Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Running Fountain of Youth: Runner Streak Day #3000

My Hood to Coast Team - First Place Women's Sub Masters 2016

Tomorrow marks my 3000th day of running everyday and I get to celebrate it by participating in the Portland Shamrock Run.  I will be running alongside many people I have had the pleasure of running with over the 8+ years of my running streak and the 30+ years I have been running in Portland. I am especially looking forward to running with my friends in the LifeChange Program at the Union Gospel Mission. The most amazing transformations happen through running and I am witnessing it weekly.  

I have been thinking about this running every day quite a bit because this adds up to more than 8 years of my life.  Many things happen in 8 years. I am almost 52 years old so you can imagine that I have questions for myself about this habit and how long I can sustain it.  

I was also thinking about how running (or really doing anything) everyday for such an amount of time might change a person.  How can we really measure this? How can I really know if the personal growth I have encountered is a product of age and maturity or because there is power in making a commitment to oneself and seeing it through.  

Dave and Paula Harkin - Sunset on the Corridor 2016

I know that ever so slowly, I build muscle and stamina and strength and confidence and most importantly, I build trust. Trust with others and trust with myself.  What have I learned? I have learned that a life with meaning happens when you love yourself and others unconditionally.  It begins when others can count on what you say and what you do.  It happens when you give your gifts to those around you freely and willingly.  I believe I am on my way!!  Maybe I would have learned many of these valuable lessons without running more than 17,000 miles and many many pairs of shoes! 

I have a passion for running and what it can do for women and men and children and I want to share it. I think it is my gift! We all have gifts and if we take time, we can develop these gifts.  It’s like finding the Fountain of Youth.  I found mine and it flows through me. I love sharing the miles with people that want to come run from our store or in my races.

I do know this, when we meet I will run with you at your pace or mine and I will do my best to remember your name.  I will listen to your story if you will allow me.  I will help build our community and share in the joys and pains of what together we see, hear, and say along the way.  

I feel privileged to run everyday and I do not take it for granted.  I will drink from the cup of running as long as it will have me and I will save a sip for anyone that is thirsty enough to find his or her best self. 

Runner Streak Day #3000.  (RSD#3000)

Men's LifeChange Program - Union Gospel Mission

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lithia Loop Trail Marathon 2013: Race Report

Race Report:
Lithia Loop Trail Marathon 2013: A Hill for a Climber.

Dave and I drove to Ashland on Friday and went right to Rogue Valley Runners and picked up our packets. The store was very nice and friendly.  We asked about the course and what shoes to wear and whether we should expect snow or not.  Even though the weather was sunny and 68 degrees on Friday we were expecting a severe weather warning for Saturday and were wondering what to wear and how to prepare. We took a minute and looked around and then headed into Lithia Park where the race starts and finishes.  We also wanted to scout the course.  We were both very curious to see the terrain and wrap our brains around the ten mile uphill climb we were about to embark upon.  Lithia Park is a beautiful park and since I had attended college in Ashland it made me realize that I hadn’t spent enough time there during those years.

Dave Harkin, Paula Harkin, Larry Walsh in Lithia Park waiting for race start.
As we approached the signature purple starting line arch it began to rain, the pavement was wet and runners were preparing for the start of the race.  This race is really small and there is not much fanfare.  The clock counted down to start time and off we went.  I had no idea how long I would be running uphill and I am so happy I didn’t. The paved road of Lithia Park soon turned into a soft surface road that turned and twisted up and up and up for miles and miles.  I took it one mile at a time and had to convince myself to continue on without stopping. My pace was steady but slow as I tried to manage my heart rate. Turn after turn after turn of uphill we climbed to 5,000 ft.  At mile 7 we turned off to a single-track trail that also went uphill where we punched out at mile 8 into a clearing.  This was the aid station I had been waiting for where cowbells and cheers met each runner.  I was so happy to make it to this aid station.  Sadly, I wore substandard gloves that were soaking wet and my fingers were freezing.  There was a gal working at the aid station that offered her leather gloves to me.  She worked at the running store and told me I could use them if I would drop them back off after the race.  I put them on and never took them off!!  They barely fit into the handle of my waterbottle but they were dry and warm and I will never forget her kind gesture.  All in all we climbed for 13 miles not 10 miles and it took me 2:30 minutes to get to the halfway point of the marathon. It was the climb of a lifetime.

