I’ve been in a couple more races this spring. This is to get some official race times for my Belle Brigade team so that the event organizers can give teams race start times that will make the whole weekend flow more smoothly when we do our big 130-mile (209 km) relay race in August. Races are also fun, even if they require getting up early and partying with a bunch of strangers first thing in the morning, which is weird.
My team and I are speed walkers. Not serious like the Olympic Team, but just so you know when I say, “We walk,” you’re supposed to envision us walking as fast as we can and trying to pass people. The official race rule for walking is that there must always be one foot touching the ground. Other than that, do whatever you need to do.
In early April, on a cold, damp, cloudy day, I walked my second Hippie Chick race. It began over 20 years ago as a women-only race but is now open to anyone. The race celebrates women and is held on Mother’s Day, so it does end up being mostly women. This year they emphasized the half marathon option of the race by calling it the Hippie Half. Some people dress as hippies, with tie dye, long straight hair or big afros, bell bottom pants, and stuff with rainbows and paisley on it, like headbands and t-shirts. Since I was representing my Belle Brigade team, I wore purple camouflage and a purple tutu. I basically fit in with all the other crazies.
I chose to walk the 1/4 marathon in the Hippie Chick, which is about 6.55 miles or 10.55 kilometers, because that distance is closer to a typical leg in the relay race I am training for.
The race that several team members participated in this year was the Reflection Run. This one was free to veterans, so rather appealing for the Belle Brigade ladies, since we are all veterans. Races charge a fee to each person who races, and around here it’s typically $40 to $65 in the 5K and 10K races I’m in. The larger, longer races ask for more because they definitely need more to organize the whole thing. It’s $130 to be in the Portland to Coast relay race, which honestly is a good deal since the event lasts two days and involves 18,000 people.
Many races are fund raisers for a good cause. The overhead is much smaller for local races with fewer people – like the food bank race I joined in March. Some races are so big that the money coming in is needed for infrastructure and services, like free water and Gatorade stations along the route, porta potties along the route, first aid, police and security, technology to track each person’s race time, usually professional announcers that manage music and commentary at the START/FINISH lines, and photographers along the route. The website needs to be maintained all year long, advertisement is required, press releases, and interviews are needed. The “race packets” need to be put together and then a distribution organized, so everyone can get their T-shirt and bib with a number.
Finally, finally, our daytime temperatures have warmed to 60 degrees (15.5 C) and we had two days in a row when the sun shone!! One of those was a spectacular Sunday and it was also race day. Our route was along the Columbia River and the setting and weather together made for some awesome photos.
The Reflection Run is always held the weekend of Memorial Day, which is a national holiday meant to honor those that died in military service. The race route is lined with photos and names of local veterans who died. It was painful to see many remembrances of those who “Died due to PTSD” as the signs said, which I assume means suicide due to being unable to cope with the trauma of their military experiences. It is a somber reminder of darker things though the event itself was joyous. Supporters of racers walked around carrying photos of lost loved ones in uniform. Many active duty military members and veterans (like us) also participate. The event organizers said that over 100 people had registered as veterans. I assume there were more veterans in total, because the only reason a person would identify as a vet would be to get in for free. The event is a fund raiser for veterans wounded in service, so I’ll bet many vets just paid their fee.
Along the race route we could spot the vets, because they would have a distinctive haircut, or a piece of military gear on them, or a ballcap with their unit proudly displayed. There was a lot of green camouflage gear scattered throughout. One tough guy ran the race with his body gear on: protective jacket and belt, first aid and accessories, and an Army backpack full and strapped to his back. That gear is HEAVY, and I admire the young man for his determination to honor the fallen in that way.
One fit woman caught our eye. She was another of those people wearing Army green, and working hard to get a good race time. Though she was walking, she blew past us with her head forward and focused, wearing a small camouflage backpack. What a surprise then, when we got to the end and our team captain introduced her as the newest member of our Belle Brigade team. Yay!! One of our original 12 women had to drop out over the winter.
This particular race was crowded, which slowed us down, and we hadn’t seen each other in a couple months, so we were very chatty. Then every so often we would bump into a friend and say hi. I even ran over to hug a friend going the opposite direction right in the middle of the race, ha ha. Needless to say, our race times weren’t very good on this one. Ah well.
We hung around and chatted a little while. Our Captain had a quick team meeting, to go over some details for van rental and van decoration for the big race. I was the next to leave after Erin. A day like this means only one thing to me during the month of May: MUST do yard work!! Finally a non-raining day. The grass is a foot deep in some places in my yard and needed to be mowed. The grass at the edges, along the creek and at the base of trees was over two feet tall and needed to be trimmed. I had a big day ahead of me.