The Starlight Run 5K will forever have a special place in my running heart. It was the first 5K I ever ran. It used the be the final event for Girls on the Run (which I get to coach for each spring). And it is the only race that comes with thousands of fans cheering you on.
The course for this race has moved a few times, now landing with an out-and-back that starts and ends at the waterfront, conveniently right beside CityFair. The course when I first participated was about half on the parade route and now it is 100% lined with smiling faces and kids wanting to give you a high five. Somehow the course is uphill both ways, but that seems to be an evil magic in many races.
I parked on the eastside of the river and walked over Hawthorne Bridge over an hour before our start time. The packet pick-up line was already pretty long so I was glad for the margin. Race registration included free entry into CityFair so I decided to wander that area for about 30 minutes before the costume contest began. Leapin’ Louie was a fun rest spot before heading toward the start line.
They moved the costume contest right next to the start line, which was super convenient for runners to get to cheer on these creative minds. My favorite was the winner of the solo adult contest who created a light-up ferris wheel with riders connected to Portland icons. Other stand-outs included the Gems from Steve Universe, a few Ted Lasso characters, and Sully and Mike from Monsters, Inc.
Participants self-seeded on Naito Parkway with the official start line on Salmon Street. The temperatures were in the low 70s with a breeze that picked up occasionally. I’ve completed this course in the 90s and in a downpour, so this was pretty decent. Plus all those kids cheering for Luigi, Ninja Turtles, and aliens helped keep a smile on almost everyone’s faces.
The race is not chip-timed, though there is a timer at the start/finish line if participants want to do their own math. The focus of the race, from start through the finish, is on being a fun part of the city. I gratefully claimed my finisher’s medal, a bottle of water, and a granola bar, then settled into a seat near the splash pad on the waterfront. It was a great spot to watch the very beginnings of sunset, and then (eventually) to pull myself back up and walk over the bridge to get back home.