Since the Starlight Run was my very first 5K eight years ago, I was so excited to be back again this year with my friend Yevette for her first race. We had been training for this event since January with one or two runs together every week. The outfits were planned. The faces were painted. And the weather report said 80 degrees. Let’s do this!
If you have never participated in or been to the Starlight Run in Portland, you have been missing out. About two-thirds of the 5K are on the same course as the Starlight Parade, which starts an hour after the race. That means that unlike most running events, you have both sides of the road filled with families. Hundreds of kids want to give you a high five as you run past. And bubbles and whistles fill the air, as the kids are just so excited for the coming parade (and to be up way past their bedtimes). Portland runners have probably all traveled parts of the Pearl before. Running Starlight is a completely different adventure.
The race starts and ends at Lincoln High School. Runners are encouraged to come early for bib pick-up and the costume contest. My personal favorite was the dozen runners who were all dressed as different characters from Peter Pan. Tinkerbell later ended up running near us for a half-mile (she and the runner dressed as a pickle were clearly fan favorites). Several vendors are set up with snacks or trinkets. And of course one end of the track has the trusty wall of port-a-potties.
The race starts just outside the high school, with an early short, but steep, hill spreading out the pack right away. I had warned my running friends about this early hill, but my fuzzy memory forgot about all of the rolling hills that would be with us for most of the course (Sorry Yevette and Mandee). After looping around the high school, we headed toward the noisy downtown crowds. The temperature had dipped a little with an evening breeze coming in, so it was toasty but a beautiful night.
It’s hard to keep track of where you are exactly in the Starlight Run because there are so many turns on the course. With the cheering crowds, it could feel like you had been running for only a few minutes or for hours (depending on if you are going uphill or downhill). We also had a personal cheering section waiting at about mille 2.5 for that final burst of encouragement and energy. High fives from strangers are great, but there is nothing like a hug from a friend.
The great thing about starting on an uphill is when it means you get to end with a downhill. The final .1 of this 5K was downhill toward Lincoln High School, then along a little bit of the track. Volunteers had a hose spraying water over runners to help us on that final push. I mentally thanked them profusely, while my mouth couldn’t pull off much more than shallow breaths as Yevette decided it was time to sprint. Seriously?!? I guess she owed me some pain for all those hills.
Celebration pictures were taken beyond the finish line then water picked up (sadly it was very warm water so we stopped at a market on the way back to the parade). Runners were celebrating on the track or stretching on the field over their evening victories. Kids ran around proving they had plenty of energy left to stay up for the parade. Some of the parents chasing them were clearly hoping for a cold shower and then warm bed. Yevette, Mandee, and I were headed back to our friends for pizza and the parade. I’m not sure how all of those post-race plans turned out, but our night was awesome. I’m thinking next year I might plan something for that costume contest. How does someone dress up as awesome? ☺