The third annual Turkey Trot set for Thanksgiving morning

by: TIDINGS FILE PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - An avid runner, Paula Harkin has spent the past 14 years organizing a series of races around the Portland area.Fourteen years ago Paula Harkin was working as a running coach for Portland Fit when she attended a race in Vancouver, Wash..

The setup was a disaster, with inaccurate mile markers and a shortage of water that sent many runners to the medical tent. The New York Marathon, this was not.

Harkin, a West Linn resident, looked around that day and decided enough was enough; why not try to build something better? An avid runner herself, Harkin knew she could design smoother, more cohesive races that avoided the common pitfalls she saw in Vancouver.

And so it was that the “Run With Paula” races were born. Since that day in Vancouver, Harkin has created and managed five annual races: the Hippie Chick half marathon, the Helvetia half marathon, Pints to Pasta, the Catfish Crawl and the Turkey Trot, the last of which is scheduled for Thanksgiving morning at Mary S. Young State Park in West Linn.

“They’re my babies,” Harkin said. “I’ve really worked super hard to make sure those races are everything people want.”

The third annual Turkey Trot is designed as a noncompetitive family race through Mary S. Young State Park to benefit the West Linn Food Pantry. The event begins with a short 1-kilometer kids run at 8:45 a.m., followed by the full 4-mile adult run at 9 a.m.

Entry for the race is $25, plus two cans of food for donation to the food pantry; cost for the kids run (7 years and younger) is $10 plus 1 can of food for the pantry.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO: PAULA HARKIN - The third annual Turkey Trot run through Mary S. Young State Park will benefit the West Linn Food Pantry this year.

As an added incentive, participants will be served coffee, hot apple cider and doughnut holes at the finish line. This year, Harkin also convinced Safeway to donate pumpkin pies that will be given out to a number of randomly selected finishers.

“My favorite part is seeing all the families outside exercising and cheering each other on,” Harkin said. “And the amount of food we collect for the West Linn Food Pantry. It’s really an amazing day.”

Along with the canned goods, all proceeds from the Turkey Trot are also donated directly to the West Linn Food Bank.

As it happens, this is the last Turkey Trot to be exclusively handled by Harkin. Starting in 2014, the five original Run With Paula events will be operated by the Better Series company, known for its organization of the Hood to Coast and Portland to Coast races.

“It’s a great organization,” Harkin said. “They basically made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

The five events will continue to operate as they always have, while Harkin moves on to start developing new Run With Paula races.

“This is a community of really fit people who were inspiring,” Harkin said. “These races have a lot of people who want to continue them. It grew one person at a time, one year at a time.

“We got a cult following of people who wanted to stay fit, and it grew from there.”

To sign up for the Turkey Trot, visit The first 400 people who register will receive free coffee mugs.

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