Rounding the final corner in Lithia Park.  Almost finished!
From this point forward I decided I would run from aid station to aid station not allowing the total marathon distance to enter my mind.  The aid stations were between 3.5 and 4 miles apart.  I wanted to stop and walk between aid stations but I pushed through and was always happy to see the smiling faces waiting at the aid station ahead.  The aid stations were stocked with all kinds of food and drink and electrolyte replacements. I filled my bottle at every aid station except the first and made myself continue to drink through each phase. 

Pioneer Hall, Lithia Park, post race.
Along the course I traded places with a gal that had just finished an Ironman and was not happy with her performance. I followed a man that I imagined to be one of my training partners at home.  I passed a few people along the way however the road and trail were very thin with participants at this point and after mile 10 or so I found myself running solo for most of the race. This felt like an ultra marathon rather than a marathon.  The hardest section for me was from mile 16-20.  It was 4 miles between aid stations and what I thought would be downhill was up and down and felt like it was mostly up but I am sure it was net down.  The hills just kept coming and I was ready for a downhill.  At the Four Corners Aid Station at mile 20 the downhill finally came.  It was nearly 2 miles of steep downhill losing much of our elevation gain until we turned off the road onto a single track trail that headed up hill and then down.  The change back to uphill was mentally tough for me as I had been expecting to go downhill since mile ten.  The terrain was beautiful and the views amazing.  Even though I had been running at 5000ft of elevation for a long stretch I felt pretty good.  My hamstrings were sore from climbing and now my quads were tired from the down but not able to totally embrace the relief because of the fatigue from the uphill.  One mile at a time I finally reached the last aid station at mile 23.  I was very surprised to be pointed onto a single-track trail that went up and rolled along the canyon with an amazing amount of switchbacks and eventually a set of stairs to climb between mile 24 and 25.  The final mile or two seemed to take an eternity however I actually enjoyed the final march down the trail into the park and eventually to the finish line. 4:31 was a long time to be running.  My overall moving time according to my Garmin was 4:20.  Only 11 minutes at the aid stations.  I would have stayed at the friendly well- stocked aid stations all day but the finish line called my name and my bucket list insisted I check off The Lithia Loop Trail Marathon. 

A logoed pint glass and a finisher rose inside of a Lithia Loop Backpack was a great finisher’s gift.  Food and beer were served inside of the Pioneer Hall in Lithia Park.  The smile on my face told the story.  The climb and the rain and the cold and the terrain were a challenge but I finished what I set out to do and I was proud of that. It was an amazing day and an amazing race.  I liked it. It was indeed a hill for a climber. 

Paula Harkin
Lithia Loop Trail Marathon
November 2, 2013

Lithia Loop Elevation Chart

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groundhog's Day - 2013

 Today's run is brought to you by Groundhog's Day!  The sun was shining through the morning fog after many many months of cold, wind and rain here in Portland, Oregon.  When the sun peeks it's head there is nothing more enjoyable than putting on my running shoes and heading out the door to experience the amazing beauty we have here in the pacific northwest.  Today I was a solo runner listening to music while I climbed and descended.  I had my iphone camera to capture what we here in Portlandia wait and wait for...dry roads and trails and especially SUNSHINE!  So on this beautiful cold Groundhog's Day, I decided to capture the morning in pictures and make my own guess on whether or not we will have an early spring ...I am with Phil even though I saw my shadow!  Enjoy!

Heading over the Arch Bridge from West Linn to Oregon City

Promitory.  I climbed for about 2 miles to get to this spot on the ridge looking at the river and Downtown Portland.  The fog is covering much of the River but the blue sky and the clouds were AWESOME.

This is the trail between the Historic Arch Bridge and the McLoughlin House. The River is right along side this path.

