Community Races Coming This Fall!

Think Outside the Box For Your Next Race with These Spooky Races

When’s the last time you ran a race just for fun? With no worrying about PRs or passing the person in front of you? If it’s been a while, you might need to slow down and enjoy the scenery. And there’s no better time to do that than during fall races.

Whether you’re a fan of costumes or you just want to break out of the running rut you’re in, you can’t go wrong with a spooky run. They offer you a chance to forget that you’re putting your body through a hard workout. Most runners are completely in favor of anything that makes a run seem more enjoyable.

While some of these spooky events offer real thrills, others will have you laughing more than screaming as you see some of the get-ups people are running in. You can pretend you’re starring in your very own zombie movie or you can check out the scarecrows passing by you as you head to the finish line to collect a cool medal that will be the envy of all your running buddies.

These kinds of runs are great for adults who want an experience they’ll always remember, but many of them are fun for the whole family as well. Kids will forget they’re getting exercise as they check out the costumes around them and race to the finish for after-run refreshments.

If you’re stumped when it comes to finding a haunted run near you, check out some of our suggestions. No matter what your terror tolerance is, you’ll be able to find a run that’s the perfect blend of thrills and fun. These range from seriously spooky to downright hilarious. Either way, you’ll get some great photo opportunities and the chance to do something unforgettable with your weekend.

This blog was created and written by Shannon Elliot from

Remember the Basics: Pace, Rhythm, and Cadence.

The start of the cross-country season is much like the start of anything new, with a rejuvenated sense of optimism and excitement.  This is especially true for runners who worked diligently through the months, accumulating miles and minutes on the trails on a regular basis.  It’s a great feeling to go into the season at an incredibly high fitness level, and an even better feeling when racing season begins and it becomes evident that your summer work is paid in full.  

Over the last few days, I’ve been receiving text messages, emails, and witnessing with my own eyes the results of the summer training.  For the seasoned runners, those who have been running for at least a full year, improvements were evident in race times compared to last season and also by moving up in finish places compared with the season before.  For the rookies, there were a few freshmen making varsity squads and others simply achieving their strategic racing plans.  The evidence was clear – summer training paid dividends.  Physically.

The flipside of performances by those who worked so hard over the summer were also present, making this the primary topic of conversation within this message.  What if your child’s race didn’t meet their hopes?  What if they didn’t run as well as they’d wished?  What if they worked so hard over the summer, only to achieve less than desirable results?  This is the stuff that can be difficult to address, but is the elephant in the room, and it needs to be acknowledged.

Poor performances happen.

Without learning how to run with a prescribed goal pace, your interval session or race could get away from you rather quickly.  The stairs scene in the movie The Money Pit illustrates what it can feel like when you're running without any sense of control - lost, unresponsive, and dreadful.

No matter the cause or the reason behind a poor performance or racing time, if you trained consistently, then you must believe, deep down, that your fitness level improved over the summer.  Going off that, it’s time to devise a simple practice and race strategy, something that can initiate a sense of control and confidence within your performances. 

Starting with something simple, recall how much time was spent attempting to hit goal paces throughout summer training with Whisper.  There was a reason we used the cones during nearly every practice, separating them by 200-meters, to learn cadence and rhythm.  Cadence is something that you can control and work from at practice. 

Breaking down your goal.

If your goal is to run a 22-minute 5k, you can estimate a 7-minute mile pace will get you there.  However, let’s take a calculated look at a 22-minute 5k, similar to what I would do if we were sitting side by side, creating a goal for your next race.  Whatever the goal, do the same math when dividing and multiplying minutes, seconds, etc.

  • Divide 1,320 by 50 (because there are fifty 100m dashes in a 5k) to find time/100m, which is 26.4 seconds per 100m (1,320 ÷ 50 = 26.4 seconds/100m). 
  • This means your pace for a 5k goal of 22-minutes is 26.4-seconds per 100 meters.  I typically prefer to set my pace for every 200m, in which case this number would be 52.8.

