Rotary Fun Run preview

The 5K run that has become a local tradition on the Saturday of Steele County Free Fair week will again be contested that morning at Owatonna High School, but with a new name and cause this year. (Press file photo)

OWATONNA — The 5K run that has become a local tradition on the Saturday of Steele County Free Fair week will again be contested that morning at Owatonna High School, but with a new name and a new cause this year.

Formerly the STRIVE Run, the event is now known as the Rotary Fun Run, and money raised will be donated to We All Play, the organization committed to building an inclusive playground and Miracle Field in Owatonna. In addition, this year’s run will offer a team competition, rather than only individualism.

Anyone can create a team of five-10 runners, and the five fastest times will count toward a total team time, said Rotarian Kim Cosens, who has taken over as organizer of the run this year. Teams are encouraged to challenge one another — perhaps local businesses, departments within a company, or church congregations might elect to compete against each other Saturday — and even dress up in special outfits as “another element of fun.”

Cosens and others wanted to focus even more on the “fun” elements this year, and a team concept seemed apropos, Cosens said. “We already have the serious runner,” but with a team element, “we could create some friendly rivalries” for casual contestants.

The top team will win a $150 gift card to Sparetime Entertainment, he said. The runners-up will get a $100 gift card to Pizza Ranch, and bronze medalists will receive $50 for Torey’s.

Because runners are competing as a team, it only made sense to offer rewards that would be for a group, like a night out at Sparetime, Pizza Ranch, or Torey’s, he said. In addition, it “supports our local businesses.”

A runner can run both as a single and as a team member and only have to pay one entry fee. Pre-registration is $25, and same-day registration is $30, but pre-registration is required for the team element. Online registration can be accomplished at https://www.active.com/owatonna-mn/running/distance-running/rotary-fun-run-5k-run-walk-event-2019. The 5K starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, and runners can compete in several different age categories. There will also be a 400-meter run for children ages 8 and under and an 800-meter run for those ages 8-12 prior to the start of the 5K.

In addition to a chance at medals and prizes, those who register receive a bag of items, a T-shirt, and — new this year — a ticket for a complimentary drink from the Steele County Free Fair Beer Garden, Cosens said. That latter addition provides “a neat connection” with the SCFF.

The awards themselves are taking “a step up” this year, too, Cosens said. Those who finish first in their categories will receive “a really nice desktop trophy” that could be placed in an office or a living room.

Winners will be “proud to display” them, he said. “They look attractive, and they could be a conversation starter.”

The 5K course, certified and chip-timed, is “an enjoyable route” with mostly smooth surfaces, Cosens said. “There’s not much uphill-downhill.”

Even if one doesn’t want to run, he or she can volunteer at the event, or be a sponsor, he said. The Fun Run already has numerous sponsors on board, but would welcome more, of course, and those interested in sponsoring can contact Brad Meier, president/CEO of the Owatonna Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, at 507-451-7970.

We All Play

The Rotary Fun Run will benefit a different local cause each year, and We All Play “is a really great cause” to start with, Cosens said. “We’re excited to set a template for future years.”

Owatonna’s Rotary clubs have been focused on supporting We All Play for more than a year, he said. “This is a great way to raise some funds and put more focus on” We All Play.

We All Play has a goal of raising $1 million for the playground and field, and roughly $675,000 has already been raised, he said. The goal is to break ground in the spring or summer of 2020.

Numerous groups and organizations have made We All Play their cause, including Owatonna’s Rotary clubs. We All Play also recently picked up $85,000 from an Owatonna Foundation grant.

The inclusive playground and Miracle Field is “a unique project, one that reaches out to all citizens of Owatonna,” said Laura Resler, executive director of the Owatonna Foundation. This “will be another wonderful amenity” in Owatonna.

The Owatonna Foundation funds only capital projects, so We All Play qualifies, and giving We All Play a grant was a unanimous decision, Resler said. “Everybody loves this project.”

We All Play is “getting really close” to making the inclusive playground and Miracle Field a reality, she added. “We’ll be really proud” when it’s completed.

The fact that so many individuals, groups, and organizations have selected We All Play as a fundraising beneficiary recently has been “very heartwarming,” Missy Ahrens, one of the project’s catalysts, explained this fall. “It’s always exciting to get a call from (an organization) saying they want to do something for us.”

The main misconception is that inclusive playgrounds are solely for those with special needs, according to Ahrens. In fact, they “are for everyone — all ages and all ability levels.”

Manthey Park was selected as the location for several reasons. The equipment at Morehouse Park is due for an update, so Manthey’s will move to Morehouse, Manthey is situated in a residential area, as opposed to Morehouse, which has a busy thoroughfare near it, and, finally, trains noisily rumble through Morehouse at regular intervals, a cacophony that can distress some children.

Playgrounds don’t intend to be exclusionary — there are no signs preventing anyone from entering — but, in effect, children with disabilities aren’t welcome at most playgrounds due to the equipment, layout, and design, Ahrens observed earlier this year. The process toward realizing an inclusive playground and Miracle Field in Owatonna has been “a long road,” but “it’ll be completely worth all the time and energy.”

Reach Reporter Ryan Anderson at 507-444-2376 or follow him on Twitter @randerson_ryan.

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