Joe Dudman started running road races as a sophomore in high school, circa 1980. Since that time he has accumulated over 600 race T-shirts (Yes, he finally got around to counting them!) Some of them evoke special memories and (hopefully) interesting stories. In this recurring series, he recounts some of them for Run Oregon readers.
In today’s booming race scene, with multiple races to choose from on any given summer weekend, there’s a lot to be said for unique and novel races with some special “hook” or gimmick. On the other hand, there’s also a lot to be said for old, reliable, well-established races that offer consistency and predictable high quality events.
One of the Portland area’s oldest and most dependable events is the annual Blue Lake Runs, the Oregon Road Runners Club’s fall 5k and 15k championship at Blue Lake Park. Known for a standardized course, a civilized 11:00am start time, great volunteers, nice awards and raffle prizes, and excellent, no-nonsense post-race food and drink (hot dogs, cookies, and – gasp! – soft drinks like Coke and 7-Up), the races have a loyal following and are well over 30 years old.
While there have been slight changes to the Marine Drive bike path course (the 15k used to do a loop around the Troutdale Airport, but due to traffic and safety concerns ORRC made it an out-and-back and made up the distance in the park), almost everything else about this event has remained reliably familiar, including the vantage point of the professional lensman taking finisher shots. You could create an interesting time-lapse slide show from all my finish photos at precisely the same spot over the years.
While most ongoing races try to create excitement by coming up with a new shirt design every year, the Blue Lake Run shirt graphics remained the same from the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, with only the colors changing with each new edition. And it was a fantastic design, so runners knew they would be getting a great shirt, and could look forward to discovering the new shirt color and hues of the graphics each October as they picked up their race packets.
Tradition finally gave way to change in the late-2000s, and new graphics and shirt designs were introduced, but my collection of classic Blue Lake shirts remains one of my favorite tributes to consistency and successful design.