If you're into a wintry round of golf, the River's Edge Golf Course in the heart of Bend is one of the places to do it. And in 2016 and 2017, it's also the place for world-class cross country runners to show their chops in what's proved to be a fairly challenging run on the fairway.
On Feb. 4, runners will gather at River's Edge for the 2017 National Cross Country Championships. Distances in the competitive categories include 6K to 10K races in categories including open, masters and junior levels. Visit Bend brought the event to town in 2016 and now 2017, partly as a way to boost tourism numbers during the often-slow shoulder season.
In addition to the competitive events, the races include a 4K community race for all skill levels, as well as two beer-related relays. The Brewer's Relay allows teams of two or four people to race the 4K course—but the catch is, participants have to drink a full beer before passing the baton onto the next person. As a reward though, the winning team wins its weight in beer from local breweries. A similar race, the Brewer's Cup, allows people from local breweries the chance to compete for bragging rights. In addition, breweries have their entry fees donated to the nonprofit of their choice.
Event organizers say they've altered the routes a bit from 2016, when the championships took place at the same course. This year, the terrain will be roughly the same, though there have been some "key updates to enhance the athletes' experience," according to the Visit Bend website.
Back in 2016, even the big winners found the course pretty challenging. In a post-race interview with running coach Dave Ross of Ross Running, men's 10K champion Craig Lutz had this to say: "Even without the altitude, very challenging course, but you throw in that (altitude) you're not recovering on those hills." Lutz continued: "The thing about the downhills here, they're so aggressive that by the end of the race you're not recovering anymore, so it's really, it's just pain for the last 4K."
"It is challenging, but that's a real cross country course," said Hank Therien, director of sales & sports development for Visit Bend. "A lot of these cross country events happen in city parks that are nice and flat, and you don't come to a mountain town to run in a cross country meet and not have any elevation."
Fortunately for the average spectator, the pain of the course may lie more with the snow that continues to fall on Central Oregon and less on the ups and downs of the course. But in case you're wondering, the course will be cleared of snow, so you can run instead of snowshoe the route, Therien says.
One more pro tip: Visitors can park at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes and take a shuttle to the event.
2017 USA Track & Field Cross Country National Championships
Sat. Feb 4
River's Edge Golf Course
400 NW Pro Shop Dr., Bend
Register for races at xcnats.com