By Zach Hudson, Intern Naturalist
As skiers begin to mourn the vanishing snow our thoughts at River Bend turn to maple trees and the production of maple syrup. In recent years, our maple syrup season has culminated with our Maple Syrup Fun Run 5K run and 1 mile walk event. This exciting gathering has become one of our fastest growing fundraisers, with over 200 participants last year. The year 2013 brings some exciting changes for the Maple Syrup Fun Run, with a new race distance and new courses, as well as real maple syrup for every participant.
As a runner myself I was especially excited about the prospect of creating new courses and adding a 10k distance to our event. We decided early on to try to make our new 5k course slightly easier than in past years to make it more appealing to casual runners. We quickly realized that you can’t make an easy course using River Bend’s trails, but I think what we came up with will be a fun course that should be doable for anyone. Our 5k will leave from prairie pond and cross the prairie on raccoon to a crossing of Rustad Road. From there the course will descend to the river along Cherry and Dairy Lane before returning to the road via Rabbit and Teepee Tonka. Runners will cross the road and complete a rolling final kilometer overlooking upper pond before returning to raccoon to head back to the start/finish line. A full map of the course is at this link: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/188158516
Since we made our 5k course mellower we decided to use the 10k to take full advantage of all of River Bend’s challenging terrain. Much of the 5k course is included in the 10k, but with some added bite. The course opens with a grueling climb up Maple to the walnut grove. After following Walnut around to the paved section of Raccoon, racers will cross Rustad Road and descend to the railroad tracks via Cherry and continue on Teepee Tonka to Dairy Lane. Runners will then cross over the Straight River for a challenging climb to River Bend’s south entrance and a hilly run through the south side of the Nature Center. After crossing back over the river runners will follow Rabbit under the railroad tracks and around to Arrowhead and Deer before rejoining the 5k course at Rustad Road. The 10k concludes the same rolling finish stretch as the 5k. The full course map is here: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/188171998
In addition to our new running courses we have also moved our 1 mile walking route. We tried to create a walk that minimized overlap with the running courses while providing walkers with great scenery and views of the running courses. As we were developing the course we realized that moving the walk to the paved trails would make it more accessible to people with mobility issues or parents wanting to push strollers. The route also takes in some River Bend favorites such as Honor Point and Turtle Pond and offers views of the 5K course as the runners climb up the final hill. A map of that route is here: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/177012142.
One sad byproduct of the Maple Syrup Fun Run’s rapid growth is that we have outgrown our capacity for serving pancakes at our annual Pancake Brunch out of Trailside Center. As a result the brunch will take a hiatus this year while we work at finding other facilities for the future. It is possible that a separate pancake event will be held at another time this spring. Since runners won’t get to sample maple syrup on their pancakes the day of the race, we have added sample bottles of Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup to participant gifts. We are excited to welcome Anderson’s Maple Syrup and Boston’s Restaurant & Sports Bar, RoadID as new sponsors of our event, along with returning sponsors District One Hospital and Reliance Bank. Thank you to our sponsors for helping us make our race possible!
Come join us at River Bend Nature Center to celebrate maple syrup and the coming of spring at our Maple Syrup Fun Run 10K/5K/1M. We are excited to see this event continue to grow and improve as River Bend moves into the future, we hope to see you there!
Zach Hudson is an intern naturalist for the River Bend Nature Center, a member supported non-profit dedicated to helping people discover, enjoy, understand and preserve the incredible natural world that surrounds us. Contact River Bend at email@example.com or 507-332-7151.