Photo by Adam Lapierre
gorgeous scenery and weather greeted 1,000 runners Sunday for the inaugural Bridge of the Gods run in Cascade Locks.
Cascade Locks In surely the most colorful crossing in Bridge of the Gods history, nearly a thousand people gathered Sunday morning on the Washington side of the Columbia, awaited the countdown by Chad Sperry of Breakaway Promotions and, once released, spread out across the entire length of the bridge in bright running outfits as they began the inaugural Bridge of the Gods half marathon and 10k run.
Breakaway Promotions, a Gorge-based sports event management company, closed registration for the event a week prior, after reaching the 1,000 runner cap it had set – a clear sign that the scenic, traffic-free route along the Historic Columbia River Highway was a magnet for runners from across the country. In all, more than 30 states and three Canadian provinces were represented in the registration; 73 percent were female, the youngest was nine years old and oldest was 79.
“We capped the event at that number this year so we could be sure to provide a quality experience for everyone,” Sperry said post-race. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a more successful rollout of an event that this one.”
After crossing the Columbia over the Bridge of the Gods – closed to traffic for about an hour to facilitate the event – runners traveled west along the recently-restored stretch of Historic Highway between Cascade Locks and Eagle Creek. 10k runners turned around at Eagle Creek and headed back to Cascade Locks, through town and to the finish line on Thunder Island, while half-marathon runners continued west several more miles before turning around. Food and drinks, free massages, a friendly festive atmosphere and glorious summer weather awaited runners as they crossed the finish line at the heart of the Port of Cascade Locks.
“Recreation is an important part of our local economic development strategy,” said Holly Howell, Marketing and Development Manager for the Port of Cascade Locks. “This high-quality event introduced visitors from all over North America to our community, our local businesses, and the Historic Columbia River Highway State trail. I was proud to see so many local residents of all ages volunteering to support the runners at registration, water stations and the finish line.”
Although the atmosphere seemed as much a social event as a race, a good number of well-conditioned runners took off early and fast and set the benchmark course records for the future of the event. The men’s winner of the half marathon was David Watson, of Portland, in 1:26:16; the fastest women’s time went to Heidi Greenwood, of Cleveland Heights , Ohio, at 1:29:07. 10k winners were Stefanie James, of Portland, at 45:01 and Jeff Olson, also of Portland, at 41:55.
Among the many volunteers Sperry and Breakaway Promotions recruited to help run the event were Port of Cascade Locks commissioners Jess Groves and Joeinne Caldwell, who helped staff the check-in table the evening before the event and had the opportunity to direct the many visitors to local businesses, restaurants and lodging.
“We were flattered to meet visitors who had traveled from as far away as Washington DC and Atlanta,” Groves said. “These athletes run all over the world, and they loved the Columbia Gorge.
“Chad Sperry and his crew at Breakaway Promotions ran a very well organized event in Cascade Locks. We were impressed by his professionalism and preparedness in all details. This event is truly about the community.”
Caldwell said she had the opportunity to talk with runners after the event at Charburger Restaurant.
“Everyone had a smile on their face,” she said. “Runners said the view of the Columbia Gorge crossing the Bridge of the Gods was spectacular. Many realized what a special haven we have in Cascade Locks, and they want to return next year. I would like to see more events like this in our town, year round.”