child during the race (both for safety and photo ops). I’ll be looking forward to next year’s race … and probably signing her up for a few of the races instead of just the one for four-year olds!
If you’re looking for other kid-friendly events, check out this page of all our posts tagged “Kids race.” Also, if you know of any kid-only races, or races that do a bang-up job making the kids truly feel special, be sure to email us about them so we can share it with other parents!