ROSEBURG, Ore. – With plenty of cheers and a few tears, thousands from all over the country dashed out of the starting gate around 10 a.m. Saturday at the Umpqua Strong 9k and 5k Run/Walk by the Stewart Park half shell.
The running pack was filled with the fleet-footed and the heavy-hearted. More than 2,000 runners made the trek along the South Umpqua River, many running in groups, pushing strollers and some with a little help from their four-legged friends.
Whether running in groups or alone, the herd of runners pushed towards the finish line as one community.
“We were really excited to see that many people come and just the whole atmosphere was excitement and just unity,” said Phil Wyatt, a runner and Roseburg resident enjoying the day with his family.
Benjamin Rodriguez was the winning runner of the 5k race, crossing the finish line with a time of 17 minutes and 27 seconds. A track athlete and student at Lane Community College, Rodriguez said he actually skipped a race for his own school to support his hometown.
“I just came out to do this and it wasn’t really about racing, it’s just the whole race and what it means and everything,” said Rodriguez.
He added, “It definitely brought everyone a lot closer. I feel like it’s nice to see that and it’s nice to be in the community.”
Whether walking, running or simply standing on the sidelines showing support, the message of the day was all about moving forward.
“We’re not shaken by tragedies like this and the community has such a heart to unify and to heal,” said Wyatt.
“We continue to support this community and everyone in it. It’s overwhelming, it’s all i can say, it’s so strong,” said Sue Goldberg, a runner with Team Architrave Health.
Some ran for their own reasons, some to remember the lives lost a year ago, but the entire Umpqua family left a new legacy in Roseburg, raising $50,000 for the UCC Scholarship Fund.
Many participants said a few miles of running is a small effort to give future students a chance to race for their dreams.