Several years ago, when I was just getting back into shape, I ran a local 5k. It was uphill, downhill, and then flat to the finish. While I was on the flat portion, a man with a stroller flew by me and was out of sight by the finish, which I thought was pretty awesome. A few years later, I ran a 5k with our first child, and it went well but didn’t seem quite the same. I’ve run a decent bit with strollers since but not raced. The thought faded…
until this year. The Corvallis Half was approaching, and, at a year and a half, the twins are a perfect age for it. They have plenty of strength to handle a fast pace and hopefully not too many bumps. They seem to like the stroller, and I could even swap them halfway if needed for patience reasons! The Corvallis course is a great one. It’s not flat, but the hills are gradual except for one short downhill. It’s wide enough early on when things are congested. And, for fun’s sake, it’s big (1200 entries) with people watching over a lot of it. As with most races that allow strollers, they ask them to start in the back. I’ve been a top ten finisher a few times, and while I wasn’t quite sure how it would go, I was sure than weaving through the crowd with a stroller wasn’t going to work. I explained this to the race director, Blair Bronson. I predicted a 1:25 finish, giving about 30 seconds per mile to the stroller. He was kind enough to give permission for a start near the front, asking me to stay to the outside. We were in business. I did a few workouts with the single stroller on a somewhat hilly, quiet loop near our house (3-4 miles at 6:20 pace or so) and a longer run (10 miles or so) with the double since I hadn’t done a ton of stroller running lately. We decided one of the boys would probably be up for the whole thing, so that became the plan. This made for a more complicated race day since two of us needed to be at the start, which then meant Michelle and the rest of the family too. She was so helpful getting things ready and explaining to the helpful volunteer that the stroller was lined up in the correct spot. And we were off! The course starts by weaving through the Oregon State campus. The opening straightaway was crowded, as expected, but I was able to fit into the pace. I started on the left and stayed there, preparing to stay on the far outside of the opening three right turns. Four speed bumps surprised me around the first mile marker, but they were reasonably easy to handle by pushing down and then up on the handlebar, basically hopping over them. After the right turns, I ended up trapped on the inside for a few left turns. I felt bad about this, but making a sudden movement to the outside seemed worse than predictably taking up some inside space. It was just crowded enough to make a maneuver difficult, but I think it was sparse enough that I didn’t cause any problems. There is pretty much a straightway from mile 2 to mile 5, and the pack greatly thinned out in that time. The first three miles were all slightly under 6 minute pace, which was faster than I was expecting but seemed fine. The stroller amplifies uphills, so it’s good to keep the pace up on the flats and gentle downhills. There were a few very slight uphills along that next stretch that I’d never noticed before, but they cost enough with the stroller, that most of the front packs went off ahead. There was a surprising gap around 6 minute pace that I fell into, only seeing a few runners the rest of the way, which in a way was convenient. After about mile 4, the crowds seemed to notice the stroller more. I heard lots of “Go Dad!” and “He’s a little bit in front of you!” throughout the course.
After a bit more of an uphill at mile 5, there’s a long downhill through the Bald Hill area until about mile 6.5. There I could just let the stroller go (figuratively – I always keep at least one hand on it, plus a strap, but I didn’t have to push it much here). Then there is a fairly gradual climb of about 2 miles. I dropped to almost 7 minute pace for this climb. I was surprised to not get passed here, but there was a big gap behind me at the start and it definitely got smaller.
Once this climb was done, I was fairly confident that I would be fine the rest of the way in. Miles 8.5 to 10 involved a lot of sidewalks, road shoulders, and turns, and this was definitely the most “technical” portion of the race. At mile 10 there was a short but steep downhill where I had to hold back the stroller a bit (no fair!). From there it’s straight for a while, and I managed a pass, before getting back for another weave through campus. The four speed bumps were still there, and I hit the first one a bit harder than would have been ideal. At this point I wasn’t as proficient at hopping them. I slowed for the last three. From there the course goes into the football stadium. The right angle turn in the endzone seemed a bit tricky – the grip on the field was different from the roads.
We finished on the 50 yard line in 17th place at 1:20:47. A great morning.
Thank you to Blair Bronson, the race volunteers, sponsors, and the city of Corvallis. You have a great race.