A few years ago, a friend of mine from high school, Liz Dooley, was a beginning runner. Somehow she found my blog and started asking me questions about running...
After checking her blogging profile I noticed Liz had her own blog- but her blog was different.
It was a blog about her pregnancy and her daughter who had been diagnosed in the womb with a birth defect called CDH.
|Friends reunited |
Photo by Andy Akenson - Flickr
I felt there was little I could do to help, but reading her posts helped me to see her unbelievable faith in God for taking her through the journey of a risky pregnancy and very scary adventure as a parent.
No matter how bad the circumstances were for her daughter, Liz showed honesty in her writing and trusted that Jesus would make motherhood worth every struggle. The struggle was real. Her faith inspired me. Even then, she showed great sympathy for CDH families and used her blog to connect with them as a support network.
I'm not sure when she decided that she was a "real" runner, but after she was interviewed by OregonLive.com , I had no doubt that she was committed to the sport, as well as using it to benefit other families with CDH. A public announcement that she wanted to organize a race to benefit CDH was received with open arms in the Portland Metro area. Before long she was fully introduced to the adventure of being a race director, and I was given an invitation to attend the event, which she called the "Ladybug run," (read Liz's personal CDH story and how the Ladybug run got its name HERE).
Sadly, I did not come up for that first year, or the second, or third.
It seemed that there was always an obstacle to my participation: finances, 20 year class reunions, injuries.
This year I was finally able to be a part of the race!
Navigating the Portland area is a bit scary for me, so I agreed to meet Liz at packet pickup right off the freeway at Roadrunner Sports.
When I arrived, I began to realize just how large of an event this has become. Liz was working at the table with several volunteers and had a very organized system of filling bags with bibs and goodies and handing them out.
I stepped in and got to work, tried not to mess anything up, and listened as one runner shared how his daughter lost her child to CDH, and how meaningful the race is for him and his family. I watched as my friend handed over packets and simultaneously offered encouragement and sympathy. My heart was touched. It became evident that this is more than a race for the participants. It is an opportunity to heal.
I spent the night before the race at Liz's home. I had the honor of tucking her beautiful daughters into bed as she continued to do online race forms. An hour or so later I was given my 10k bib and pinned it to my shirt for the morning. Then I went off to bed with the plan to wake up a good 2 1/2 hours later than Liz, (but still a good 2 hours before the race).
I was the last one to leave the Dooley house in the morning! Directions in hand, I drove to Starbucks and picked up a pre-race mocha, ate some dry cereal squares and felt good to go.
When I arrived at Cook park in Tigard, I saw runner after runner decked out in lady-bug themed costumes for a contest. Small children were in strollers, or playing at the playground, a band was playing, and there were several tents up with samples.
|Sporting wings before the kid's race|
Liz spotted me within a few minutes. We chatted for a bit and then I left for a warm up. Right away I realized my legs felt tired, but I had already decided beforehand that I was there for the party- not so much for the race time.
|Remembering "angels" is good for the heart.|
I did some strides and a little stretching and looked around at the different booths. This is an event that I would definitely take kids to! There was face painting for 1$ as well as a shell art/craft booth.
Right before the race, Liz shared her story and had the Emcee gather people to release ladybugs in honor of the "angels" .. babies that have been lost to CDH. Anyone could release ladybugs and take as long as they liked to remember their babies. "We will still start the race on time, but we won't rush you to join us," (or something similar) was said.
The runners found their positions behind the race start and we were led in stretching, as well as in a prayer (no participation required). The course was briefly explained and runners were told we COULD NOT get lost. And the race was on!
The 10k (my race experience)
Somehow my Garmin fell asleep while were were praying, so it didn't start on the first press. As we rounded the first corner, it seemed to be working finally.
There was a lady that was faster than a police car going to a donut shop, but I knew she was running the 5k.. whew!
A few other ladies were ahead of me, and I don't know how many men. I made it my goal to try to keep up with this lady who had a braid with some grey in it. Her feet were moving pretty quickly for a master! Two teen girls were also ahead of me with a man who was about my age. My only real goal was to run what was hard effort and try not to fade. Having done the Butte to Butte recently, I figured it could be ugly. But my legs were too tired to go out at a too fast 5k pace anyway.
The first 5k loop included some woodsy paved trail through the park, and a lovely uphill in suburbia. We started to descend and I gathered my breath back. It was a cool morning, with the first sprinkling of rain we've had all summer, perfect race weather.
After mile 2, we came back into Cook park on a good downhill. My splits were not exceptional, but I wasn't losing any ground placement-wise, so I focused on trying to catch the high school girls.
At 5k, we ran through the start area and began a second loop. To my surprise, we actually had some real "urban trail" - complete with gravel and bark! There was probably about a mile total of this, but it was perfect, because I felt like I was "at home" and gained some on the lead runners here. Also, I should note that the new shoes (Pearl Izumi [road] N2's) I picked up at the factory outlet store worked quite well on this surface.
The course was very well marked with yellow arrow signs at nearly every turn, chalk, and course marshals who were also entertaining ☺.
The second loop was pretty flat and eventually I was able to overtake the woman with a braid (in mile 4), and one of the teen girls (mile 4 or 5). Although I tried to catch the lead runner, she wasn't fading enough perhaps because she knew I was right behind her, thanks to a hairpin turn.
I crossed the finish line in 43:38 with a smile and went over to say "hi" to Liz and another mutual friend who was there as a volunteer. Not really hungry yet, I skipped the waffle line (and the beer line), and stretched a little bit, then went back for my long sleeve shirt.
Post race (oops!)
The awards ceremony started promptly and it was fun to see the top 3 males and females in both events get awarded with fantastic prizes, as well as the top 3 masters. I wondered if I had made a mistake in counting people ahead of me because I didn't get an award.. but, it turned out that in all the pre-race chaos, I had grabbed the wrong bib at Liz's house, so my bib wasn't even in the system!
|A family event!|
This race gets five out of five stars! I might be biased, but even if I were coming into this race with no personal connections, I would rate it just as highly.
The kids races were very well planned and had enough supervision to make sure none of the kids got lost (though parents were allowed to escort the small runners).
Not only was I surprised by the turn out (it maxed out with over 800 runners), but I was really pleased with the organization and the amount of volunteers who donated their time. The Ladybug run was a HUGE success for the community it was intended to benefit, and it is going to be amazing to see how it continues to grow and reach others.
- Register early, the shirts are great quality, and the race filled up!
- Get there early for the ladybug release.
- Find a good costume!
All smiles for a worthy cause!
- Check your bib in on the computer system before the race. (I didn't bother, but should have!)
- Be aware that the 10k trail has some mixed surfaces which might make some strollers harder to operate. The 5k is entirely paved.
- Run a few hills if you are training specifically for the 5k
- If you can't come to Tigard, you can still participate in the virtual race!