I love unique-to-the-area races that offer something no one else has, and the Oregon Trail Game 5K and 8K delivered just that. This was the third year that the race was put on, sponsored by BnK Construction and other local businesses whose involvement added a fun-twist to an otherwise straight-forward 5K race.
Pre-race – Fellow blogger Kelly joined me for this race, and we walked to the start (Main street in downtown O.C.) from my house. Right-smack in the center of Main, the start arch was ready for us. We had plenty of time to look around and chat with fellow participants while checking out the vendors setting up their tents for after the race. The End of the Oregon Trail center had an authentic Prairie Schooner from the early 18th century on display for people to look at. I was amazed at how small they were, because in movies they are much, much bigger (that’s Hollywood for you). Kelly reminded me that some families would bring their pianos with them on the journey of 2,170 miles, which left hardly any room for other possessions. It was pretty incredible and humbling to be able to see such an amazing piece of history right in front of us in the middle of the street as opposed to contained within museum walls.
Race Course – I live in Oregon City, and have for about 10 months now. It’s hilly. If you live in the McLoughlin district in particular, hills are everywhere. Somehow, I thought the course would be along the Willamette River and circle back up the stairs next to Singer Hill Falls. However, I failed to compute that meant we’d be running up and down the hills. The course was DIFFICULT. Racers participating in both the 5K and 8K took an immediate left at the start, down 6th street past the iconic Municipal Elevator and then up the stairs of the falls. At the top of the stairs, racers veered to the right and ran up past the library before winding up and through the beautiful and historic cul-de-sacs. There were about 5-6 “check points” throughout the course where you had to make a decision like “ford the river” or “take a longer route over a mountain.” Each option was paired with strips of a paper folded in half, that you grabbed as you ran by on the right or left side of the table to reflect your Trail decision. Each paper had the outcome of your decision and a QR code. Each time, Kelly and I opted to choose differently from the other.
The first aid station was at the top of a hill about a mile in, and porta potties were waiting for those who needed them. The extreme heat and smog from the recent fires made me feel pretty queasy, so I took a quick break while Kelly helped hand out water with volunteers. Soon we were back on track, weaving our way up and down more hills. Halfway to the entrance of Waterboard Park (yes, that’s it’s real name), the 5K course made a turn around while 8K participants kept going into the forest. As we approached our final decent back onto Main Street, we grabbed our last strips of paper and headed toward the finish. As we crossed the timing mat, Boy Scout volunteers were handing out “finishers medals” which were IBM diskettes with the Oregon Trail Game © logo. It was the perfect touch to this unique race!
Next, we were guided to a pop up tent where we could use an iPad (thanks, Huber Timing!) to get our official chip time instantly and to scan the strips of paper to see if we survived the race. For those not wanting to wait in line, they could use an app to scan their QR codes to see their fate (technology that the pioneers of the trail would certainly be amazed at). Unfortunately for my companion on this journey, Kelly the Carpenter did not survive, even with the help of Doctor Abby’s medicinal herbs. Too bad the advent of Penicillin was still 80+ years into the future.
Highlights – Post-race, participants were treated to ice cream cones with locally made Umpqua ice cream, bagels served by local franchise Coffee Rush and apples and bananas offered up by Oregon City’s favorite Spicer Brothers produce. Beers for the over 21+ crowd and craft-made sodas for the youngsters and teetotalers were served at local Oregon City Brewing. We even met a woman who traveled all the way from Missouri to participate in the race! We also discovered that a number of our fellow Oregon Trail adventurers died because they traded their boots for beer and then froze to death.
Final thoughts – This race (to reiterate what Joe Dudman said last year) was very well-organized; probably the most of any race I’ve attended in the recent past. It’s a local gem for sure. The price is reasonable, and helps to revitalize the city of Oregon City so that its historic past can preserved for generations to come. All volunteers were gracious and kind, and did their part well. No part of the course was hard to navigate and many friendly neighbors were out on their front porches waving and cheering runners and walkers on. It was an enjoyable time, and I’ll surely be participating next year.