Victoria Jacobsen
The Bulletin

As Ellen Kramer discovered at the Happy Girls Run in Bend on Saturday, races designed just for women come with a few perks.

For one thing, a woman gets to be the first one to cross the finish line.

“This is the first race I’ve ever won outright. I’ve won my age group in a lot of events, but this is the first time I’ve actually led the entire race,” said 40-year-old Bend runner Kramer, who won the 5K on Saturday with a time of 21 minutes, 4 seconds. “There’s a lot of races, especially coed races, where I might be the second female, but there are still 25 people ahead of me.”

According to Lay It Out Events coordinator Emily Arredondo, nearly 1,000 women and girls (and a few men) competed in Saturday’s half marathon, 10K and 5K races, which started and finished in Riverbend Park and wound up and down the Deschutes River and the west side of Bend.

Like Kramer, who improved on her second-place finish in the 5K in 2014, half marathon winner Karyn Woods, 32, said she was enjoying her spot atop the podium for the first time after finishing in 1 hour, 32 minutes and 49 seconds.

“It’s pretty amazing. I have not ever won anything, so this was fun,” said Woods, a Bend resident who said she picked up running after college. “I just had my third baby, and this is my first race back, so I didn’t know where I stood. It was a fun surprise.”

Woods and Kramer said they train with the same performance running group, which meets every Tuesday to focus on speed work.

“(Happy Girls) is a fun race, and for me it’s the perfect time of year, not too hot yet, but it’s warm enough to be out here and have fun,” said Kramer. “And they give really great prizes for the winners, so that’s always nice.”

The prizes were apparently good enough to share.

After the 10K awards, Averi Hartford, a 13-year-old from Redmond, and Kelsey Swenson, 14 and from Bend, sat on the ground and divided the spoils awarded to the third-place finishers, including a tank top, a growler for kombucha, a track bag and snacks. Although Hartford technically finished a fraction of a second ahead of Swenson to claim third place, the running buddies had planned to stick together during the race and shared the podium when the awards were announced.

“We wanted to run together and we wanted to run an 8-minute mile, but we ended up going faster,” Hartford said. (The pair finished the 10K at 45:44, which works out to about 7:21 per mile.) “It wasn’t super important to us that one person won, because we both pushed each other to get to this point. Being together and being able to do this was really cool.”

Swenson and Hartford, who met through the Redmond Oregon Running Klub (RORK) last fall, said this was the first 10K for each of them and their first time running a race together. They finished less than a minute behind Stephanie Hackbarth, of Bend, who won in 44:55.

“We’ve run against each other in middle school track,” said Swenson, who attends Sky View Middle School (Hartford attends Obsidian Middle School). “It was really fun — it was perfect running weather. It looks cloudy, but it was nice.”

Kristine and Kate Mullen, 22-year-old twin sisters visiting from Omaha, Nebraska, also crossed the finish line together, wearing T-shirts that said “Happy Twins.”

Kate, a recent graduate of the University of Wyoming, said she trained by running 4 or more miles a day on her own, while Kristine ran middle-distance events for Doane College in Nebraska until her track and field season ended last week.

“We ran track together all our lives and then went to different colleges, and we missed running together,” Kate explained. “I signed us both up and told her she was doing it with me.”

Kate said she choose the Happy Girls run after searching for half marathons online.

“We really enjoyed the run — it was gorgeous on the trails,” Kate said.

“I hadn’t been to Oregon before, and I really wanted to come,” Kristine added.

A few happy guys joined the women on the course Saturday, including several official race pacers who kept a steady time while sporting bright, sequined skirts.

“We try to have something that represents us,” said 10-minute-mile pacer Scott White as he gestured to his bright purple skirt. “Lay It Out Events has these for us, because I don’t have a lot of these in my closet.”

White, who also owns Fleet Feet Sports in Bend, said good pacers should communicate with the runners in addition to running a steady race.

“(The key to being a good pacer is) being able to talk and let everybody know what’s coming, because not everyone that comes to this race in particular is from Bend,” White explained. “They see the map and they don’t see the hills, but I know to get them ready for it so they can be mentally prepared for it.”

Mentally prepared and, of course, happy.

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