The next number is likely the most important.  It’s the 400m, but more importantly, it’s how you internalize the 400m.  If you think you’re running 1:45.6, technically, you are right.  However, you’ve already let the race get away from you.  Though it is important to have checkpoints to ensure accuracy and to make the arithmetic manageable, the mile mark in a 5k is the optimal time to do so.  Therefore, it is more important to “stay within yourself” by, rather than thinking 1:45.6 is your 400m goal, think of 52.8-seconds is your 200m goal, even though you might still be looking at 1:45.6 on your watch.  It’s a rhythm thing.  Lock-in at your goal pace and do your best to not deviate.  Yet. 

Once you have gained confidence that you can run your 5k at your calculated pace, then you can turn your pace into a race.  This can be done by, when the gun sounds, staying within yourself, hitting your first 200m goal pace, then your target mile, 7:02.4, then your next target mile, 7:02.4 (or 14:04.8), continuing this pace for another half mile, 3:31.2 (or 17:36), and then racing to the finish with negative splits. 

Things to consider:

  • Take time to write your race goals, calculate your pace goals, and practice your pacing goals during interval workouts at practice.  It is best to share these goals with your head coach, the one with the timer, so they can provide extra support.
  • When you have completed your race, and have had time to reflect on the factors that worked and other factors that might need to be honed, you can then begin advancing further practice and race goals.  
  • Knowing where you are at is important.  Before any race, know the checkpoints (1/2 mile, 1 mile, 1.5 mile, 2-mile, etc.).  Walk and/or jog the course using GPS to familiarize yourself with the checkpoints.  In the state of Washington, WIAA prohibits runners from wearing GPS watches during races, however you may wear a timing watch.  Knowing the checkpoints and being able to pace yourself, will allow you to better dictate your performance and cultivate a sense of confidence in your running.
  • You’ll have uphill’s and downhills, but in the end, it all zeros out (unless your finish point is at a vastly different location than your starting point).  Account for the ups and downs by allowing some wiggle room in your checkpoint times.

There are a number of useful racing strategies, but for young runners, learning pace, rhythm, and cadence is a very useful tool when learning how to run.  Even with that said, relying on your watch too heavily can take the race out of the competition, because you could become too reliant on pacing.  Sometimes you have to take off the gloves, or in this case, the watch.  If you feel you have cultivated the discipline to stay within yourself and not get overzealous too soon, then ridding the watch temporarily might help.  This is something to practice at practice as well.

Finally, have fun.  Regardless of your numerical goal(s), your number one goal should always be to have fun.  Running should be a lifelong sport that can take you places, be performed almost anywhere, can be done by yourself or with others, and is something that will always be waiting for you.  Crunching the numbers is merely a way to ensure you are squeezing out all of your potential.  Once you have a positive sensation of pace, it’s time to race and have fun.  All of which takes time to hone.

Have fun!


It's just after 11am on a Wednesday morning (two days ago) and I am walking through the gymnasium at Clark College, toward the men's locker room to shower off after a nine mile run at Forest Park.  There's a Health/PE class in session and the professor, Dr. Garret Hoyt, is discussing the lab of the day - Relaxation.  Interested, I slowed my walking pace to a crawl to listen-in on what Professor Hoyt had to say in his introduction to the class.  Eavesdropping, yes, but I was in plain sight, and I am confident that Garret is confident in the topic on Relaxation, so much so that even in my presence - as a peer - his introduction wouldn't skip a beat.  It didn't. 

Garret was dialing-in on a relaxation principle called Mindfulness, which is an ever-present state of being immersed a moment, where your cognitive and somatic awareness is heightened on many fronts - sights, sounds, touch, instincts, etc.  Although I caught just a snippet of his introduction, the impression was a reminder of the importance it can play on daily stress, and the management of those stresses.


When we think about our stresses, the ones most frequently noted revolve around work, bills, relationships, school, daily responsibilities, and more.  Today, during my run at Lacamas, I found myself immersed in work and feeling the need to bring my phone on my run.  And so I did. 

The feeling of bringing my phone with me on my run surely must be like the feeling one would have when eating a 1500-calorie grease-bomb burger, fries, and beverage, right before bed - dreadful!  All night - dreadful.  The whole run - dreadful.  To its entirety, I found myself responding to text messages and answering phone calls to insure that my work responsibilities were going to be okay.  What I failed to do was prioritize my running, my health, and my "me-time."  Essentially, my run wasn't really a run.  It was a failed attempt at what I used to call a run, but instead my work got the best of me.  Today.

