Race Recap: 2016 Run To Remember Memorial Day Mile and 5K

The tunnel near the start (and finish) of the Run To Remember.

The inaugural Run To Remember brought over 450 red, white, and blue clad runners and walkers together in Washougal, Washington on Saturday to honor local fallen military heroes and get in some healthy exercise in a beautiful area along the Columbia River. I had run a few races along the Washougal dike, but I hadn't spent much time in Washougal itself before Saturday, and I was impressed with the tidy downtown area and the courtyard park where the race started and finished. I took advantage of early packet pickup on Friday at Fleet Feet in Portland, but it looked like the day of race lines were moving quickly and efficiently when I arrived at the start. The courtyard was lined with a variety of vendors and sponsors' tents, several port-o-potties were strategically set up just down the street, and the start looked sharp with the Why? Racing arch, and American Flags lining the first block of the course.

I took advantage of my early arrival to warm up along the course, scout out the terrain, and locate the turnaround point for the out-and-back mile. It was hard to believe it was already a half mile when I reached the sign, but that’s the beauty of the mile: it’s short and quick! The weather was perfect, with bright blue skies and a gentle breeze. Warm, but not too hot.

As the start of the Memorial Day Mile race at 9:00a drew closer, Race Director Sherri McMillan invited runners to gather near the stage and led us in a mild warmup routine. Then she brought a female military veteran onstage to lead us in the Pledge Of Allegiance. We gathered at the start and listened to the countdown, and took off down the street for the beginning of the mile.

The course was a fun one, with a lot of variety packed into a single mile. We started downhill along a paved street, with a couple speed bumps carefully marked with cones for safety. After a few blocks, we entered a pedestrian tunnel and emerged onto a short uphill switchback which led us onto the dike path. With a quick turn onto the dike, we left the pavement for fine gravel and headed east alongside the Columbia River.

A sculpture of a canoe, part of the artwork along the Washougal Dike path near the aid station.

I was able to pick up the pace along the straight and flat path, and before I knew it I had reached the turnaround. I did a quick 180 and accelerated back up to speed along the dike, negotiated the switchback, and put in a final surge through the tunnel and back along the straightaway, slightly uphill toward the finish arch, where Greg Pressler was announcing the finishers as they approached. I love miles, and they go by so quickly. I really enjoyed the chance to run this one, and I’m glad Why? Racing included it in the schedule!

In keeping with the solemnity of the holiday, photos of local fallen military personal were posted alongside the course, and American flags lined the switchback section. On the dike, inspirational slogans from Why? Racing and other sponsors kept runners and walkers energized and motivated.

After the mile, I was honored when a veteran in his dress uniform approached me and congratulated me on my race. He sat down beside me, and we agreed this was an excellent event. He said he was 75, and was moved by the photos of the local vets who had lost their lives, most of them very young. It was great to see so many veterans who had come out not necessarily to run or walk, but simply to support the event and be involved.

Run To Remember was a benefit for Northwest Battle Buddies, an organization that supplies service dogs to veterans, and a couple of the handsome service dogs were in attendance too!

At 9:30a the Mile awards were presented, and then it was time to prepare for the start of the 5k and 10k at 10:00a. Sherri McMillan led another warmup, and encouraged everyone to do 22 pushups as part of the project to raise awareness of the 22 military veterans who commit suicide each day. A woman sang the National Anthem, and then we set off on the 5k and 10k. Having raced the mile hard, I knew better than to start the 5k too fast, and used the first quarter mile to the dike to settle in to a comfortable rhythm.

Once on the dike path I was able to stretch out a little more, but still felt the effort of the mile and just tried to maintain a solid pace. I made a point of enjoying the great views of the river and Mt. Hood, and appreciating the amazing weather. I passed through a water station with enthusiastic volunteers and reached the turnaround. The out-and-back course led to lots of great support from the other runners and walkers, and the whole event was friendly and fun.

Once again, I loved the finish through the tunnel and up the final few straight blocks toward the finish arch. Spectators can see the approaching runners from a long way off, and runners in turn can see the finish and hear the announcer as they get closer.

Unfortunately, I had to leave right after the 5k, so I didn’t get a chance to take full advantage of the bountiful post-race food and drinks, but the finisher’s medals were spectacular, and the organization and atmosphere of the entire event were terrific. I’m looking forward to the Run To Remember becoming an annual fixture in Washougal for years to come!

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