It’s not too often that I trek over the border to run in Vancouver. Residing in Salem, I generally keep my events in a nice 40 mile radius or so. Now I know that Vancouver is just a stone’s throw from Oregon, but it’s just not often I find myself registering myself for races up there. Sure, I have competed in the Vancouver USA Half Marathon a few times, but that’s pretty much (sadly) been the extent of it. So, to be honest, when I registered for the 2016 Race for Warmth 5k/10k, I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
As the event was billed as a fundraiser (sorta), AND only a second year race, I anticipated a cozy, low-key, and local event. I knew from reading the webpage that the cause was great.
Race for Warmth to support Operation Warm Heart, a Clark Public Utilities customer-funded program to help limited-income families in crisis situations who need help paying their electric bills.Last year’s first annual Race for Warmth raised more than $20,000 for this critical assistance program. Since its creation in 1985, Operation Warm Heart has provided nearly $2.4 million to about 11,000 customers who are barely making ends meet, but don’t qualify for other government programs that could help them pay their winter bills. As other sources of aid continue to be cut, more of our customers rely on Operation Warm Heart for assistance. For more than 20 years, Clark Public Utilities customers and employees have generously funded Operation Warm Heart. Those customer contributions provide a perpetual source of funding to help low-income families in crisis.
But I wasn’t prepared for the sheer numbers of participants (590 in the 5k alone), the energy of the crowd and staff, and the well-organized and fun event. Color me pleasantly surprised!
The race started and finished at the Clark Public Utilities, a nice location with a large parking for pre-race festivities. We lucked out in the parking department, partly because some small parking spaces that had been missed, but mostly because we got there early (or what we thought was early). Bib pick-up was inside and a walk in the park. I’m sure it was crowded at times, but everything seemed to have a flow to it when we were there. There were complimentary drinks (coffee and hot chocolate), as well as fruit – both from local venders.
I was on daddy-duty for the weekend, so we opted for the 5k in a double-stroller, not exactly equipped for running. With a 6 and 4-year-old in the seats, racing with this thing is like running and bench presses at the same time. We settled in near the back of the pack as a courtesy – which I always feel weird about as I know that my pace is going to mean passing 3/4 of the people ahead of me. My courtesy starting location typically means I weave in and out of running traffic – effectively negating my good intentions up front. Maybe this deserves its own blog post.
Anyways, as I mentioned before, I have run the Vancouver USA Half Marathon. As a result, the first half mile or so trek down Fort Vancouver Way was familiar, yet a reverse (and downhill) portion. We hit some traffic in the trails within Fort Vancouver Park (which I was aware was bound to happen), before hitting the much more thinned out paved trails along Columbia Way. There were quite a few street crossings (especially for a 5k), but traffic was thin and volunteers were doing a fantastic job keeping runners safe.
The mini-hill up Grant Street really got my heart pumping and I loved the final stretch through the downtown city streets.
Following the race, finishers received a free pint glass, beer was on-tap from the latest addition to Vancouver’s rapidly expanding brewery scene – Trusty Brewing, and Beaches Restaurant was serving Three Bean Soup and bread that was quickly wolfed down by a couple hungry girls. Not a bad post-race at all!
As I sat back on my drive home, I was so happy that I had been able to attend. My expectations were far exceeded, and I can be sure I will never underestimate Vancouver again!