Winter weather has descended on Sisters Country, which can make outdoor running a challenge when things get icy and slick. Cold temperatures and long, dark nights can make staying in your cozy bed quite attractive - as opposed to putting on your winter running gear and heading out the door. A little extra motivation through some goal-setting and race planning always seems to help me through this season.

I have decided to address this issue myself this winter by signing up for a race in February, which will give me that extra incentive to keep moving through the deep mid-winter. I added the extra bonus of registering for a race on the west side in order to give myself a break from the white stuff in the event that snow invades Central Oregon.

After some research using running-related websites such as Race Center Northwest ( and the Bend Foot Zone (, I came up with a list of half a dozen races that look fun, diverse, and interesting. Of course there are many other local and regional races listed on these sites to choose from as well. You will see that I picked some races that are sort of off the beaten path. I like to support events in rural areas as well as races that have been long established.

Here are some of my picks in calendar order:

The first on the list happens this Saturday, December 15. It's always fun to go to Eugene, known as the running capital of Oregon and the Eugene Holiday Half-Marathon and Hustle 10k/5k, which runs on paved paths along the Willamette River, has something for everyone. Considered a "community favorite" and put by an organization called Pink Buffalo Racing, it looks like a fun, well-established event. The website includes a good idea of registering friends and family as part of the giving spirit of Christmas.

I sort of skipped past January and all of the resolution runs to get to the core of my list, but this does not mean there aren't a number of good local runs with which to start the New Year. The core of my focus is on February, but for a race outside the area, I do recommend the Cascade Half Marathon (also 10k and 2 mile) in Turner, Oregon on January 20. The flat course on country roads has become a favorite winter race for runners around the Salem area, but Central Oregonians have discovered it in recent years as well.

On February 2, The Roaring Run at Roaring River Park, in Scio, Oregon features distances of 5k, 10k, and half-marathon on scenic, lightly traveled country roads. Scio is a small town in Linn County, 100 miles west of Sisters via Highway 20 or 22. Runners will find this course to be scenic, mostly flat, with some rolling hills.

Also on February 2 is the Bristow Trail Run in Dexter, Oregon, which includes a 50k for those ultra runners out there, but also includes 25k, 10.4 and 5.2-miles distances. Dexter is slightly south of Eugene. The loop course is 5.2 miles per loop, so you get the idea, six loops for the 50k, three loops for the 25k, two loops for the 10.4 mile and one loop for the shortest race.

On Sunday, February 10 is The Truffle Shuffle in Eugene which has been going strong for 37 years and benefits veterans through St. Vincent De Paul. With distances of 2 and 4 miles, it is unique. Courses start and finish at Alton Baker Park in Eugene. Oh, and age-group winners get decadent chocolate truffles from Euphoria Chocolate Company. A good race to go to with your Valentine.

February 17 is the day of one of my favorites on the list. The Zena Road Run has been taking place for 50 years, making the event a grandfather of road races in Oregon. Distances include 5k, 10k, and 15k, but to get the full experience I encourage you to do the long one, which was designed back in 1969 by Willamette University's track and cross-country coach Dr. Chuck Bowles. Bowles designed the hilly course to test his young runners in the off-season. At its inception racers dropped a quarter into a tin can as their race fee. It is still affordable compared to most races at $25. The race starts and finishes at the Noble Mountain Tree Farm, which is about 12 miles northwest of Salem.

Saturday, February 23 is the race I am registered for, which takes me back to my old stomping grounds at Silver Falls State Park for the Buck Mountain Mudslinger 6.6-mile trail race. I grew up in Sublimity, just off of Highway 22 east of Salem. Silver Falls is 13 more miles northeast off of 22 and is the largest state park in Oregon. The course does not run near any of the waterfalls, but does include scenic beauty and a hilly and potentially muddy trail. Part of the fun is for entrants to dress up in their best cowboy garb. This race is put on by Run Wild Adventures, which puts on a number of other races each year. Their website is .

Getting out of town for a race can be a lot of fun, but let's be sure to support all the many local runs as well as we move through winter toward spring.