Race Preview: Great Lakes Endurance Trail Run

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Upcoming trail run at Conserve School pollinates environmental mission

Great Lakes Endurance runners chase through the trails at the Iola Winter Sports Club. Photo courtesy of Jeff Crumbaugh

Environmental conservation and trail running—the pairing seems as natural as bees and blossoms.

On June 14 this year, The Conserve School near Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin will host a Great Lakes Endurance Trail Run 20K and 5K on its 1,200-acre Lowenwood property—private land not otherwise open to the public—cross pollinating the ecological missions of the school and the race organization.

While Conserve offers a semester-long program in nature study and environmental stewardship for high-school juniors, the endurance series creates an ecological classroom through the races it stages in some of the Midwest’s most beautiful locations.

The series is fiercely committed to sustainability: composting food waste, limiting use of cups and disqualifying runners who litter. Age-group prizes are local products like cheese from the Oak Grove Dairy, maple syrup from the Maas Farms and ceramic bowls made by local artists.

Jeff Crumbaugh, a science teacher at Clintonville High School and the Great Lakes Endurance Series race director, took a week-long course at Conserve School over the summer. Every day, he ran the trails that wind through the property and around a series of small lakes.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Crumbaugh

He pitched the idea of organizing a race to school officials, and received an enthusiastic response.

“There’s a clear connection between what he’s doing and what we’re trying to promote,” says Phil DeLong, admissions director at Conserve School. “We really admire what he’s doing in his race series.”

Crumbaugh started the series in 2000, with the Keweenaw Trail Running Festival near Copper Harbor, Michigan. In 2005, he staged the first Grand Island Trail Marathon and has expanded the series to include nine races this year, including two winter events for snowshoers. The courses take runners through scenic locations, including Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Porcupine Mountain State Park, in Michigan, and the Hartman Creek area, near Waupaca, Wisconsin.

“This was the idea, that we could use trail-running events as a tool for environmental education,” Crumbaugh says. “You can stand in front of a classroom and teach people about the environment, but when they’re actively engaged and surrounded by a beautiful setting, that’s a better classroom for learning.

“It’s not my goal to have big races; it’s to promote environmental education and to create an experience that’s meaningful.”

Running the trails on the Conserve property will not only be meaningful, but a rare opportunity, as the land is only open to the school’s students and staff.

“Most of my workouts happen right here on the property, because I can run right out the door,” DeLong says. “I love it. It’s rolling and scenic, with nothing overly steep and opportunities to watch wildlife.”

The course for the 20K race will be primarily on wide, cross-country ski trails, with some singletrack. The land has a great variety of northern hardwoods and hemlocks.

“We’re excited to open up this property to silent-sports enthusiasts from around the region,” DeLong says.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Crumbaugh

Details: The Conserve School Trail Run offers two distances, 20K and 5K. Entry fees are $45 for the 20K and $35 for the 5K. Registration is limited to 200 entrants. The 20K starts at 8 a.m. and the 5K starts at 8:30 a.m., on June 14.

It is also part of the 2014 Trail Runner Trophy Series.

Check the website www.greatlakesendurance.com for information on registration.

Tom Held bikes, runs and skis, and covers news for similarly active people as a freelance writer and blogger. Held lives in the Bay View neighborhood, where he counts being Dad to twin daughters part of his daily workout.

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