Near Clackamette Park in Oregon City.  AWESOME bathrooms right next to this spot that are ALWAYS clean.  I met the man that takes care of these bathrooms and he is very proud of them.  I was happy to meet him.

Trail portion of run - in West Linn along Willamette River

Promitory View

This is just under the I-205 bridge on the Oregon City side.

These stairs are near the old paper mill in Oregon City.  SCARY for me everytime but really cool.

Arch Bridge 7:45am

On the Oregon City Bluff Promenade near the elevator.  Love this picture.

Punxsutawney Phil failed to see his shadow on this Groundhog Day 2013. According to folklore, no shadow for Phil means an early spring. If Phil had seen his shadow, it would have meant six more weeks of winter.



Wednesday, January 23, 2013

February One Mile a Day Challenge

2013 - February One Mile a day Challenge - The Kickstart

Focusing on being healthy, eating right, limiting your caffeine and alcohol, buying the right foods for your family, drinking more water, getting more sleep, role modeling, daily exercise, being a good friend, worker, partner, parent.  Saving your money. Learning. Creating. Being. Being the best you. Inspiring, giving, listening, staying motivated. 

Wow!!  I know I want this in my life.  I know this is what I think about when I am setting goals and trying to be the best me.  I have found that these things come together best when I take time each day to run.  Most of you know that I just completed 4 years of running at least one mile every day.  Even though this has become as familiar as brushing my teeth I find that taking time to breathe fresh air, work my muscles, think and release stress and tension once a day is not only good for me but for those in my daily life as well.  Being a good friend, partner, mother, worker is easier when I have worked out.  In my opinion, our body image, our waistlines, our stress, feeling as if we are on the right path, seeing the good and having a good attitude are all part of this beautiful thing I call running.  Have you ever been grumpy because your pants are too tight?  Most of us know this feeling.

So the days keep coming, how do I stay motivated?  First let me say that I don't want to wake up being the person that didn't run or stay committed to my goal. I don't want to feel like I didn't take the time or effort on my own self and goals. If I don't take the time and the effort on myself how can I really do this for my family and my job or my friends and how can I expect those that look up to me to take care of themselves?  It is all tied together!!  Lastly, I don't want to be the person that doesn't care about my mind, body and spirit.  If running everyday for at least one mile makes me feel like I am striving to be the best me then it is a small price to pay. I just need to ask myself when can I fit it in today?

This picture is of a group of women that meet at our store, Portland Running Company-Beaverton, on Thursday evenings and run or walk together for support and friendship.  The group run is free and is led by Captain Shelly Beckers.  Consider checking out all of our free group runs at

Maybe your goal is running Monday, Wednesday and Friday?  Maybe it is running before work or at lunch or joining a gym.  Maybe it's joining a group to make you accountable.  Maybe it is nothing more than setting a goal no matter what it is and completing that goal.  It is very powerful. You CAN find 20 minutes in each 24 hours.  I know you can. 

So here it is...THE FEBRUARY ONE MILE A DAY CHALLENGE.  Can you go forward for one mile each day in February?  I believe you can.  Ask your husband or kids or next door neighbor or friend and commit to it.  Pick a time.  Organize it each week, is it at lunch time?   Remember it won't last forever, there is a beginning and an end to this challenge and this challenge will jump start you to your next goal.  Running a 5K at Shamrock?  Do it for yourself.  I will guarantee you will inspire someone in your life.

 PS  Walking can be your running.  :)

Paula Harkin
Day #1483

Monday, June 18, 2012

Coaching Pfit

Blue/Green Group 2012 -

Coaching Portland Fit has been a highlight in my life for twelve years.  My kids don't remember me not coaching Portland Fit. Each spring I get a new group of runners that have their sights set on running the Portland Marathon.  The Blue/Green Group is the fast group in the program and usually brings me a variety of runners both new and experienced ready to take on the challenge of running 26.2 miles in October.  To become a member of the Blue/Green group you need to run 7-8 minute pace for 3 miles the very first day we meet.  Those that accomplish this goal get me for a coach and will wear a green or blue shoe tag for the season. Together we build strength, mileage, courage and knowledge over the 26 week program.  Year after year I get many of them back.  Sometimes they come back after 4 or 5 years with great life stories and adventures to share. Many become Assistant Coaches and assist with the program each week sharing information and volunteering their time to assist new people with a common goal. As you can see in the picture, the people wearing red hats are my Assistant Coaches. I couldn't lead this group without them.  They are paying if forward. I am lucky enough to call many of them friend.

