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A darn good time at the Best Dam Run

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - A group of runners near the finish line.

On the morning of Saturday, Sept. 25, a group of athletes gathered at Estacada City Hall, waiting to be bused to the starting location of the 32nd annual Best Dam Run.

The event — a fundraiser for local youth activities — is a 10K run between the North Fork Dam on the Clackamas River and downtown Estacada.

With its forested roads overlooking the Clackamas River, the run is popular among participants because of its scenery.

“It’s a beautiful course,” said runner Jesse Mcchesney. “The scenery is nice when you’re tired.”

Event co-director Pattric Langley said the surroundings are the best part of the run for participants.

“Taking in the beauty of the event is so rewarding,” Langley said. “It’s an amazing location.”

Peggy Ayles-Hartwig, who also co-directs the run, agreed.

“Every year people comment on how beautiful it is,” she said. “It’s so peaceful, running along the river.”

Ayles-Hartwig believes that the course’s tranquil nature is beneficial to athletes.

“Participants can often do their personal best since the race is paved, mainly downhill, and they don’t have to worry about traffic since the road is closed off,” she said.

In addition to beautiful scenery, the run also has a longstanding place in Estacada’s history.

Originally created by the Estacada Optimist Club in 1983, the event helped support local youth sports. Eventually, the Estacada Chamber of Commerce partnered with Oregon Road Runners Club to take over management and execution.

In 2003, after a seven year hiatus, the run was reborn under the leadership of the Estacada Development Association and the ORRC.

Phil Lingelbach, chair of the Estacada Development Association, estimates the run has become the largest 10K event in East Clackamas County.

There were approximately 170 participants in 2003, while this year, the event was capped at 750.

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Participants George Opsah, Dean Orrcinet and Michael Allen  are triumphant after completing the run.

“The success of the event is that it has largely stayed the same,” Lingelbach said. “It’s run as an old time road runner event. Races are often organized in parks these days because that’s often easier. But the old time road-runner events are run on roads. You start in an area with no vehicles or indication of civilization. People love the road and the river. It’s an experience that you just can’t fully capture in a park. “

Today, half of the profits from the run go to local youth groups. Last year, the Boy Scouts, mat club, soccer club and flag team each received $2,000 from the event’s proceeds.

“The best thing is helping kids with scholarships and supporting programs they can participate in. We get to see the outcome of the funds they get,” said Kim Kurtz, volunteer coordinator. “It’s awesome.”

The run also helps commerce in Estacada. Businesses benefit since the run finishes downtown.

“People buy coffee or beer after they finish,” Ayles-Hartwig said. “They stay around to eat.”

Additionally, many of the raffle prizes came from local establishments and the posters and flyers for the event were printed in town.

Participants appreciate the work that volunteers do. After participants crossed the finish line, volunteers were waiting with medals, bib tags and refreshments.

“I appreciate the community hosting us,” said runner Michael Allen. “The volunteers are really helpful.”

The run brings athletes, volunteers and other members of the community together and for many this is the highlight of the day.

“I like meeting people,” said Hunter Read, who was volunteering at the event as a part of Boy Scout Troop 186.

Runner Krista Read feels the same.

“I love the final corner of the race,” she said. “It’s always crowded with families waiting for you, and little kids with signs.”