Running to me is all about community and the running culture. It is making everyone feel welcome and having those like us – a group of nutty people that run through mud on weekends – feel like family. You expect that feeling in group runs and running clubs, but it’s more unique to see it in an actual race as typically everyone is there doing their own thing and in the zone. The 2018 Kevin’s Cup Trail 8K definitely provided this feeling of togetherness, like this was this truly was a family and community affair. It seemed everyone knew everyone, and even if you didn’t (like me), they immediately welcomed you and told you about all the inside jokes surrounding the race.
When I arrived to West Linn, I expected a small crowd of runners ready to duke it out in the mud and trails. Instead there was a huge group of people dressed as gnomes and laughing hysterically. It was immediately a more calming pre-race experience for me. The gnome costumes came from the fact that this year’s race was the Year of the Gnome. I have found that costume races are somewhat hit or miss – with only a few dedicated people dressing up for them. But not at Kevin’s Cup! Many runners went all out in the gnome experience, and one guy actually carried a wooden gnome the entire race!
As we lined up for the race I learned a bit about the history. Kevin’s Cup was started by Kevin (duh), the owner of X-Dog Events, in honor of his birthday. As he explained, the first year he didn’t think anyone would really show up, and yet somehow it has turned into this incredible event year after year. Many of the runners were wearing vintage Kevin’s Cup race shirts and had run the race 15 plus times. Like I said, it truly is a community and family at this race. We started the run in Mary S. Young Park by meandering the streets before entering the trails at the top of the park. Then we headed down to banks of the Willamette River where we jumped over water, crawled over rocks, and made our way around and back to the beautiful forested trails. It was an awesome course filled with stairs, long climbs, steep descents, climbing, water, rocks, and, of course, gnomes.
At the finish we were given cups and were advised to head over to Round Table Pizza a mile away for the post-race event. I headed that way, and when I arrived there was an entire section for the race participants with tables lined with pizzas, candy, beer, and mini gnomes – it was truly the best set up for a post-race event ever. Along the windows were a variety of some of the creepiest and coolest looking gnome statues known to man. I sat down and made myself at home near a pitcher of beer and the seats soon filled up as it seemed like ever single race participant had come over. With the true feeling of that community and family, the guys around me immediately introduced themselves and gave the backstory on their history with Kevin and Kevin’s Cup. They were so friendly, engaging and hilarious.
Next, the award ceremony began. Kevin came up to present the awards and added an amazing joking banter to the ceremony, which I truly appreciated. It certainly wasn’t a boring age group list off of winners! The overall winners got to pick out a gnome of their choosing and six packs of beer. From there, age group winners were given cans of Vienna Sausage, due to the fact that the traditional dog tags were late to arrive. But the sausages were a fun replacement in the interim.
It was a really special event and I am so glad that I included the post-race event as it really did make the race experience. Kevin and X-Dog puts on one heck of a race.
Editor’s Note: This year (year 28) was advertised as the final Kevin’s Cup event, as X-Dog Events is doing some restructuring. However, Kevin realized that even though it had been 28 years since the first Kevin’s Cup, it was only the 27th running, as one year the event had to be cancelled. We all had our commemorative cups with year 28 on them, but year 27 was missing due to the clerical error. So, in the true spirit of all Kevin’s Cup events, Kevin made an announcement at the after party that there would be one more Kevin’s Cup next year. The year of the Missing Cup! Next year will truly be the final year of Kevin’s Cup – with the missing year regained. I can’t wait for next year – year 27.