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Citizen's View: Bibs, baby wipes and bonding: 'Parande' a race like no other

SUBMITTED PHOTO - There's one thing about the Parande that will never change: Race founders Cheri Partain and Julie Strande will always cross the finish line first.SUBMITTED PHOTO - The start and finish line of the Parande is drawn in sidewalk chalk.What started as one friend helping another lose a few pounds of baby weight has turned into a fundraiser to empower young women.

Julie Strande and I first met when our oldest sons started kindergarten at Oak Creek Elementary School in Lake Oswego. We jokingly refer to our sons’ kindergarten teacher as a matchmaker, because she found our “profiles” compatible and set us up with each other’s contact information the first week of school. Soon, playdates with our combined four children and family dinners turned into running dates that were more “mom therapy” than anything.

Now fast-forward to Julie having her third child, after which she turned to me to help her get back into running shape. Not wanting to sign up for an expensive half-marathon at the risk that any number of mom obstacles would come into play, Julie asked if we could create our own race as motivation. So we scheduled our half-marathon and, after a few false starts, finally ran what would become the first-annual Parande (a combination of Partain and Strande, our last names) in June 2014.

The following spring, we began to hear other moms talking about the Parande, this little race we had created that sounded like a lot of fun: no registration fee, cool women and a beautiful course along the Banks-Vernonia Trail. What could we do but schedule the second-annual Parande?

Word of mouth spread over email, and we soon had 10 women committed to running the race. What had started as a half-marathon turned into a race with a 5K and 10K run/walk option. There was just one rule: Julie and I had to cross the finish line first!

A date was set, and Julie quickly threw together swag bags — including a photo of Julie and I that served as a race brochure — while I stenciled PARANDE on 10 baby bibs to be pinned on runners’ shirts. An aid station was created in the back of my minivan, and a last-minute adjustment was made to the start time and course due to forecasted warm temperatures.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Cheri Partain and Julie Strande pinned baby bibs on shirts to identify runners in the 2015 Parande. They use real race bibs now.The second-annual Parande was a resounding success, and everyone agreed they couldn’t wait to run it again this year!

This past June, in its third year, the Parande doubled in size — 20 women running various distances along the same course. However, this time there was a very official electronic invitation, real race bibs and more swag, including temporary tattoos applied with baby wipes (naturally) in the Oak Creek parking lot.

Julie and I also managed to turn this unique race into a fundraiser for Girls on the Run, collecting donations from runners and raising $225 for the organization that encourages young girls to stay active and pursue their dreams. It was an obvious choice for me, because I work with foster youth, and for Julie, who is a teacher.

On the 2016 course, there was sunshine and hail, cows and ducklings, and even a live cricket game, which is fortunate because there are no bands, cowbells or catchy signs at the Parande. But what the Parande lacks in design and structure, it more than makes up for in memorable traditions: a start and finish line drawn with sidewalk chalk; an aid station in the back of the minivan; a “shoe-selfie” taken at the turnaround point for half-marathoners; a bottle of champagne uncorked once the last runner crosses the finish line; and an after-party at McMenamin’s Cornelius Pass Roadhouse, a Northwest landmark chosen by two Northwest women.

The Parande is truly a race like none other. And who knows, maybe next year we’ll even have some cowbells along the course. But one thing will remain the same: Julie and I will always be the winners!

Lake Oswego resident Cheri Partain is a mom, social worker and author. She currently works for Boys & Girls Aid, a nonprofit child welfare agency in Portland.