Friday, March 24, 2023
March 24, 2023

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Race for Warmth turns up the heat

Clark Public Utilities event helps families who struggle to pay winter utility bills

By , Columbian Assistant Metro Editor
5 Photos
Runners make their way along the annual Race for Warmth route Sunday morning in Vancouver.
Runners make their way along the annual Race for Warmth route Sunday morning in Vancouver. (Samuel Wilson for the Columbian) Photo Gallery

With runny noses and red faces, it appeared that some participants in Sunday’s Race for Warmth in Vancouver were feeling the effects of a cold and breezy January morning.

There’s a reason for holding the event’s 5K and 10K races in the middle of winter. It reminds participants of the struggle families face to stay warm when they don’t have enough money to pay their electricity bills, said Erica Erland, spokeswoman for Clark Public Utilities, which organized the event.

All of the money from Race for Warmth’s registration fees will go to the utility’s Operation Warm Heart program, which reduces the electricity bills of customers in need. In 2015, the program helped 685 households with an average grant of $287 per household, and households with an income at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible.

Operation Warm Heart “helps families in a financial crisis that might not qualify for other types of aid,” Erland said.

About 970 people registered to race Sunday morning, and the event raised more than $40,000, according to organizers.

The event is able to keep overhead costs low, Erland said, thanks to the generosity of local businesses that sponsor the event, as well as the more than 100 Clark Public Utilities employees who volunteered at the race.

The race takes runners from the Clark Public Utilities building on Forth Vancouver way through downtown Vancouver and along the Columbia River.

At 9 a.m., the start of the race, it was about 37 degrees in the city, and with the wind chill, it felt like it was below freezing, according to National Weather Service data recorded at nearby Pearson Field.

Following the race, participants were treated to bagels, fruit and hot soup and could sign up for an on-site massage.

Knowing that the event is for a good cause was one reason Portland resident Jeff Shanes decided to participate in the 5K.

“I saw that it was for warmth,” he said.

Although the cold air made breathing a little more difficult, Shanes said, he ran his best time yet: 22 minutes and 43 seconds. The first part of the route is downhill and the last part is uphill, which gave him a good challenge, he added.

Ten-year-old Olivia Fishback said the 5K was a breeze. It was only her second 5K, the first one being the popular Shamrock Run in Portland.

“This kind of felt like nothing, actually,” the Portland girl said. “I sort of feel free when I run.”

She ran the Race for Warmth alongside her aunt, Hannah Fishback of Vancouver.

“She’s a really awesome runner. I wanted to see what we could do together,” said Hannah Fishback, who was a collegiate runner and now commits to running about one race a month.

She added that the Race for Warmth stood out to her among other available races this month because of the cause it supports.

“I’d definitely run this race again,” she said. “If there’s a way to help someone, then go for it.”

Columbian Assistant Metro Editor