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City News

While the 2020 Urban Wildland races are virtual, the runners’ sweat is still very real

Post Date:06/22/2020 5:00 PM

During a normal, non-global pandemic summer, the City of Richfield hosts several familiar events including Red, White and Blue Days to Penn Fest. Sandwiched between those two annual events are the Urban Wildland half marathon and 5k races. In past years, this event has brought more than a thousand people to Veterans Park to beat the pavement and test their cardiovascular mettle.

Due to the ongoing worldwide COVID-19 public health crisis, many annual road races have been canceled or postponed. The race director of Urban Wildland races, Brianna Rodgers did the opposite; she expanded the race by adding two more distances and changed the format from in-person to virtual.

“The health and safety of our participants, volunteers, staff, and community is our top priority. We know many will be disappointed with this decision as they have put hours into training and many travel from outside of Richfield to participate,” remarked race director and Wood Lake Nature Center naturalist Brianna Rodgers. “We hope past participants and those considering signing up for one of our races still choose to lace up those shoes for a great cause.”

One of the main reasons that the race is still taking place is to benefit the area’s youth. Proceeds from the race fund the Wood Lake Nature Center’s environmental-education partnership with the Richfield Public Schools.

The partnership, which has spanned 50 years, helps all of the city’s pre-K through fifth grade students visit the nature center twice each year. Since 1971, Wood Lake has received more 300,000 visits by Richfield students.    

“Without the proceeds from the Urban Wildland races, the partnership with the Richfield Public School District would not be possible,” explained former race director and current Recreation Services Director Amy Markle. “The city’s youth love their experiences at Wood Lake. Some former students have come up to us 10, 15, even 20 years later and told us the Wood Lake programs were some of their favorite memories from their educational years.”

Obviously, with national and state health officials dissuading people from hosting large gatherings an in-person race was not possible. In light of that, race officials decided to go virtual.

As a virtual race, participants sign up for a distance of their choosing and then pick their own time and route before submitting their final time to race officials. Runners, joggers and walkers can even start their race from their own front door or on a treadmill from inside their home.

Race officials also added a 10 mile and 10K distance to the race.

“Due to the race being virtual, we were not limited by physical logistics of setting up a race course and maintaining road closures. We decided to add two more race distance options in order to reach a wider audience and offer more options to participants,” said Rodgers. “We also wanted this race to be accessible for everyone! Whether you are a beginner runner or elite, young or old, sprinter or endurance runner, you can participate.”

To be counted as an official participant, all you need to do is register and submit your finishing time between July 25 and August 1.

“I encourage people to sign up for the race for three reasons: community, self and environment,” declared Wood Lake Nature Center Manager Paul Smithson. “Community because the proceeds support field trips for schools; self because participants can set a goal, train, and then challenge themselves to beat a time; and environment because we strive to employ sustainable practices at every step of the planning to minimize our environmental impact while still having a fun event.”

Participants interested in signing up can visit:

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