The Portland Running Route You Never New Existed.

Tuesday Washington Park Fartlek Club.        Graphic by Gary Lomax

Tuesday Washington Park Fartlek Club.        Graphic by Gary Lomax

The Portland running scene was humming in the 1980s.   The Cascade Run Off offered the first above-the-table first prize money in 1981, the LA Olympics buoyed the running boom all up and down the west coast, the University of Oregon was hot again, and Nike's Athletics West team brought big names like Joan Benoit Samuelson and Mary Decker Slaney to Oregon.

Members of the local training groups had their patterns but one of the staples was the Washington Park Fartlek each Tuesday.  All the big names were there.  Today, you could run all over Washington Park and never find this route but if you were there at the time and suffered through a few weeks at the back of the pack you might pick up the scent.  Like any moment in time, the route has faded to memory.  You'll have to find one of the original members to give you a tour. 

Here's  recollection of the route from Larry Merrifield; one of those regulars:  

The words “Wildwood Fartlek” still bring a certain mix of dread and joy, much as fartlek workouts do, but Wildwood is different. How? First, it is a set loop that clocks in at around 3.5 miles, second, it isn’t based on time, but on landmarks, finally, the terrain throws everything at you. The end result? Run the fartlek loop and you will become fitter and faster.

Let’s go back to the beginning. I can’t say the exact date that the Wildwood fartlek started. My earliest recollection is sometime in the late 1980s. One look at the names confirms this. Matt Cato, Rob Arkes, Peter Ffitch, Mike Heffernan, Dave Frank, the late Bill McGrath, plus many more. The participants might vary some weeks, but there was a core out there every Tuesday from August until late September meeting on Tuesday evening after work at the parking lot on West Burnside where the Wildwood trail crosses Burnside.

The warmup loop to prepare for the workout was in itself a legend. It started off on the Wildwood trail and quickly traveled over other trails in the Hoyt Arboretum. It was a relatively short warmup, maybe 2 miles, but it seemed to go uphill a lot more than being flat or downhill. Eventually the warmup it took you to the start of the fartlek loop where there would be a little stretching, the razzing of someone, and then a silence as we all knew what we were about to undertake.

The Wildwood fartlek loop starts in the Hoyt Arboreteum at the White Pine Trail where it meets SW Fischer. From the start the fartlek hits you like a sucker punch by leaving you winded and wishing for it to end. The first segment is 400 meters uphill where it ends at the Bristlecone Trail intersection. The group at this point was relatively unscathed, winded, but still together. Now came a 600m recovery segment, if running at a good clip could be called “recovery”, and included “Gardner Gulch”, so named for Bill Gardner and his unfortunate fall. The recovery segment rolled and never truly let you recover for the second pickup.

The second pickup started 200m from the crest of the White Pine Trail. This segment was the equivalent of climbing the side of a mountain. It goes straight up with two switchbacks, and it remains the toughest 200m I’ve ever run. At the crest of the trail with a fir tree on the left you got a respite but not for long.

In an oxygen deprived state you took a few steps and stumbled onto SW Fairview where you hoped a car wasn’t coming as you crossed the road and jumped onto the Wildwood Trail. The recovery from the last segment is all of 100m and while it is downhill, it goes way too fast before you launch into a short 50m sprint on Wildwood. After this short and intense burst you did get some recovery as you ran a 400m before the next pickup of 800m.

The 800m segment starts just off Wildwood and above the Vietnam Memorial at a bench. It traverses an unnamed trail before going what can be best described as “off-roading” as you ran through what appeared to be a goat path through a grass field which once was the 18th hole on the old Washington Park golf course, but which had also been given back to nature when the golf course was closed. Was it a smooth green? Nope, you just hoped you didn’t twist you ankles as you made a 180 degree turn at full speed around the old hole and dropped down to SW Kingston before finishing with a final 150m crawl back to Wildwood.

It was at this point where oxygen was a rare commodity and the feeling of puking first rears its head. Your body is working. Your lungs are demanding oxygen because your legs aren’t getting enough and they are letting your body know. How to deal with this? A 400m recovery before your next pickup.

After the recovery you hit a 400m segment on the Maple Trail right above SW Kingston. This segment is out in the open and is probably the easiest part of the loop because except for about the last 10m it is downhill to flat and you could stride out and move. Finishing this segment you reentered the forest for about 200m before making a quick 50m stride across what used to be called Frog Hollow, but is now the Archery Range. After the short burst you run for 400m on the Wildwood that allows you to prepare the next to last hard segment – 1,000m.

On a topo map the 1,000m segment really doesn’t stand out. It’s pretty flat with a couple of 180 degree turns. The problem? The cumulative effect of all the prior segments, because by 500m into this hard push you are either ready to throw up, fall over the cliff on the right and land down in the Japanese Garden, or both, but you push on and after what begins to seem like an eternity you come to a metal pole standing up on the right side of the trail where you stopped. What the pole stands for other than to stop the pickup I do not know, but it a welcome sight. Now for the final rest segment which really doesn’t allow much of a recovery in its 400m of twists and turns and ups and downs.

