Upon arrival, volunteers (camp staffers, I later learned) expertly guided us to park in a large grass field. Race participants milled around, many with young kids. The atmosphere was friendly, the registration line moved quickly, and the porta-potty line was short. There were bagels, granola bars, and orange slices to munch on before the events started. Originally, the competitive 5k was to start 10 minutes before the fun run 5k and mile walk, but the organizers were able to start them together to accommodate last-minute day-of-race registrants and still keep the event on schedule. Brief but useful instructions were shared and everyone lined up behind the start, and then we were off.
The route is made up of three loops around a section of Tilikum Lake, running on every surface imaginable except paved road. We started out on the level gravel road and then enjoyed a slight downhill on trail, passed an aid station, ran through a pavilion (I pretended it was a tunnel), and over a wooden bridge spanning the lake. More volunteers were on the bridge handing out high-fives and encouraging words. Over the bridge, we made a hard right turn and immediately climbed a gravel trail. It seemed like a good challenge the first time I climbed it … but later I decided it was just a cute little bump. Slight inclines and declines greeted participants for the next quarter mile and then we quick-stepped down to a grassy path. Along the way, more volunteers cheered everyone on. The path followed the bank of the pond and before long we were at the bottom of The Hill.
This Hill, covered in soft grass, was tough! It was probably only about 200 meters long from it’s base to it’s crest, but there’s something about running on grass that sucks the juice out of my legs. The finish chute was at the top of this Hill … but I still had to run the loop two more times. Fortunately, there was really good cheering coming from the families of other participants and the race volunteers at the finish line.
On my second loop, I passed my husband and got a few extra cheers from my 4-year-old, and then it was back up the hill. I had to take a little walk break on The Hill on that second loop, but I swear I moved just as quickly if not faster by power-walking. I even picked up a friend – a woman named Jen was being cheered on by a cute little girl, and we ran most of the last loop together. I learned she was visiting her family and was headed back to Hershey, PA that evening. By the third loop, I was able to scamper up that gravel hill I’d thought was tough on the first loop and still have fun on the trail and grassy sections, but neither Jen or I was looking forward to that final Hill. Even so, we powered up it and congratulated each other in the finish chute, then I drifted down the hill to cheer others on and find my husband and kids.
Organizers were offering a delicious lunch for only $5 after the race, but our attention was completely captured by the treehouse (two platforms, a swinging bridge, and a slide) and the animals (two goats and a miniature pony). Awards were handed out to the top adult, teen, and youth finishers in each event, and the organizers officially opened the camp activities – including the Big Swing and canoeing – to participants. This year, they also introduced a fun activity for kids: a nature scavenger hunt complete with a passport to record their findings to be turned back in for a prize.
Overall this was a very well-run event and it goes far in raising funds for camp scholarships. One time around enough to see that it’s an adorable camp, with trail names like the “Spruce Goose Trail” and traditional summer activities, a place any kid would have a great time. I actually encouraged the organizers to plan a true XC race there for the fall; maybe the Red Lizards could add it to their Stumptown Cross Series schedule – it would be a great venue for cross-country. Either way, though, if you’re looking for a family-friendly, back-to-nature way to celebrate the 4th of July next year, you’ll want to keep this race on your radar! You can “like” Camp Tilikum on facebook here or just keep an eye out for our preview of the 2017 Tilikum Trail 5k!