Girls on the Run and Trailblazers Race Recap

Girls on the Run and Trailblazers 5k Race Recap

by Sharon Stone

The Girls on the Run & Trailblazers 5K at Lake Padden is less a race and more a celebration of ten weeks of fun, friendship and accomplishment. It’s a party where 300 Girls on the Run participants and nearly as many Trailblazer runners all come together to complete a 5K together with their families and celebrate.

But this IS a race in the sense that it’s a challenge. For some of these kids 3.1 miles seemed impossible a few weeks ago. Five whole kilometers all at once was more than many could wrap their little pony-tailed heads around.  For others, the challenge was to push themselves to run the whole time just to prove to themselves that they CAN.

The morning of this year’s event was bright and sunny with a cool breeze that kept us in goosebumps…were they from anticipation or the cold? Perhaps both? The 24 GOTR teams from schools all over Whatcom County, plus a sizeable mob of Trailblazers, gathered in the sunspots while coaches passed out race bibs.  As part of the preparation, kids visited the Happy Hair Station to get colored stripes in their hair and sparkles on their cheeks.

As start time crept near, teams migrated to the broad start line in the baseball fields. At 9am, which should have been GO time, we got word that there were still families in the over-flow parking lot at Wade King Elementary boarding YMCA vans to shuttle to the start. Jen Gallant stalled the increasingly impatient runners by leading them in warm-ups. “High knees!” she hollered through the megaphone as heads began to bounce up and down.  Once we were certain all runners were present the countdown commenced. The crowd chanted in unison, “Three! Two! ONE!”  The runners finally exploded forward!

Runners stampeded across the grass fields, crowding onto the trail circling Lake Padden. Families whizzed past, all wearing #1 race bibs. No need to distinguish runners by numbers—this event is about personal accomplishment, not in what order we cross the line. What is important is that we all cross that finish line eventually.

At the first mile mark runners encountered a cloud of soap bubbles and a group of enthusiastic volunteers from Bellingham Distance Project passing out gummy bears to refuel tired bodies. Sehome Key Club kept the kids hydrated at the mid-race water station.

With the first 1.5 miles of flat trail behind them, runners entered the rollercoasters on the back-side of Lake Padden for a real challenge. Most of the young mid-pack runners took walking breaks up the long hills, then flew the downhills on spinning legs. In fact, I would say the predominant running style for this age-group is Dash-and-Walk.  The 2 mile mark featured volunteers from the Galbraith Spot running group dressed in flowered shirts passing out flowered leis to the runners.

Emerging from the shady forest, runners burst onto the grass for the sprint through the balloon arch, each getting a shiny finisher’s medal strung around their necks.  Once they caught their breath, they gobbled up fruit popsicles to cool down.

At the end of the day some kids truly raced, many dash-and-walked, and of course a few lolly-gagged. And all were proud. How do I know? By the wide smiles, pink cheeks and high fives with their teammates.