Whenever anyone asks me for race recommendations, I always, without fail, recommend any of the Run With Paula Events. I think I’ve run most of Paula Harkin’s races over the years, and they have always gone off flawlessly, at least from a runner’s standpoint, and even the year she had to move the Bridge of the Goddess quite suddenly due to wildfires, she pulled it off seamlessly.
It seems fitting to experience a real in-person race after so much time has passed in a post-Pandemic world at a Run With Paula Race. I was thrilled to get the chance to celebrate my recent vaccination around runners at the 2021 Hippie Chick Half Marathon, a place where I knew I’d be at home.
There are so many little things I’ve missed about races, little things I hadn’t even realized I’d taken for granted before, until I found myself at the Hillsboro Stadium for this Half Marathon race. First, arranging the logistics again.. What time to get up, what time to eat, how much time to give myself to get there and park.. All of that stuff suddenly felt new again. Luckily, the drive was easy and parking was even easier. As always, Paula had plenty of friendly volunteers leading the way and it took all of 5 minutes. The stadium was buzzing with excitement and people were standing around, not sure where to be. There was that nervous anticipation, and my head was filled with thoughts about things like a last chance for the porta-potty and wondering if I should wear a long-sleeved top over my race bib on this chilly morning. I ran into a handful of running friends, and it made us all realize how much we’d missed just THIS, and how happy we were to be there again.
Jeff Bethke sang our national anthem and after a few words from Dave Harkin, off we went, on time and excited. It had been so long since I had to wait for someone to tell me to “go,” and all those small details suddenly mattered again.
I must say it was an absolutely perfect race. The stadium is a great place to start, surrounded by the athletic feels of greatness, and the roads were both flat and scenic. The country roads were quiet, with very little traffic or crossroads to greet us on our route, so there was a sort of peace to occupy our minds with what we were here to do. There was the Half Marathon, a Quater Marathon, and 5k, and there were some out-and-backs on the route to get in the appropriate milage. It was a great opportunity to see other runners and walkers and we all got to encourage each other on whatever part of our journey we were in along the way. This was another thing I’d really missed in the last year, the community of really feeling like we were all in this together. Seeing those first few ladies come blowing by in the lead was super inspiring, a full mile and a half ahead of me. Seeing all the people at slower speeds was equally gratifying, as I believe the strong carry us all from the back of the race. The mile markers were accurate and the direction arrows were obvious, so there was really no chance of getting lost. All of the volunteers, from the people waving us forward to those at the aid stations, were friendly and encouraging. The police that came out to help at intersections were also wonderful and in good spirits, some even playing music from their motorcycles. The weather was gratefully mild and overcast, honestly the best weather a runner can hope for.
Since I’m participating in a “Run/Walk the Year 2021” challenge, my runs have been less than speedy in favor of consistency. I’m at about 900 miles in the year so far, so trying to increase my speed right now feels like an impossible, and maybe risky, challenge. This run was all about experiencing a race again, no matter the speed, and that’s just what I got. I ran the entire thing without stopping, other than one exception to take a photo. I ran at a slow pace, but my legs carried me to the end without too much effort, and that was something to be truly grateful for.
When I rounded the last corner into the parking lot of the stadium, the familiar sounds of the people crossing the finish ahead and the cheers from the other runners were the absolute best music to my ears, the icing on the cake. When I hit the turf of the stadium, my feet were surprised by the squishy feel, and it was a welcome comfort to be so close to that finish line, a REAL finish line. I crossed it, and ran straight to the table for my medal. This one meant something for sure.
Paula was there, ever the hostess and excited runner wanting to know every detail of how everyone did and how they felt. Her Hippie Chick Training Club is fabulous, and I think any runner could really benefit from it. Paula is truly a gem in the world of runners, and we are lucky to have her in our community. The care she puts into her races is so very evident, from the quality race swag (adorable mugs in three colors and comfy race shirts this year, with a convenient packet pick-up that lasted all week prior to the race!) to the organized course, and lastly to the genuine concern she has with making her races special to all. And though her after-race parties are wonderfully missed right now, she knows that safety is the priority, so she had “to-go” boxed lunches from Jersey Mikes waiting for everyone and Rogue Beer Spirits in a few flavor options in cans. I was stoked to see a vegetarian option, as many races don’t consider this, and taking it all to the car to eat after my post-race shower when I’m truly famished was actually a bit heavenly.
In short, races are BACK. Support them. People like Paula and Portland Running Company deserve it and so do we!! The Helvetia Half Marathon/5k/10k is next month, so sign up right now!!