The idea of meeting new people and running with them for hours at a time is overwhelming to some.  Having the courage to come out and join this group is what sets these folks apart and makes this group so dynamic.  Talking and listening goes a long way.  Hearing what others think and do and sharing stories and information and building friendships over time and distance has been the common thread of my group. Creating a safe environment for everyone to share while strengthening our minds and bodies has proved to be amazing which is why I continue to wake up and run with this group every Saturday for 26 Saturday's a year x 12 years.  It's powerful. 

This picture was taken on the Springwater Corridor that runs along the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon.  On this day my group ran 10 miles, this was the 5 mile turn around point.  My coaching lesson on this day?  Slow down!!  This is what I always preach midway through the program because members begin feeling good and fit.  My advice is to save your speed for the tempo runs or interval days but Saturday? Saturday is the long slow distance day so enjoy it!! Make sure you are talking along the way as this is the true test to ensure you are not running too fast. 

How will this group do in the marathon?  They will succeed!  They have each other and a common goal that will be reached. Maybe not this year or maybe this year but together we will find out how to get there, we are on a journey of fitness and friendship and we call it Portland Fit.

Paula Harkin
Green/Blue Coach
Portland Fit

Sunday, November 27, 2011


In the name of running we find ourselves enmeshed

With people that share our daily lives

The common thread is moving our feet

Laughter and pain and everything in between

We may not have met

Without our desire to move our bodies

Up hills and on trails and mostly having the desire to

Be the best we can be

Time goes on with the beat of the drum

Realizing later the fun

Between sessions of tempo and track and forever and always

The long run

The laughing the joy the building of blocks

Creating a community of love

A foundation of rocks

My life is richer because

The people that share my hobby, my journey

My life

My struggles, my likes, my dislikes

Thank you for not always agreeing

It goes beyond and travels to

Family and Food and movies and shoes

And marathons

We are not the complaining kind

Nor do we mind the sun or the rain

We support each other in different ways

Each of us our own

Our kids, our jobs our injuries

Our mental preparation during the


The race

The pain

Success and failure

Setting the goals and finding the way

This is where I am going

Going there with you, wherever that might be

Always with my running friends in my heart or by my side

Thanks for defining my life one year at a time

Marking the years

With fitness and friendship and love and courage

Here is to the next adventure

Dare to dream it

Dare to share it

Do it.

Love and running for all of 2012

Paula Harkin

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hippie Chick Course - 2011

It looked like it was going to be great weather so a few of the Hippie Chick Pacers and I went out to run the new Hippie Chick Half and Quarter Marathon course. The weather held for most of the run with a small downpour in the last mile and even a little snow when we were finished but the weather did not take away from the beauty of the new Hippie Chick course. This course delivers a flat and scenic route on beautiful country roads with lots of long straightaways - perfect for our Hippie Chicks. This course is designed to be a double loop course so that the quarter marathon (6.55 miles) will loop once and finish when they return to the Hillsboro Stadium while the half marathoners (13.1) will run past the Hillsboro Stadium and then head out for a second loop. Friends and family will be able to cheer at the half way point and see their favorite person run or walk by!! This course is as flat as they come. It is hard to believe that the Helvetia Half Marathon course known for it's hills is just across the freeway from the new flat Hippie Chick course. I think the amazing women that come out to share their mother's day with this with us will be very pleased with the course.

We met up with Sgt. Vuylsteke of the Hillsboro Police Department to workout the traffic revisions and course safety after our run and came up with great ideas and solutions for creating a safe running and walking environment. Our hats are off to HPD for making this happen!!

We are very excited for you to meet your pacer and run the new course and we can't wait to spend Mother's Day with all of you Hippie Chick's!!

Happy Training!

RWP & Co.