The final pickup is 400m. How to describe it? Take the 200m segment from earlier and put it on steroids. It is a long, hard climb with three switchbacks that makes your entire body scream. Your arms are hurting, your legs are burning and you are focusing solely on getting to the top. When you reach the top at SW Fairview you’d better hit the brakes immediately lest you stumble in front of a car and get put out of your misery. Fortunately, at this point you can spend as much time as you want recovering, unless, as we were known to do back in the day, you want to run the loop a second time.

I love the Wildwood fartlek. It’s been a loop that since 1989 I’ve run every year at least once. It’s a loop I’ve enjoyed teaching others about, and it’s a loop I used when Lincoln High School Cross-Country alums held a group run for Coach David Bailey after he stepped down after over 45 years as coach. So, if you are looking to get fit for cross-country and test your limits, wander on over to SW Fischer and White Pine Trail and follow the footsteps of prior generations.

What the Hell is the Roots Running Project?-

2016 was a break out year for the Roots Running Project.  We first noticed the group at the Portland Track Festival  where RRP member, Noah Droddy, lay exhausted on the track after qualifing for the US Olympic Trials.  We also know member, Willie Milam , as a Portland product from Jesuit High School.  After Noah's incredible half-marathon this weekend we contacted Willie (WM) and head coach Richey Hansen (RH) to ask about the origin and outlook for the training group.

Noah Droddy finishes 7th in 61:48 at the New York Road Runners Half Marathon on March 19, 2017.

Noah Droddy finishes 7th in 61:48 at the New York Road Runners Half Marathon on March 19, 2017.

Who are the core members of Roots Running project – athletes and coaches?

(RH) - Current athletes in the group include (alphabetical): Margaret Connelly (@MM_Connelly), Noah Droddy (@IBuiltTheArk), Molly Grabill (@MollyJo_Grabill) , Alia Gray (@aliatgray) , Brian Llamas (@brianllamas), Katie McMenamin (@KatieJMcMenamin), Willie Milam (@wmilam03), Tyler Mueller (@TylerMFMueller), Mara Olson (@MCOlson5), and Andy Phillips (APhillips307)

I coach am the sole coach of the group, however, Alia, is individually coached my Coach Vigil.  He additionally has served as a tremendous mentor to me as a young coach, but doesn't provide me input on how to structure the schedules outside of Alia's individual training.  


I think it was more of a “well f*ck it, looks like we have a group now” moment. 
— Coach Richey Hansen

What was the Big Bang moment for this group? What brought you together?

(RH) - I think it was more of a "well f*ck it, looks like we have a group now" moment.  I was coaching at a high school when Alia and I first started dating, she wasn't super excited about the way her training was going in her current group, so decided to step away from that group and was considering "self-coaching" following the NYC Marathon in 2014.  Shortly there after, we were put in touch with Coach Vigil, who agreed to take Alia on as an athlete.  She had modest marks at the time but saw pretty quick success once switching to Coach Vigil's training.  We were then approached by Mara Olson (5-time All-American at Butler), who inquired about joining Alia as a training partner with me writing her training, and we were like, "well, let's do this".  Noah approached us that Fall about joining and his success that Spring, is what ignited the influx we had at the end of summer (Willie included in that influx).  


In any given week, how much does RRP function as a team? (workouts together? group house? long runs? Meals?) 

(RH) - We meet 4 days a week for practice.  But, they have become a family so tend to socially hang out together frequently outside of training as well when grabbing dinner or drinks out.  

(WM) - We usually meet up on weekday nights (depending on all of our work schedules) and weekend nights for dinner/drinks/casual hanging out at one of our places to break up the monotony of training. We are still such a new team and a young group, but I feel like we have become very close already - typically trying to hangout with each other most of the time outside of practice when we aren't working our day jobs.


What’s up for the 2017 season? What are the big goals for the team and where will you chase them?

(RH) - Track is the main focus this Spring season with everything culminating at the USATF Champs in June.  Alia and Noah have already auto-qualfied, but we're hoping to have the majority of their teammates join in the fun.  Meets we're targeting are some of the standard ones: Stanford, Mt Sac, Payton Jordan, and Portland Track Festival.  We will adjust accordingly though based on how people are performing to add or take away meets as needed.  


Training groups are structured and funded in all kinds of creative ways. What does it take to keep an upstart running team like RRP going?

(RH) - We are currently self-funded.  All athletes work part-time jobs to cover living and training expenses.  I have my own private sports medicine practice in Boulder that prevents me from being reliant on the group as a source of income, but allows the athletes to get treated as needed.  Additionally, we have an Alter-G treadmill in-office and the necessary strength work for any ancillary routines I'll have them do.  

As of Nov. 2016, we are a 501(3)c non-profit and in the process of establishing our operating budgets for the group's future with the hope of providing travel, living, and training assistance to make competing as a post-collegiate a little bit more manageable.  


Noah Droddy made a splash at the Trials last year. What did his success mean for RRP?

(RH) - It was a major contributor, as his success, along with the success Mara showed early on, showed we were doing something right from a development standpoint.  Noah's personality is also contagious, so I think his story resonated with a lot of people: a goofy blue collar dude that works his butt off to come out of nowhere and have success on the stage that he has is definitely inspiring.  


