If Salem’s High Street Hustle isn’t on your radar yet, let me strongly suggest that you add this one to your race bucket list. This 2nd year event was truly amazing! An entire parking garage was reserved just for the racers and it was just steps from the pre/post-race area, which was in the Capitol Mall – directly in front of the Capitol building. Surrounded by a green park area, the setting was not your typical race venue. To add to the uniqueness of this race, the entire race course was closed to traffic even though it was on major streets in downtown Salem. A traffic-free road race? Now that was a treat!
While I was excited to run this race for the first time, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about having to get up at 5:15 A.M. to get myself ready and down to Salem in time. However, the 7:30 A.M. start time was brilliant, as it is August and the temperatures were already in the mid-60s as I drove towards Salem. I got to the parking garage in great time and got a parking spot close to the exit. In just seconds I was making my way to pick up my packet. There was no line yet, so I got my packet and was ready to race almost an hour before start time. I had time to check out the great 70s themed costumes as people arrived, get some photos, use the port-a-potties (twice!), drop my stuff off at my car, and get in a good pre-race warm-up. I jogged around the Capitol Mall I noticed the larger pavers each listed a county in Oregon and where its capitol seat is. It was interesting to read them as I made my away around.
Before the race started, all the participants were gathered in front of the Capitol for a group photo and then both the 5K and 8K participants were off to the starting chute where we were lined up according to pace. The race began and we headed down Court Street where the sidewalk was lined with spectators with cowbells cheering us off. After a few blocks we turned onto High Street and begin our trek. I lived in Salem years ago – before I was a runner, and I never realized that High Street was kind of hilly! Since the streets were blocked off, each intersection was manned by volunteers – with cowbells – cheering us on. As we made our way into the residential portion of High Street, the cowbells continued. People sitting in their yards and on their porches had cowbells. Aid stations were well-manned with music blasting and cowbells. Every block had some time of support in the form of volunteers, spectators, and of course, cowbells. How did they get all those cowbells to everyone, anyway?
The high energy of the race was a boost up those hills. The last uphill climb before the 8K turn-around was a doozy! I was happy for the distraction of the cheering volunteers and spectators, but I did feel like I barely dragged myself up that last hill. The reward for all that uphill was some sweet downhill to enjoy on the way back. While some of the cowbell ringers may have lost their enthusiasm a bit as I made my way back, there was still great support on this out and back course. The hills and the warm morning encouraged me to hit a water stop on my way back. There were plenty of volunteers waiting with water in hand, so I didn’t hardly have to slow down to get the water. (I did have to slow down long enough to take a drink, though. I have yet to perfect the art of drinking water out of a cup while running.) I finished with a friendly sprint to the finish against another racer, and we high-fived and exchanged a few encouraging words after we crossed the finish line.
I grabbed some water and walked around the finish area to cool down. Racers were enjoying free plates of post-race food and/or a free beer or cider. There were also bananas and bars to refuel with. There was still a kids race on the docket and the festivities looked like they would continue for some time, but I heard Starbucks calling my name. So, after stretching and some meandering about the post-race festivities, I headed off. I opened my sunroof and cranked my music as I drove home, still feeling the enthusiasm of the cowbells of the High Street Hustle. I will definitely be back again! This is a must-do race. Runners, get it on your list for next year!