Small Town 4th of July

by Nancy Bestor

One of Ashland, Oregon’s many small town pleasures has got to be the Fourth of July. For as long as we have owned Travel Essentials (16 1/2 years now!) we’ve set out chairs in front of our store to sit and watch the sometimes long but always entertaining Fourth of July parade. Like many other small towns across America, Ashland celebrates the 4th with a down home event, complete with dignitaries riding by in classic cars, children dancing in fairy costumes, dogs and humans dressed up in unusual garb, politically conservative and liberal parade entrants, and more. After the parade, most folks migrate to Lithia Park, where there are booths with food and crafts, and live music and patriotic readings at the band shell. The day ends with a fireworks show that is always a pleasure to watch.

There is another 4th of July tradition in Ashland however that I learned last year is not one of my favorites (to put it mildly)—that being the annual six mile Fourth of July run. Like me (before I actually ran it), you might be saying to yourself, six miles? How difficult can that be? Seemingly not so difficult, when you consider that I ran the Pear Blossom run in Medford (10 miles) several years ago, with little trouble. Granted I am no Jen Shelton (Jen is a local ultra-marathon runner, see related story here). Not even close. I’m just a recreational nine to 25-minute miler (That was a joke in case you were wondering. I’m really a nine to 24-minute miler.) But my girlfriend and I did train for the 4th run (I have to use the word train loosely, as we ran what we thought was the course several times, only to find out on race day we had missed an entire mile-long section.) There is something about this course though that makes it feeling like you are running 12 miles, not six.

The race started off well enough. I headed out with lots of adrenalin, running with the crowd through downtown Ashland. As the race begins with a nice gradual downhill, I was feeling pretty good about myself. About two miles into the race however, the downhill was replaced by a slow and steady uphill, and I lost that loving feeling. I plodded my way through the rest of the race, thanks in large part to my two race companions, who kept up a steady chatter to keep my mind off my misery. And since the last half mile of the race goes right up Main Street, where there are already large crowds waiting for the parade and cheering the runners on, I was able to pick up my pace and look marginally better. My finishing time you ask? Let’s just say I didn’t win any awards, unless you count not being lapped (barely!) by Jen Shelton.

This year, I’ll be sitting on the sidewalk of Main Street in front of Travel Essentials, drinking a cup of coffee, eating a croissant, and cheering those runners on. Most importantly, I’ll be thanking my lucky stars that I didn’t sign up to plod my way through that six (sixteen?) mile course.