The picture of the man looking through the Facebook periscope is an illustration of what my run felt like - I really did want to run, but I was shackled in my own doing. 

Work 1, Dave 0.

No more.

As I tell the kids when we are performing interval an interval workout: when you're working, really work, and when you're resting, really rest. 

Parents, model this: when you're working, really work.  When you're exercising, really exercise.  When you're relaxing, really relax.  When you're with your family, be present in the moment - Mindful.

Summary of Whisper XC Summer Training

Team pic, kids lookin' slick!

Team pic, kids lookin' slick!

May 11, I’m sitting in the stands awaiting the GSHL 3A/4A district mile to begin with too much going through my mind.  The previous year two of the participants, Paige and Serena, had begun training with Whisper, and lo and behold, they were about to square-off in the same race.  Though the girls were not happy with the placement outcome, both set lifetime Personal Records (PR’s).  From my vantage point, I was, and still am, very proud of their performance.  Both girls took a chance to put themselves into a position to advance, and that is all you can ask.

After the race, Serena came over to the stands to say hello and briefly inquire about summer training.  We spoke for a few minutes, and as she left, she looked over her right shoulder and said, “Oh, by the way, I have about six other runners interested in training this summer.” 


Over the next twelve hours I began piecing together a plan for summer training, specifically a plan that would include higher numbers and a greater opportunity to work with even younger runners (middle school age).  From there, a plan was put into place – a room at Clark College was reserved for two hours to provide an information session for parents looking for a running program for their kids in preparation for the 2017 cross-country season. 

A typical Tuesday workout with the Whisper crew!

A typical Tuesday workout with the Whisper crew!

Days later, prior to the meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 14, a runner from Union High School, Micah Goff, had been in touch regarding summer training.  We texted a few times and I asked him to join me at a community workout on a Tuesday night at Shahala, along with Serena and Paige.  The workout was pretty basic, however, being surrounded by middle school runners, I was encouraged to ask the three high schoolers if they’d prefer to act as Pacers this summer, rather than be coached.  Knowing much of the interest in the summer group training was coming from the middle school age, the idea was off the cuff of sorts, and it worked out like a gem.  Thankfully, they all said yes.

Coach Bob was another story.  Initially, I had asked him to help on a few specific days so that I could travel with my family to Canada to support my wife during her Ironman, and during the week away at the Whisper Running Camp in Bend.  Bob was on board with those few days, but he was also interested in coming out more frequently.  Seriously?  I was now 2 for 2!     

The night of the information session came.  I arrived at 6:30pm, about 30-minutes prior to the start, to set-up the room with stickers, journals, and general paperwork.  Being the first summer offering a summer training program, I was hoping to get 17 runners.  However, having ordered 30 journals and seeing them all disappear at the standing room only session, I was very confident the numbers would exceed my expectations.  Indeed they did, and the training then went from Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, to Monday’, Tuesdays, Thursday’s, and Friday’s.  This also meant that I could hire two of the runners to help out more days, and hire a second assistant coach, Josh Christensen. 

This was all happening so fast, but the pieces were fitting into place so naturally.  As I look back on this, God had his finger prints on this entire process. 

Summer training began on Thursday, June 22, with approximately 20 runners attending the first practice at Pacific Park in east Vancouver.  The first practice was much like the entire nine weeks of training – a steep learning curve in how to maximize the potential of Whisper moving forward – both in tapping into the kid’s potential, and the potential of running a business.  Training-wise, these kids had an amazing nine weeks.  The primary objective of the summer program was to instill the belief that they can train safely at an intensity they’ve never experienced, and still walk away alive!  I fully believe that most of the kids who consistently took part in the training met this outcome.

Water fountains never fail to replensih the soul after a greweling workout.

Water fountains never fail to replensih the soul after a greweling workout.

