Into the Wild Running Series: Preserving urban wilderness on the run
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Amy Markle, Urban Wildland Half Marathon & 5K Director and Wood Lake Nature Center Naturalist, and has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Minneapolis Running.
Last June, I had the privilege of partaking in an early morning run down Zion Canyon before the hordes of tourists awakened. I remember being awestruck by the scenery around me; it was the same awe I experience when spotting Bald Eagles on long runs along the Minnesota River bottoms, catching a glimpse of a coyote in the prairie at Wood Lake Nature Center on a short lunch run, and smelling blossoms in late spring as I run along the orchard at Carpenter Nature Center.
We are so lucky to live in an urban setting like the Twin Cities, where so many amazing wild spaces have been preserved and protected. Over the winter, a few other race directors and I got together to discuss the possibility of developing a race series to connect our events and their similar missions: to preserve, protect, and educate about the natural world. Out of several more meetings, the Into the Wild Running Series was created with the goal of promoting these running events and, in turn, encouraging support of our wild spaces.
The Into the Wild Running Series
The Into the Wild Running Series offers a variety of scenery, location, and distances. Both trail and road running are represented with these events, as well as a variety of awe-inspiring natural settings: orchards, wetland, river bottoms, and prairie bluff tops. The three events offer distances ranging from the 5K to the half marathon.
To officially participate in the series, runners must register for the series itself ($50) and at least two of the three participating events: the Apple Blossom Races (May 21), Urban Wildland Half Marathon and 5K (July 29), and the Mendota Bottoms Trail Run (August 19).
The Apple Blossom Races
Carpenter Nature Center’s Apple Blossom Races, held on Sunday, May 21, are the first runs on the series calendar. This well-organized event has become a staple for many runners; it’s still going strong after 32 years! The event has gained loyal fans with its picturesque course through the rolling hills along the St. Croix River, concluding with a finish at a fragrant apple orchard. The Apple Blossom provides a great training run for those running Grandma’s Marathon, as well as a solid stand-alone half marathon challenge. Participants can choose from the half marathon, 10K, or 5K. Runners receive finisher shirts, finish-line food from local sponsors (the pizza and chocolate milk are amazing), and half marathon finishers receive medals. All proceeds support environmental education programming at Carpenter Nature Center and the maintenance to preserve and protect 725 wild acres.
The Urban Wildland Half Marathon and 5K
The Urban Wildland Half Marathon and 5K is the next in the series sequence on Saturday, July 29. The flat, fast courses wind through the many green spaces in the City of Richfield, including Wood Lake Nature Center. Runners will enjoy a course that is diverse in scenery, providing both shaded urban boulevards and trail running through forests and along wetlands, lakes, and prairies. The Urban Wildland is a favorite of many runners as they gear up for Twin Cities Marathon in the fall. All runners receive a finisher shirt, handmade finisher medal, and organic foods at the finish line. All proceeds from the event support Wood Lake Nature Center’s environmental education programming with Richfield Public Schools; each student, from kindergarten through fifth grade, visits Wood Lake three times a year with their science classes.
Mendota Bottoms Trail Run
Mendota Bottoms Trail Run rounds out the series on Saturday, August 19. Runners can register for either the 10-mile or the 5K. Both courses run along the Minnesota River bottoms, starting by the historic Sibley House in Mendota. This urban wilderness provides an amazing opportunity for runners to enjoy views of the river, wildlife, and beautiful river-bottom ecosystem. I ran this 10-miler last year and thoroughly enjoyed the trail, comradery with other runners, and the cold beer at Lucky’s 13 Pub at the finish line (Lucky’s is an event sponsor). All proceeds go to Fort Snelling State Park, specifically, the maintenance of the river bottom trail that winds through it.
More Race Series Details
Proceeds from the “Into the Wild Running Series” will support all three sites. Each participant will receive a soft shell running jacket with an embroidered Into the Wild Running Series logo. The jackets can be ordered in gender-specific cuts. Also, the series is putting together several group runs throughout the weeks leading up to each race, so runners can take part in training and comradery with other series participants.
For all event details, please check out the event website and social media pages. I hope to see you at the events this summer and out on the trails!