Every race of the three race PRC 5k Race Series, I’ve been racing a 7 year old. I don’t think he knows he’s racing me, but every month, we’ve been neck and neck through a lot of those miles. For this very last one, the February race, he had me beat until we got about a mile in and then he lost his steam.
Experience does sometimes trump youth.
Either way, I think we both had fun, as did everyone else on a gorgeous day that hinted of the Spring to come.
I’ve done this Run With Paula race series for several years now, and that’s saying something since I don’t ever do 5k races otherwise. The time it takes to drive, park, and gear up take longer than the actual race, and I typically don’t run much less than 5 or 6 miles on my own on a regular running day.
But Paula’s races are different.
The community atmosphere at her races is always fun and inclusive, and I always feel well cared for with Run With Paula Events. Dave and Paula Harkin feel like family to all of us, with their playful banter and easy smiles, and everyone feels like they’ve been invited to a fun party.
The December race this series was cold and wet, and weather for the January event was a bit more promising. February proved what we all knew, which is that the best is often saved for last. I showed up to the 5k early because I wanted to grab some more miles beforehand, and the day was quiet and cold, but dry and beautiful. When I got back to my car, I could feel the buzz of the day starting.
Preparation for pancakes was happening, bright orange cones were going out on the roads, and volunteers in coat-hat-glove combos were walking out to their stations to wave people along. The sun (sun! In Oregon!) was on it’s way to shine bright and everyone was in a good mood. Paula was outside helping set up food stations and she was welcoming everyone, clearly in her element.
After a quick check in, several hellos, and a small cup of black coffee, off I went to the starting line for morning stretches and the national anthem. When Dave enthusiastically told us to go, we sprung to action, with the cold biting at our faces but the sun shining down on our shoulders.
I had felt sluggish that morning for my solo run, but being surrounded by other runners fueled my spirit and made my body feel like it was doing what it was supposed to do. I went out slow, something I’ve learned to do after many years of mistaken fast starts, and as I settled into my stride, everything felt great.
After you’ve run this route a few (dozen) times, you figure out how well you’re doing based on when you start to see the fast people coming back at you after the turnaround point. For this race, I saw them after I’d gone a bit further than the last two races, so I knew I must be doing ok.
They all looked strong and fast. I’m so jealous of how effortless so many other runners look, but I also realize we are all good at something.
The run went by pretty fast, plodding down the commercial business-lined streets onto the short bridge onto Fanno Creek trail and the swampy views and back. That last trek on the roads before the final corner of the race is always hard, because no matter how many times you’ve done it, you always feel that finish chute might be closer or further than you’re anticipating.
Lucky for me it was the former this time, and I could hear Jeff Bethke calling out his congratulations to everyone passing over the mat. I managed to get ahead of one more runner in the last straightaway only to watch him completely blow past me in the last few kicks of the race, but it was all good fun.
After I finished my race, I waited for friends so I could cheer them over the finish line and I finally headed back to the Portland Running Company store to get warm. I collected my raffle ticket, grabbed some heart-shaped pancakes, and stood by to hear the winners announced. I didn’t win anything but it was still fun to be a part of it all. This is what the running community is all about. It’s a place where we all should feel we belong.
Come join me next year for this awesome winter running tradition!!