Deborah Gordon had an "aha!" moment last summer while canoeing in Whitefish, Mont., during the Glacier Challenge multi-sport relay race.

Deborah Gordon had an "aha!" moment last summer while canoeing in Whitefish, Mont., during the Glacier Challenge multi-sport relay race.

"It was all a good feeling for a good cause, and I thought, 'Ashland could do this,' " says Gordon, an Ashland doctor who is also president of the Ashland Rowing Club.

The result is the Siskiyou Challenge, a 46-mile, four-sport, five-leg relay race that involves running, mountain biking, road biking and kayaking. The event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 25 in Ashland.

What Gordon witnessed in Montana was a community effort to have fun and raise funds for a local nonprofit, the Flathead Youth Home. She realized that an Ashland event could help a cause she feels passionate about: improving health while supporting local farmers.

"Hands down, no question for me, the Rogue Valley Farm to School is the organization I wanted to do it for," says Gordon. "I'm a physician and work a lot with preventive medicine ... and an incredibly important component to a healthy lifestyle is vital, local agriculture."

Rogue Valley Farm to School is part of a national network of programs designed to educate children about the source of their food and to promote inclusion of local foods in school meals. Local farmers and government natural resources agencies are key parts of this network.

"Children, at an early age, learn the values and the pleasures of farming, and the schools and the farms support each other," Gordon explains.

Gordon decided to base her new event on that five-sport relay race in Montana. The result is a 46-mile race involving solo entrants and teams of two to five people, followed by an outdoor party with live music, booths for vendors, and — of course — local food.

The race begins at 7:30 a.m. in front of ScienceWorks Hands On Museum in Ashland, following a mandatory pre-race briefing at 7 a.m. for competitors. The first leg of the course is a seven-mile run to Emigrant Lake. Runners then paddle a kayak around buoys for approximately two miles.

Next is a 24.5-mile road-bike ride through the streets of Ashland and Talent, ending at the band shell in Lithia Park. Racers then switch to mountain bikes for 9.5 miles of what Gordon calls "a relentless uphill course" in the Ashland watershed, ending at Triangle Park. The final leg of the course is a 3.4-mile run back to ScienceWorks, passing by four city parks.

After the race, in front of ScienceWorks, an Asian drumming demonstration by Ashland Taiko will be offered at 11 a.m., followed by a performance at 1 p.m. by the band Eight Dollar Mountain.

At an awards ceremony at noon, the Ashland Outdoor Store will donate $100 gift certificates to the winners of the men's and women's teams, and $50 to second-place teams. Thirty other local businesses and physicians are also sponsoring the event.

If you want to be part of the Siskiyou Challenge but would rather start small, consider the one-mile fun run/walk. After the main race starts, registration opens for the fun run at 9 a.m. The run starts at 9:30.

To register for the Siskiyou Challenge, visit

For more information on Rogue Valley Farm to School, visit

Daniel Newberry is a freelance writer living in the Applegate Valley. Reach him at