Northwest Trail Runners is a co-led Portland-based running group focused on building an active and engaged trail running community through weekly Portland-area trail runs, occasional longer trail runs in parks and wild spaces throughout the Pacific Northwest, and volunteer events that give back to our public spaces. Northwest Trail Runners has been cooperatively organized and led since it was started. This unique leadership model has allowed for a consistent run calendar that offers a welcoming setting for diverse running experiences that are fun and engaging for trail runners of all abilities. Group runs and get-togethers are organized on Meetup.com, an event social networking site. Every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning the group meets for a 5 to 7 mile run, typically on routes found on the 80 miles of trails within Portland, Oregon’s Forest Park.
Like everyone engaged in races and community runs, the pandemic brought the Northwest Trail Runners in-person group runs to a sudden and unanticipated halt last March. There is no one that could have anticipated how deep, lengthy, and trying the pandemic would become. It changed forever how we interact with each other individually and collectively. At that time, the organizers went through some intense but thoughtful and forward-thinking deliberations about how to move forward while keeping the close-knit running community they had built up as connected as was safely possible. Like all people and organizations, it was an opportunity for reflection, growth, and rethinking of how we do things. This has always been a core value of Northwest Trail Runners, and because of this, the group was able to adapt and continue providing meaningful running experiences.
Throughout the pandemic, Northwest Trail Runners offered a regular calendar of themed virtual runs. Most of those runs centered around the same Forest Park trails that the group uses for their in-person runs. This helped to maintain our sense of community that the group has built over the last couple of years at a time when we most needed to feel a part of a community. It also served as motivation and inspiration to stay connected with our own well-being and the trails we love and use to nurture that connection.
Recently, Northwest Trail Runners has begun to re-introduce in-person runs. These runs have small group sizes, mask requirements, and all the other usual COVID protocols in place. Most of these runs have taken place in Forest Park and some of Portland’s urban trails and pedestrian paths. Northwest Trail Runners will hopefully be adding a few small in-person adventure runs in the Columbia River Gorge and other area trails as this summer approaches.
These runs have brought with them such a feeling of hopefulness; a sense that soon we will be able to return to running together again with other runners in our community. As spring unfolds, the sounds of laughter, seeing familiar faces, and making new friends on the trails are all coming back into our lives.
Find Northwest Trail Runners at:
Co-authors Cheryl De Renzy and Nicole Zapata