On May 9th, 2015, Athletes and onlookers alike amassed upon majestic McDonald Forest in Corvallis, Oregon to perform in and bear witness to the legendary Mac Forest 50k trail run. Covering over 30 miles of forest trails and roughly 7,000′ of elevation gain, the run is a grueling yet beautiful jaunt through some of the Willamette Valley’s most magical terrain.
This terrain served as Alex’s backyard growing up, and when Alex became interested in long-distance running, he took part in the 2013 Mac 50k…and took second place out of 239 people!
This year, a dedicated and masochistic group of Alex’s Friends and Family trained for months to take part in the event, and as as they ran the trails, they carried Alex’s spirit. Running was one of Alex’s passions and indeed, it is the wind that continues to fill other’s sails. The sun, shone all weekend…80 degree weather, blue sky, abundant wild iris, camas, buttercups, the forest budding with that fresh, bright, spring green. The race was dedicated to Alex, and then Buzz and McHale said a few words. Patrick lead his now-famous-for-Alex BANZAI yell as the racers were off. Our runners wore Powered by Alex signs (thank you Cheryl) and hats featuring a photo of Alex running in the Tetons (thank you Robyn), prompting other runners to ask about him…and so Alex stories were told throughout the race as the runners made their way through the forest, our backyard, Alex’s playground growing up.
At the 10-mile mark, the Miller Family who first met Alex during his cycling days set up a “bandit” watermelon aid station at Alex’s bench in the forest…runners stopped to sip watermelon juice, enjoy a slice and many paused to offer hugs, toasts to Alex, and tears…from some he knew, from many who never knew Alex but felt his spirit. Rebecca’s watermelon picnic cloth adorned the table in the forest, the Millers made beautiful signs, a collage of Alex photos that people stopped to take in…the outpouring of love and compassion and gratitude was overwhelming. There was such a buzz about the station that the race director wants it to be a permanent part of the run, along with the BANZAI yell.
Having Alex’s Ashland family here was a gift…each of them has Alex stories we treasure…each of them has that empty heart spot that Alex fills and fuels with his spirit and energy. Each is a connection to our sweet sun. We all gathered at our house Friday night for dinner, talking around a fire outside, eating Deanna’s rendition of Alex’s “No Frownie Brownies”, then generous neighbors offered beds, some pitched their tents on the lawn. Ten ran the race – McHale, Beth, Robyn, Amy, Jessica, Matt, Chad, Gabe, Pete, and Michael – they trained, they supported each other, they found, as Alex encouraged, the little birds under their feet, lifting them when the going got rough. It was Alex’s spirit that brought them all across the finish line. Saturday night we enjoyed American Dream pizza, race stories and time around the fire…a day that Alex would have savored…and, he was so with us.