Over the last year, after watching middle school cross country, talking with the runners and their parents, I’ve learned that these kids aren’t being challenged, something they desire even if they don’t want to admit it.  The example of this I share regularly: at the start of the 2016 track season for Shahala Middle School where I volunteered since 2015, Coach Scott asked if I wanted to coach the sprinters for a day.  Without flinching, I took on 8-10 runners, gave them a very simple workout – stride the corners, jog the straights for four laps.  Many of the newbies jaws dropped at the thought of running a mile, but I had to remind them to do one lap, striding the corners, then “just do it three more times after that.”  A mile can be daunting for some, so scale it back – a lot!  Leaving the facility, it felt great to coach runners again.  The year previous I worked with the middle school relay teams, which is like “herding cats” as Coach Bob would say.  Working with the runners was gratifying and I knew I had been missing it.  My daughter got into the car and as we drove away, she said, “Dad, you’re not going to have any sprinters tomorrow.  That workout was too tough.  They’re not going to like you.”  My reply: “Madi, I’m not trying to make friends.  I’m trying to build runners.”  The next day I had over 20 kids ask me for a workout.  “Sorry kids, I’m back on relay duty.”  This circumstance was one factor that lead to Whisper.  In hindsight, there were many, and I’m telling, you, God’s fingerprints were all over this.

The summer of training was on-point.  Between myself, Coach Bob and Coach Josh, there was a common, genuine interest in doing what was best for the kids to ensure a safe, fun, and challenging nine weeks of training.  The Pacers were amazing and each of them had at least one parent mention the impact they were having on their child.

Moving forward, as the coaches review the things that worked and things we can improve upon, along with the input we have received from the Pacers, the runners, and the parents, it seems as though nine weeks was about right.  There is a chance we will begin a week earlier, perhaps mid-June, so we can insert a week off in July so families can perhaps plan their travels around that week.  Other changes kids may see is we will perform a 2k assessment rather than a 1k, doing so in smaller groups and on runner-friendly (fewer potholes) grounds.  We will also perform more tempo work, so they can learn to run longer durations at varying intensities.  There are a number of modifications that will be made, but the foundation is here and you can count on Summer XC 2018 Training!

Whisper Runner of the Week (& Testimonial) – Kiley O’Brien of Frontier Middle School

Photo from the Greater St. Helen’s District Track & Field Meet where Kiley (left) placed second in this race, the 1600m dash.

Serious props to Whisper Runner of the Week, Kiley O’Brien, for her performances at the Greater St. Helen’s District Track & Field Meet.  Kiley, of Frontier Middle School, put up a valiant effort in the 1600m dash, earning second place and matching her season best effort with a 5:42.  Seeded second going into the race, she knew if she was going to have any chance at first place, she would have to go toe-to-toe with the top runner in the conference, and for 800-meters, she did just that.  Her effort was admirable and she walked away very proud of her performance, and rightly so!  Later in that same meet, Kiley placed second in the 800m as well, matching her season best of 2:41.

Over the course of a year, Kiley has made huge gains in both consistency and times.  She has dropped 18-seconds off her mile time (6:00 to 5:42), and her 800m time has improved from a 2:50 in 2016, to 2:41!  Asking Kiley about her experience training with Whisper, she responded: “Training with Whisper Running means to strive to work hard at every practice.  On some of my worst days, when I just don't feel like running, Coach Dave is always so positive and helps me through it even though I might complain.  A lot.  In less than a year with running with Dave, I have taken 20-seconds off my mile time, and if you are a runner, you would know that is a lot of time to take off in a one mile race.  I am so happy that I can be the runner of the week so I tell people how awesome Dave is in so many ways.”

Kiley was the dominant runner for the Frontier Silverbacks this season.  She stands tied for 13th place on the 400m list, having run it only once (1:11.04), second in the 800m (2:41.3), and second in the 1600m (5:41.53). 

Congratulations, Kiley, for being the latest recipient of the Whisper Runner of the Week award.  It is an absolute pleasure to know that you are part of the Whisper team!


Summer Assignment #1 - My Perfect Race

There are a number of written assignments I will ask of my runners this summer, but one of them is to formulate the perfect race.  I prefer to do this sort of task in the off-season, where pressure to perform is minimal, promoting clarity and objectivity in their thinking.  I don't have a grading rubric for this, and I encourage them to think for themselves on this particular task.  After all, most of the kids that I train have parents who are runners.  Asking parents for assistance on this assignment could then lead to their parent's perfect race, rather than their own. 

