The annual I Like Pie run is moving to the Old Mill District and merging with the Bend Thanksgiving Classic this year, but never fear: There will still be pie.

Teague Hatfield, owner of FootZone shoe store in Bend and one of the I Like Pie organizers, said the event started at the urging of local race promoter Dave Thomason about a decade ago.

“It couldn’t have been any more bare-bones,” Hatfield said last week. “Let’s go for a run, let’s have a piece of pie, let’s get on with our Thanksgiving. Maybe 50, 60 people showed up. And it just sort of evolved from there, to where we felt there were enough (participants) we should turn it into a fundraiser; let’s do a food drive.”

In 2016, more than 2,000 runners and walkers turned out for the run-as-long-as-you-like event — a big crowd for the family-friendly course through Drake Park and along the First Street Rapids trail.

Meanwhile, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend had been hosting Thanksgiving 5K and 10K races under a variety of names since 2008. Their event serves as both fundraiser and a season-capping celebration for Girls on the Run, a 10-week program that prepares grade-school-aged girls for a 5K race while encouraging a healthy lifestyle and self-respect. This spring, Hatfield and Emily Usselman, Girls on the Run council director, took the recommendation of other race directors and met to discuss joining forces.

“An objective for all of us is to make sure that it doesn’t just overtake our holidays,” Hatfield explained. “We’re doing something that started out as a fun, charitable good thing for the community. (We don’t want it to) turn into something where all of our families hate us and are frustrated with our lack of availability.”

Hatfield said he and the other I Like Pie organizers had two conditions for the merger: They needed to be sure that participants who did not want to race would not feel edged out, and they had to keep the name.

“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had conversations here in the shop or pictures sent from all over the world wearing I Like Pie shirts,” Hatfield said. “It’s something that resonates with people. And we get requests every year from people who don’t live in this community and are never going to do the event but want I Like Pie shirts. So we were a little protective of that.”

(FootZone and the I Like Pie run are not affiliated with Smith Rock Race Group, which filed an unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to prevent the Boys & Girls Clubs’ run in 2012, then called the BGCCO Turkey Trot.)

Usselman said the Boys & Girls Clubs needed to be sure they could keep the Old Mill District course and the affiliation with Girls on the Run before agreeing to the partnership.

“These girls work so hard for 10 weeks to do that race that they deserve that appreciation at the end of the season 5K, so that was my No. 1 (demand), no question about it,” Usselman said.

Sixty-four girls and 24 coaches are participating in the Girls on the Run program this fall, and nearly all will be running in the race next week. As of Monday, another 1,200 participants had registered for the timed 5K and 10K races or untimed mile, 5K or 10K run/walks (the biggest previous turnout for the Boys & Girls Club event was 900). Participants are also encouraged to bring 5 pounds of nonperishable food for NeighborImpact, a Redmond-based organization that provides a variety of services for families in need, as well as a pie to share or enter in the pie-baking contest.

“The pie will be new — it will be a fun aspect that we’ll have this year that we didn’t have last year,” Usselman said. “We’re used to people finishing and going home, it’s cold, they don’t want to stand around. There might be a little more community, a little bit more connectedness with that pie.”

Hatfield said he knows some participants will miss the original I Like Pie location at Mirror Pond Plaza in downtown Bend, but he expects merging the two events will lessen the load on the organizers and raise more money for Girls on the Run and NeighborImpact.

“I’ll say, I might have been one of the ones who most needed to get over that hurdle — I’ve spent a lot of really pleasant and, weatherwise, not-so-pleasant mornings of Thanksgiving Day out here in the square,” Hatfield said. “There’s not a lot of prettier settings in Bend. But it’s going to be a positive. You’re going to have a better experience, and it’s going to feel like something that can evolve even further.”

— Reporter: 541-383-0305, vjacobsen@bendbulletin.com

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