5th Annual Siskiyou Challenge

Tracy Harding. Ashland, OR. 2014.

Tracy Harding. Ashland, OR. 2014.

We had the opportunity to sit down last week with Tracy Harding and chat about the upcoming local multi-discipline relay race, the Siskiyou Challenge.

The 5th annual Siskiyou Challenge takes place this Saturday, September 20th, and is open to both recreational and competitive racers. The six-leg, multi-sport relay race covers 46 miles in and outside of Ashland, and has kayak, cycling, mountain biking, and running sections. We are proud to be a lead sponsor of the event, and wanted to take a moment to congratulate Tracy on her hard work over the past five years, and ask her some questions.

When Deborah Gordon came knocking at Rogue Valley Farm to School five years ago, she wanted a partner organization for a local multi-sport relay, something similar to Montana’s Glacier Challenge, which she had recently raced in outside of Whitefish. Tracy worked closely with Gordon and the Rogue Valley Farm to School board to coordinate it over the next couple years. The multi-sport event, now five years in, draws families, teams, and solo racers from all over the country, and it has a long list of local sponsors.

Here at the Ashland Outdoor Store, we love supporting local events that both require and promote community involvement. The Siskiyou Challenge is a premiere example of this collaborative spirit. “The community loves it” says Tracy, “it’s a really well received event.” She noted that there were less local races when she started collaborating with Gordon five years ago, and that now it’s unavoidable to have schedule conflicts with other races. The benefit of this surge in popularity, however, affects our community. “We want to attract those racers who travel to other well-known events,” says Tracy. “And we have people traveling from Texas, and from New York. They are coming to race with their family.”

The Siskiyou Challenge is family friendly, of course. The Saturday event starts bright and early with a costume contest, sponsored this year by newcomer Picadilly Cycles. The early morning leg is a kayak loop out at Emigrant Lake. According to Harding, the Challenge seems to benefit from a casual atmosphere, but it has the right structure exactly where it’s needed.

This year there is a student athlete discount price for registration, as well as a welcoming pre-race barbecue on Friday. Harding expects a good turnout. “We’ll probably have over 350 individuals racing this year, and maybe 70 teams,” she said. Harding also added that it takes about 100 volunteers to properly staff the event, and that it is never too late to volunteer! The event website, http://www.siskiyouchallenge.org/, has an easy sign up method for those interested in volunteering this year. For racers, registration is open until midnight on Thursday, and links for the online form can be found on the event website as well.

This year’s Siskiyou Challenge is dedicated to Alex Newport-Berra, a local endurance athlete, mentor, and dear friend to many in our community. Alex lost his life in a mountain running accident this summer in Colorado, and had been working with Tracy Harding and Leland Fulton on developing the Challenge into a weekend-long event. Come race this weekend (or even just hang out), support local businesses, and share in this great community event. It is the vision and determination of organizers and the enthusiasm and support of our community that makes the Rogue Valley such a wonderful place to live. We’ll see you on Saturday!

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