The Hunger Run – benefitting the Columbia Pacific Food Bank in St. Helens, Oregon – is still pretty new. The first one was in 2020. In early 2020 I needed to participate in an organized race somewhere, so I could get an official race time for my Belle Brigade captain. St. Helens is close to where I live, and I’ve been a longtime supporter of the food bank anyway, so this made sense. I showed up on race day, March 7, 2020, nervous and alone and unsure, but I had an awesome race.
In 2020 the event was new, and didn’t have many participants yet, so I ended up being the only walker who did the 10K. I won for the fastest woman in my category, for the oldest person in my category, and fastest overall in my category, ha ha ha!! They only gave me one blue ribbon though. 🙂
Exactly seven days later the world changed for me. So, the Hunger Run sticks in my psyche as a particular moment in time before life as we knew it was gone forever. It was the last social thing I participated in before the pandemic. I was also signed up to run the Shamrock Run the following weekend, but that run was canceled.
In 2021, the Columbia Pacific Food Bank did an all-virtual run. I did not participate in any virtual races. I couldn’t wrap my head around that: you run in your own neighborhood, on your own time, by yourself or with a friend, and then report to the race organizers what you did. I just couldn’t get excited about that.
But I *did* get excited when I heard that the 2022 race would be in person again. Oregon is set to remove the mask mandate this Saturday, and I guess in anticipation of that, no one at this race wore masks. And I’m totally ok with that. It wasn’t really that crowded, and we were outdoors 100% of the time. Two years later, we were making our way back to the world that was before. But in my opinion, we will never go all the way back. It’s ok. That’s life you know? And a human’s ability to make peace with the permanence of change will result in their increased happiness.
Pedro, my excellent support team, showed up and kept me company, then cheered me on as I left for my hour and a half speed walk.
We got a late start – the run was supposed to begin at 9am – but so many people showed up at 5 minutes to 9, then had to get in line to collect their race bib and check in, that naturally the start was delayed. It was fine. The dense fog of early morning had cleared. I had put on my sunglasses, just willing the fog to clear, and it worked! In brilliant sunshine, albeit cold temperatures, we happily anticipated the race.
The route took us past the waterfront of the lovely Columbia River, sparkling in the early morning sunshine. The 10K racers started first, runners and walkers. I was passed soon after starting, by the runners in the 5K category. We raced through the darling old town of St. Helens, and I didn’t think to get any photos till I was almost out of it. It’s such a cute country town, that local folk were standing on the sidewalk, puzzled and delighted by us. One woman from a retirement home had come out to sit on a bench and watch us go by. People in cars were eager to stop and let us cross in front of them. One woman in a car pulled up beside me and asked, “Honey, what is the race for?”
I passed people mowing their lawns and taking dogs for a walk. The sun tried its best to warm me up and I just couldn’t stop smiling. My race time was not as good as last years, but I had a lovely day and was excited to see Pedro waiting for me at the finish. As I approached the finish line, there was a group of racers who were getting photos taken at the finish, and they didn’t see me approaching. It was sort of funny, as I looked for a place to cross in between them. When I suddenly showed up in the middle of them, I think they were confused about why I was there, ha ha. But a race organizer spotted me and came over with a medal for completion. Yay!