This strategy is one way to cultivate autonomy in within their running, as well as forward thinking in their training.  Race plans need practice.  Therefore, in addition to the basic essentials of training: warm-ups, drills, intervals, cool-downs, etcetera, we openly discuss our race plans.  Of course, there will be fine tuning as they progress, but a written race plan is a great place to begin documenting intentions, then assessing what works, and what does not work.  It's a form of Goal Setting.  Creating race plans in written form provides greater focus, puts out any potential fires (decreasing anxiety), helps refocus if needed, and cultivates a smooth transition to Flow, which is a heightened state of the body and the mind harmoniously working in a moment when potential and ability meet optimal performance conditions.

Feel free to use the example provided by Kiley, who crafted an incredible race plan, or modify it to create your own.  It's pretty clear that when Kiley created this race plan, she was not attempting to outthink the room, but instead, she stayed within herself and created something that works for her in its simplest form.

Whisper Runner of the Week (& Testimonial) - Katelyn Flolo of Cornerstone Christian Academy

This week's Whisper Runner of the Week could have been a recipient of this award weeks ago, as her season started off with a bang!  Meet after meet, Katelyn Flolo, of Cornerstone Christian Academy, continuously broke her own school records in both the 800m and 1500m while on her way to victories in over half of her races this season!

Kiley (left) and Katelyn (right) after running the Vancouver Lake Half Marathon, where they finished 1st and 2nd in their age group with times of 1:49:43 and 1:49:49.

Kiley (left) and Katelyn (right) after running the Vancouver Lake Half Marathon, where they finished 1st and 2nd in their age group with times of 1:49:43 and 1:49:49.

Katelyn is a seventh grade runner who came to Whisper in December 2016 for some off-season conditioning and is one of a few runners who braved the nasty weather conditions in January and February.  Her consistency through the winter, training with her Whisper peers up to three times each week, paid off at her District meet on May 5th, where she ran a disciplined 1500m, finishing second.  30-minutes later, she earned Championship honors by edging out the runner-up by a quarter of a second in the 800m.   That 800m race was a season best by 5-seconds, and a 3-second lifetime best!

Asking Katelyn about her experience with Whisper Running in the six months she has been with the team, she responded: "When I was in third grade my brother – a sixth grader- began running cross country. Thoroughly inspired, my best friend and I ran our first mile (more or less) in about thirteen minutes. By the time I got to fifth grade, I was so ready for cross country. I finished my fifth grade cross country season as well as my sixth grade cross country and track seasons before I even considered running outside of my school team. I proceeded to run club track in the summer of 2016, then cross country at my school, and finally club cross country in the fall. My club and school seasons were great, and the workouts pushed me, but I still felt as though I wasn’t maximizing my potential. The “on-your-own” workouts soon became a chore, draining the fun out of running. Finally, in December, I found Dave. My first practice, I was surprised to see that there were three other girls, all my age and about my pace. As the workouts progressed, Dave pushed me to do things I never thought I could. The practices got harder and harder, but they were always fun. Whisper Running has helped me in all aspects of running, preparing me mentally and physically, and helping me overcome challenges in my form. It has also helped me to get connected with the running community through various fun opportunities, participated in as a club.This track season, my off-season training with Dave helped me to feel strong and fast when I ran. So far, I have dropped 6 seconds off my 1500m time, and 3 off my 800m. Through Whisper Running, I found that the key to enjoying running and being as fast as you can is to find a great group of people who are fun to be around, but push you to run your hardest."

Her season is not done, however, as she plans to race at the Meet of Champions in two weeks, and possibly additional meets through the USATF and Tracktown circuits.  Congratulations, Katelyn, on this award that was a long-time coming!  I am super honored that you are part one of Whisper Running team!

Run Less, Run Faster!

It took a lot of convincing, but after months of me (her coach) begging, Kiley finally ran an uncomfortable race, the dreaded 400m.  Typically a 1600m/800m runner (5:48/2:41), Kiley smashed the 400 (1:11.04), which will surely pay dividends in future endurance races. I will note, 400's in practice range from 79-88-seconds, depending on the workout.  Nothing mimics a race quite like a race.

