Running can span generations: turn it into a family tradition

The scene at the Sherwood Give ‘n’ Gobble, circa 2010.

There are a number of races in Oregon that have been around for more than a few years … but not as many that have been around for a few generations. But many Run Oregon readers can recall races they ran with their parents (or grandparents) and in turn want to run with their own kids. Making running (or walking!) a family tradition does so much for a family – encourages a healthy lifestyle, provides some good no-screen time, and is something that families can enjoy together. Even if it’s just “your thing,” you might be able to convince the non-runners in your family to join you once a year for a special family tradition!

If you’d like to make a race a family tradition, here are a few things to consider to keep things “running” year after year:

  • Look for a race that has been around for at least a few years
  • Lower-priced events will be easier to keep on the schedule from year to year, and invite other family or friends to join you
  • Holiday races or races that have a set date (the 1st Sunday in September, for example) make it easy to keep on the calendar
  • Events with multiple distances – especially kid’s races, or those that allow jogging strollers – make it possible for everyone to find something they can do
  • Location, location, location … whether that means a race near your house (for easy access) or a destination race (for an annual retreat)
  • Keep in mind what is important to your family – if they’re die-hard college football fans, I suggest a lovely spring race
  • Events always love volunteers, so if people do not want to run the event, they can still take part by helping out

I also want to mention that “family” is what you make it. If you can schedule an annual race getaway with a group of friends – do it!

Turkey Trots are one category of races that make for easy-to-organize family traditions. The ORRC Turkey Trot at the Zoo includes a wave start, making it less competitive for those just looking to log miles, and does a great job supporting walkers and runners. It also includes a “Tot Trot” and all participants (in the grown-up race, too) receive admission to the Zoo for that day. Sherwood’s Give ‘n’ Gobble provides an opportunity for families to make the holiday about others – they do an amazing job of raising food and funds for local food banks. And the race that is probably my favorite Turkey Trot – the 2-mile and 5-mile Oak Hills Turkey Trot – takes place at an elementary school and is wrapped up with a kid’s race complete with ribbons for every finisher. (Their website will be updated near the end of October.)  These are just a few of the many great Turkey Trots; there’s also nothing wrong with creating your very own neighborhood “Turkey Trot!”

Other holidays are starting to offer a variety of events as well. Local race company Uberthons has created a race for nearly every holiday (although I have yet to see a race for National Beer Day, falling on April 7, 2016). They’ve got a New Year’s race, a St. Patrick’s race, a Mother’s Day race, a Father’s Day race, a 4th of July race, a Halloween race, a Thanksgiving race, and the “Naughty or Niceathon.” ORRC rounds out the calendar with the Up the Lazy River (Memorial Day) and the Greenway Trail Trial (Labor Day). Some races turn into holidays in their own right – Run With Paula’s Bridge of the Goddesses, the Great Columbia Crossing, or the Rogue Run are all great destination races worth turning into a mini-vacation.

Running has changed a lot since road races became popular in the 1970’s. Races used to be only for the competitive – nylon split-side shorts and racing flats were pretty much the uniform; but running (or “Jogging,” as the book is called) could be picked up by nearly anyone. People between the ages of 30-45 may have had one or two parents that were runners, but for many of these people, they were the first generation in their family to be “runners.” These folks are now having kids and passing this love of running on to their kiddos. Running has also become a common a habit for women, who (at least in my family) are instrumental in planning family activities. In 1990, only 25% of race finishers were female; in 2013, 57% of finishers were women! The sheer number of finishers for both men and women is climbing too. In 1990, less than 5 million people in the U.S. participated in a running event. In 2013, that number was greater than 19 million.* What all these numbers mean is that more people – and more types of people – are running. It’s a trend I can get behind!


We asked our readers which runs they hold as family traditions. Here’s a sample of the responses:

The races that have been going strong:

The Sublimity Harvest Festival Race held its 37th running in 2015.

WVRR’s Zena Road Races celebrated 47 years in 2015.

ORRC’s Blue Lake Runs, which knocked off the 40th anniversary of the 15k and the 30th anniversary of the 5k in 2014.

The Truffle Shuffle in Eugene will reach 35 years in 2016, and it’s a race in which Run Oregon reader Bek McCaulley ran with her grandpa and hopes to someday run with her son, born this past summer.

The Bloomsday Run, up in Spokane, which was first run in 1977 – reader Melanie Lazar “ran it as a kid and an adult,” and plans to take her kiddos with her someday.

The (Aquafina) Butte to Butte in Eugene, which Lisa Peters reports has been run by three generations of her family: her mom, her, and her son. In 2015 they marked 42 years.

Over in Coos Bay, the Prefontaine Run is a true tradition. Reader Jen Pacewic Ellis shared that the female winner of the 35th running in 2014 celebrated her win with her grandfather, who has run it every single year – one of only four to lay claim to this feat. Now the entire family runs the race.

The races that our readers hope will hang around:

Jessica Mottern’s kids are “counting down the years” until they’re allowed to participate in the Warrior Dash 5k, currently run in North Plains.

Annie Vargas hopes the Foot Traffic Flat Marathon run each year on the 4th of July is still running strong in 20 years, so that “when my running buddy and I are old ladies, we [can] run it together again.”

Which races are part of a tradition for your family? Let us know on the Run Oregon facebook page or comment below.

*Stats from, Running Event Finishers 1990-2013.

About Author

We started the Run Oregon blog in February 2007, because felt like running in Oregon and SW Washington deserved more positive coverage. We also wanted to level the playing field so that small, non-profit races could compete with big events; and to support local race organizers.

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