Who are your worst teammates?  

(WM) - Worst teammate is a tie between Andy Phillips and Brian Llamas. Andy because I have to live with him and he never cleans his dishes, and Brian because he uses too many emojis in text messages. Second worst goes to Molly and Noah because Molly is way too serious during hard workouts and Noah is incredibly judgmental of me and my attire on most occasions. With that said, on a more serious note, we truly are a family and I couldn't ask for any better teammates and friends to spend so much time with. 

Galen Rupp, Matthew Centrowitz Set to Compete at Portland Track Festival

Hometown Stars Set to Test Fitness in Olympic Trials Build-Up

Galen Rupp, photo by Image of Sport

Galen Rupp, photo by Image of Sport

PORTLAND, Ore. – Two of America’s finest distance runners, Nike Oregon Project teammates Galen Rupp and Matthew Centrowitz, are set to compete at the Portland Track Festival, June 11-12 at Lewis and Clark College.

After winning the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Marathon in his debut at the distance back in mid-February, Rupp ran one indoor 3,000m contest in Portland a month later and hasn’t raced since. The 2012 Olympic 10,000m silver medalist over will compete in the 5,000m on June 12.

For Centrowitz, the 26-year old is coming off an incredible indoor campaign, which concluded with a gold medal in the 1,500m at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland. The multi-time U.S. champion is set to race the 800m and 1,500m at the Portland Track Festival.

Both Rupp and Centrowitz were initially scheduled to compete at the Nike Prefontaine Classic last month, but pulled out according to their coach Alberto Salazar to focus on building fitness as the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track and Field approach, July 1-10 in Eugene.

To learn more about the Portland Track Festival and to buy tickets, please visit http://www.portlandtrack.com/ptf-2016.

About Portland Track and Portland Track Festival

Portland Track is a non-profit organization that supports the sport of track and field and organizes some of the top track meets in the United States. With a focus on growing the sport, Portland Track organizes the Portland Track Festival, Stumptown Twilight, Rip City Twilight, 10K Twilight and PTF Youth Meet.

The Portland Track Festival launched in 2008, with the objective of bringing America's best track and field athletes to Portland, Oregon. Starting small and with a goal to grow each and every year, the Portland Track Festival now ranks as one of the best professional meets in the United States and hosts numerous USA Outdoor Track and Field Championship qualifiers and Olympic hopefuls.

Athlete Details Released for TrackTown Summer Series

Registration opens for TrackTown Summer Series athlete draft

EUGENE, Ore. – Calling all U.S. track and field athletes!

If you’re looking for a world-class competitive opportunity on American soil prior to the Rio Olympics, we’ve got the perfect scenario – the 2016 TrackTown Summer Series on Friday, July 29 at Hayward Field.

Besides being held in the U.S., this meet is unique in a number of ways:

  • It will be televised live on ESPN.
  • Athletes will compete for approximately $11,000 in prize money in each event.
  • The total purse will be $225,000, which includes a bonus for the winning team.
  • It will be a four-way, team-scored competition.
  • Teams will represent cities of Portland, San Francisco, New York City and Philadelphia.
  • Each team will have a roster of 36 athletes, split evenly between men and women.
  • Participating athletes will be chosen in an eight-round draft on June 25.
  • Athletes drafted in the top rounds will receive a bonus.
  • The roster will be filled out via free agency; total of 144 athletes.
  • A travel stipend, housing and meals will be provided for each athlete.
  • Competition at the meet features 10 men’s and 10 women’s events.
  • One of the events is a 4-mile road race open to the public.

The TrackTown Summer Series is designed to attract the best American athletes and give them a chance to compete in a domestic meet in front of a live television audience.

But first you have to register for the athlete draft!

To sign up, visit TrackTownSummerSeries.com and select “Athlete Draft Registration” from the right side of the page. All entries must be received by June 15 at 5 p.m. (Pacific). A list of accepted athletes into the draft will be announced on June 20. The draft will take place on June 25.

Several top Americans have already registered for the TrackTown Summer Series athlete draft, including 2012 Olympic high jump silver medalist Erik Kynard; 2016 IAAF World Indoor 800m gold medalist Boris Berian; 2013 IAAF World Championship 800m bronze medalist Brenda Martinez; and 2016 IAAF World Indoor 800m finalist Laura Roesler.

There is just a single championship meet this summer, but in 2017, plans call for the TrackTown Summer Series to grow to two regional meets and a championship meet, and in 2018, four regional meets and a championship meet. Go to TrackTownSummerSeries.com for more information.

What to Watch: Javelin Star Julius Yego

Week after week this season amazing videos will undoubtedly come out around different track and field medal contenders. Here's one of our earlier favorites on Kenyan javelin thrower and reigning world champion Julius Yego.

YouTube Description

Discover the incredible story and journey of Julius Yego as he recounts his humble beginnings being raised in a Cheptonon village in Kenya, training with simple wooden sticks, to becoming the Javelin World Champion in 2015.