Race #47 – Running “Wild” for a Local Park, Wildwood

Mother Nature rained on my nature-themed run

Race #47: Run Wild for Wildwood Virtual 5K

The Cause: Rebuilding one of the boardwalks at Wildwood Park, Harrisburg

When my husband and I were first married, we lived in Harrisburg for two years. At that time, the city was embarking on an incredible plan to complete a 20-mile pathway, a “green belt” that would loop around the city.

This sounds ambitious and amazing–but perhaps even more incredible is that this plan was originally designed in the early 1900s, partially constructed, abandoned during World War II, forgotten and overgrown, and then rediscovered and resurrected around the time we lived there in the early 1990s. As part of that plan, the Capital Area Greenbelt would link to Wildwood Park, located about a mile from our apartment at the time.

Wildwood Park could be described as “wetlands” today, but way back in Harrisburg’s history, the site was labeled a “swamp” and unfortunately used as a dump. Over the years, the site was somewhat cleaned up and turned into a park. But in the early 90s as we were living there, the park was on the verge of a huge transformation. A nature center was being built there, with the park receiving a facelift and complete overhaul. You could see the diamond in the rough that would become today’s Wildwood.

Fast forward: My husband and I moved away for about 25 years, often visiting Harrisburg, but never visiting Wildwood to see the finalized park. Then we moved back to the capital region five years ago and we were blown away, and fell in love with Wildwood when we finally visited more than 25 years later. Now, it’s one of our favorite area parks to walk, run, bike, picnic, take our dog and visit. It’s so beautiful that it’s hard to believe–and somewhat sickening to think about–it was saved from being a dumping ground.

Two boardwalk paths meander through the wetland areas, giving you a birds-eye view (sometimes literally!) of nature. One of those boardwalk paths was recently damaged by floodwaters and closed.

The Run Wild for Wildwood Virtual 5K and 10K raised funds to help repair the boardwalk. In a very low-key, super easy format, it was free to register for the virtual race, with all runners asked to simply make a donation to the fund in the dollar amount of their choice. I was happy to do so!

Now that virtual races are popping up everywhere in today’s pandemic landscape, this race went largely undiscovered and under-the-radar. I’m sure it’s the smallest of my 50 races–only 30 people registered. Race organizers were hoping to raise $500 for the boardwalks. It looks like $360 was raised toward the repairs.

When we visit parks, we might not think or question how they came to be. It takes a core group of people who have the vision to preserve the land, including its features and wildlife, along with support, funding, the backbone to defend it against development, and a healthy mix of visitors to enjoy it vs. the care and funding needed to continue its maintenance.

Remnants of Hurricane Laura were moving through Central PA, but thankfully largely missed us, as I got up early Saturday morning to run my virtual 5K in my neighborhood. It was raining lightly, which would have felt great, except the humidity was 93%, so my “race” felt more like a slog.

But as I was running, I thought, “How perfect–Mother Nature is sending rain for today’s nature-themed run.” 🙂

UPDATE: Even though it felt like a slog, and it was 3-5 minutes slower than my typical 5K… and given that there were only 30 runners… these factors combined with an incredible first-ever: I was the first female finisher. This will likely never happen again. Also, I was 5th overall. LOL!

And I was reflecting on the “pinch-me” realization that I only have three more races until I hit my goal of 50. I have loved and cherished every minute of training, planning, connecting with causes, and racing–whether at live races or virtually as I did this morning in early morning rain and sweet solitude. I don’t know how I would have survived this pandemic situation without running. I don’t know who I would be, without running. And this year has been extra special–to be able to use my running for a greater good.

Which is why I so identify with this beautiful quote from one of my run heroes, the great Deena Kastor.

My competitive days had a short window, but I could push my mind and strengthen my positivity for a lifetime.

Deena Kastor, in her book Let Your Mind Run

Enjoy a few more photos of Wildwood’s beautiful boardwalk… ❤

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