Solarthon: Run with a unique view of Jefferson County
Editor's note: The following story first appeared in the Pioneer's Sageland Magazine, which was published in early July. Changes have been made to reflect the latest updates.
Bud and Beth Ann Beamer boast one of the most picturesque properties in the greater Madras area.
Sitting on the eastern rim of Lake Simtustus, the mile-long piece of land looks directly down on the water. From the back deck of their ranch-style home, the snow-capped peaks of Mount Jefferson and Mount Hood can be seen in full view on a clear day.
It made perfect sense, then, that the Beamers would open up their property — like several others are — for the days leading up to the Aug. 21 total solar eclipse, in which an estimated one million people will visit Oregon for the rare event.
"I just want to show off the area," Bud Beamer said. "You know, people come from all over (and) they don't have a clue what Central Oregon is about."
The main event, obviously, is the eclipse itself, but, in accordance with the Beamers' commitment to promoting health and athletics, they're offering something unique to Madras during eclipse week — a running event, aptly named the "Solarthon." Bud is a medical doctor at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, while Beth Ann is a maternal child nurse at Jefferson County Health Department.
The idea began as a duathlon, part of which would be a mountain bike race and the other on a running course around the Beamers' property and down to the lake below. But he quickly realized that type of event doesn't have a widespread appeal.
"I found out that mountain bikers don't like to run," Bud Beamer said. "That's why they mountain bike."
Instead, Beamer, with the help of the Madras Aquatic Center and Recreation District, which is organizing the race, settled on a standalone run, with participants given the option of either an eight-mile or 5K distance. The eight-mile course begins at the ranch, heading due south for two miles before reaching Willow Creek Canyon, then dropping down and running along the water near Pelton Dam. The last two miles zig-zag up a dirt road known as "Campbell Grade," which winds back toward the starting gate at the top.
The race offers people a chance to do something active in Madras during the week of the eclipse. The MACRD, which is in charge of registration and running the event, saw it as a good partnership. The organization and the Beamers put on two runs annually — the Freeze Your Fanny run in late December, and the Todd Beamer Memorial Run, which celebrated its 20th anniversary tribute to the Beamers' late son on July 4.
"Certainly the whole idea behind this is to have something where people can get some exercise," said Joe McHaney, MACRD executive director. "Credit to Bud Beamer — he's done the Todd Beamer run for 20 years and he promotes physical fitness and health awareness. This fits in with our mission as well."
Although preregistration closed on June 1, there is still an opportunity to register for those who missed the deadline. Online registration will be open through Aug. 12 After that date, in hopes of drawing in some extra eclipse visitors to participate in the race, the MACRD will promote the event around town during eclipse week, and on the morning of the race, allow people to register prior to the race. The standalone cost will be $40 for the eight-mile run, and $25 for the 5K.
According to Beamer's latest estimate on Aug. 6, between 200 and 250 people have signed up to camp on the ranch. But, only about 10-12 people are entered in each race, a number that they would like to see grow.
"We don't know what kind of numbers we'll get from (day of registration); I just can't help but think there (are) people looking for something to do that don't know anything about it," Beamer said.
Beyond the run, however, Beamer wants to share with people the experience of Jefferson County from his own backyard, which sits three miles west of Highway 97 on Northeast Elm Lane. From Saturday to Monday morning, when the sky goes dark for two and a half minutes, Beamer is offering multiday dry camping on 40-by-40 plots of grass on the property, where guests can bask in the same views of the water and mountains.
"I wouldn't have traded living here for anything," Beamer said. "You can't expect people to understand that, just by coming here for an event, but it's a start. We're proud of it, so we might as well share it and show it off."
For $400, groups of five people maximum can camp in tents and RVs for three or four days, get five home-cooked meals, and enjoy live rock and country music on Saturday and Sunday nights. Beamer has also cleaned out his barn and had tables and chairs donated for cribbage and bingo tournaments. There will also be activities such as volleyball, whiffle ball and hay rides. Camping at the Beamers' ranch isn't technically required for people running in the race, but it is strongly encouraged due to traffic concerns in the days leading up to the race.
Like the rest of Madras, and for that matter, other sites across the U.S. that will draw a lot of visitors to their locales, the organizers of this event cannot fully plan for the influx of people. It is entirely possible that people attempting to get to the race that morning could get stuck in traffic and miss the 7:30 a.m. start time.
Therefore, the Beamers and MACRD are asking people to strongly consider camping at the ranch, where plenty of activities and entertainment will be on hand during the weekend.
"We're trying to make it a good experience with the bands, some activities, the view out there," said Gregg Markwardt, also of the MACRD. "So, come stay, hang out, relax and have more of a low-key eclipse experience."
More information on the event can be found online at www.macrecdistrict.com/solarthon.