It took a lot of convincing, but after months of me (her coach) begging, Kiley finally ran an uncomfortable race, the dreaded 400m.  Typically a 1600m/800m runner (5:48/2:41), Kiley smashed the 400 (1:11.04), which will surely pay dividends in future endurance races. I will note, 400's in practice range from 79-88-seconds, depending on the workout.  Nothing mimics a race quite like a race.

After Eric Jenkins won the Millrose Games Wanamaker Mile in a blazing time of 3:53, the television announcer referenced a training theory of Jenkin's coach, Alberto Salazar.  According to the announcer, Salazar believes that in order for Jenkin's to be a great 5k runner, he must work on his mile speed, hence the entry into the Wannamaker Mile.

This theory, running shorter distances to generate speed in longer distances, is a technique for any level of athlete.  Particularly runners who are in the kind of shape in which they can control speed as needed, generating top-end speed in races is the optimal time for a runner to feel faster, and ultimately gain confidence in their ability to grab a gear (run faster) if and when needed.  Though this can be done in practice as well, nothing truly mimics the feeling of competing against a cross-town rival, thus the reason to enter your runners in races shorter than their traditional.  Therefore, if you are looking for a way to get you or your runners over the hump of a plateau, peak for a new personal best time, or increase confidence in your runners ability to be fast for a sustained period of time, then make an effort to find at least one meet to race at a shorter distance.  If you want to run a fast mile, run an 800m, and if you want to run a fast 800m, then run the 400m, and so on.  The objective is to feel a new top-end speed while racing shorter distances, meanwhile providing confidence and the ability to change pace on-cue in the longer distances.

Parents, before districts encourage your children to talk with their coaches about this speed-play strategy.  Coaches, give this theory a shot in all of your athletes.  You never know, you could even find a new event for a few of your runners!  Regardless, it will most certainly pay dividends!


Whisper Runner of the Week (& Testimonial) - Ethan Harper of Lincoln HS (Portland)

Congratulations to Ethan Harper, a freshman from Lincoln High School (Portland), who has been on fire this track season!  Ethan is a hybrid of sorts, having run everything from the 200m to the 3k, with highly respectable times and personal records in each. 

Whisper Runners Ethan Harper and Serena Smith (Union HS) take a moment to say hello as their paths crossed at the University of Oregon Relays High School Invitational on April 14-15.

Whisper Runners Ethan Harper and Serena Smith (Union HS) take a moment to say hello as their paths crossed at the University of Oregon Relays High School Invitational on April 14-15.

Ethan was one of a handful of freshman racing last weekend in the Oregon Relays, where he participated in two relay events and the 800m Invitational race.  So far this season, Ethan has improved his 400m time by 1.5-seconds over last year, running 53.40.  In the 800m, he has been equally as impressive, running 2:04.88, which is nearly three seconds faster than last year!  His 400m is the fifth fastest freshman time in the state of Oregon, while his 800m time is in the top three for freshman!  He is also in the top-12 of all freshman times in the 1500m in the state of Oregon.  To say Ethan is versatile would be an understatement!

Having worked with Ethan for over two years, I couldn't help but ask him to provide a testimonial of his time with Whisper Running:

"Starting in the middle of seventh grade, I began working out with Dave and immediately discovered that running would be the most important love-hate relationship of my life. Coming out of seventh grade cross-country season, I was best described as an average runner right in the middle of all my races, and someone who absolutely loathed the feeling of running hard. Little did I know that within a few months I would find a passion for this sport and that I would always be looking forward to my next opportunity to compete.  As I started running with Dave, that contempt for running hard diminished, as after workout after workout I felt stronger, faster, and braver than before. Thus, I came out just about every weekend to have my butt kicked and my heart all the stronger for it. When track season finally came around and I found that I had the tools and skills to race well, competing suddenly found a place of love inside of my heart. As we continued to work, Dave built character and a seemingly insatiable urge to get faster in me as my focus always turned to the future and my next opportunity to race. My higher performance in school and my general happiness seemed to coincide directly with the drive for excellence that Dave instilled in me. Now I find myself a better person, who has a strong desire to compete and seek out the best from within, aspects that could not be found with such intensity in the kid who first started working with Dave two years ago."

Major props to you, Ethan Harper, on your outstanding accomplishments so far this season, and I look forward to watching your continued efforts pay dividends!

Ethan is a fierce competitor in every event, including the 4x400m relay.