Fall is the season when the days get shorter, the leaves turn colors, and when runners leave the roads behind in exchange for some cross country racing. Since 2010, Team Red Lizard has put together the premier racing series for runners who love the experience of racing over grass, dirt and mud all in the hopes that their team might be victorious over rival local clubs. While Stumptown Cross is certainly not the only series that exists in the country, it is certainly somewhat unique in the region. Where else does one consistently find such high caliber runners all showing up for the same events?
The finale for this season was particularly competitive, as the final race at Fernhill served as the USATF PNW regional championship race. That means clubs from Washington state joined us, with Club Northwest always bringing a full roster down in the alternating years that we host the regional race. We typically see just a few more runners join us for the Oregon association championship race, which was at Pier Park, but the long-time partnership we have had with USATF really pays off for the regional events. As a side note, it sounds like CNW may be hosting club cross nationals next year, and so the regional event next year will likely be on the same course that nationals will be held on, for those who want a preview next November.
While the series has changed a bit over the past 14 years, there is still a lot that has remained the same. Some of the race locations have changed over the years. This year we tried out a new park in Gresham – Gradin Park made for a pretty flat and fast 5k course that had some added interest as the women’s race happened during the annular eclipse. Apart from some slightly dimmed lighting, you really needed to have protective glasses on to look at the moon blocking the center of the sun.
We actually got pretty lucky with weather for this year’s series. Apart from some thunderstorms during the Pier Park race (the men got soaked during their 8k), we saw more sun than rain this year. There was a bit of an East Wind blowing on Strawberry Island, but it was sunny and dry for this combined field 8k race. While some people decide to skip out on this race because it is a little further drive than the rest, those who did venture out were rewarded with what I think might be the most beautiful cross country course that exists.
Throwing in a “bonus” race like Strawberry has always been something we have done. Back when TRL first started putting on the Stumptown series, we used to do a 5k race at the Klock Blueberry Farm in Corbett. I still have great memories of that course, but it was a lot of work to put together, as we needed a group of volunteers to spend a day prepping some of the trails the course used.
Even without a Klock Farm race in the current series, Stumptown still takes a lot of work to make happen. Unlike many races, this series is something the club puts on. So there isn’t a race director or company putting these events on for their livelihood; these are grassroots events put on by club volunteers to help benefit the organization. Each year, the club nets a decent revenue from this series that we are able to use to support members that want to represent TRL at the USATF club cross country nationals event in December, as well as help offset the costs of other items for all members, like singlets and membership shirts.
For all the members who played some role in making this past year’s series happen, I want to say thank you! From smaller tasks like picking up bread and delivering it to the race, to helping direct runners or traffic, or helping pull flags at the end of the race, those are all critical tasks that make these events possible. Jeff Huber has always been the MVP of making us seem legitimate. People are always going to question whether a course was long or short, but regardless of the actual distance, it is chip timed and you probably got a text and/or email right after you finished telling you how you placed. And I can’t not call out Angela Lindbo for all of her work recruiting volunteers and making registration happen, as well as hauling equipment and setting things up and tearing things down after most people have left. The volunteers who come stand around in the cold to make sure everyone gets their numbers, then slice bananas for your post-race snack, are also essential – so thank you Kevin Cooper, Kerry Griffin, Megan Taylor, Michael Budwig, Crystal Query, and I hope I’m not spacing anyone else…
As I wrap up this summary of the 2023 Stumptown Cross season, I did want to note that I’m hoping to pass the reins off to someone else for next year. Cross country is in my blood, so there is no way I will ever stop participating in the greatest race series around. But after 14 years of setting up courses for hours in the dark before then toeing the line, I dream of a day when I can just show up, pick up my bib, get in a good warm up, race, and cool down. Sure, I will undoubtedly pull some flags and help tear things down as part of my cool down, but the time has come for the next generation to keep the Stumptown legacy alive. While this year is still fresh in our minds, I know there is a group that has expressed some interest in ensuring that TRL keeps the series going. If you think you might be interested in being part of the Stumptown committee, please reach out to [email protected] and I will make sure to loop you into a transition planning meeting we will likely schedule for this coming winter.
The good news – Stumptown Cross will be back in 2024! ~Torrey Lindbo, Race Director