The 4th of July has become host to a number of races of various distances. I’ve had the most fun at the 5K length the last couple years. This time I made the trek out to Mollala (outsmarting the GPS and arriving 20 minutes earlier than estimated), located in flat farmland to the east of I5. I had never run out there before so it was an adventure on several levels. Using the RunSignUp to register and checking their website and emails for all the pertinent info, it was a simple process. The mistake I made was assuming the sports field was at the high school and arriving at the wrong location. Luckily my early arrival made the 4 block alteration to my destination an easy fix.
Even an hour before the race, the crowds were lining the streets as we pulled into town. I had been a bit nervous due to an injury and the fact that my last few races were small town events and fun runs. I was consistently running just under 17 minutes for the 5K which is a bit slow for my standards. But a knot in my thigh that was refusing to loosen was altering my standard race plan.
After parking, friendly volunteers guided participants quickly to check in and bib pick up was a fast process. After that, it was just a matter of pinning the number on and making sure I was dressed for the muggy morning. The sun was behind clouds but the temperature was still a bit warm. The finish arch was on the track, with a few booths around it, so my girlfriend and I warmed up a lap to get a feel for the finish and then wandered around the neighborhood.
After the usual pre-race announcements and a rendition of our national anthem, we were ready to go. The first portion of the run was a quarter of a lap around the track and then across a small grassy area and gravel parking lot before getting on the road. I got into the start area, and ended up behind a group of about six younger kids. Not wanting to be rude and get in front, I was wary at the start. This was for good reason, as after the start, one cut me off and I had to avoid running into him or tripping. It is good to see younger kids doing 5k’s, but it may be time to race directors to either actively create a section of the line for them, or ask them to not start on the line as they are very unpredictable. About 6 guys headed out pretty quick, one taking the lead with confidence and creating a gap immediately.
I started at a relaxed pace and had moved into second by the time we got on the road. Plentiful cones and volunteers helped up stay on the course, and after that the roads were blocked as we ran along the parade route. I never got close to the leader, finishing about a minute behind him. The course was relatively flat, with a lot of spectators. There was an aid station, which I did not need to utilize. The cheers and clapping helped offset the heat and pain from my leg. I could see the leader a couple blocks ahead, led by a police car with the lights flashing.
The finish took us back through the parking lot and grass to finish on the main stretch of the track. The finish clock was hard to read at the end, but with Huber Timing on hand, the results were easy to locate. The volunteers were quick to hand out water at the end, a blessing due to the weather, as well as the medals. My leg was not happy with me as I did a short cool down in an attempt to alleviate the pain.
The Freedom 5K was a lot of fun and worth the trip out to Molalla. It was well-organized and efficiently put on. With the crowds and flat course with minimal turns, this could be a route to set a PR on. I definitely recommend staying for the parade as the town becomes quite restricted and getting out can be a bit of a hassle with the roads closed. The medals were very nice and the shirts are a good quality with a unique design. They do a very good job of putting the event on, with no issues as observed by me.
2018 Freedom 5K results here