New race planned for state park

Running 13.1 miles up and down some of the steepest hills in Brown County State Park may sound more like work than fun.

But that added challenge — and the beauty of the park in fall — is precisely what will draw runners to the Brown County Hilly Half, Race Director Bill Bartley predicts.

The Nov. 12 race will be the first half-marathon in Brown County, and organizers said they hope it will become an annual tradition.

The event is primarily a fundraiser for the YMCA, said Executive Director Kim Robinson.

However, it also serves the YMCA’s mission of building healthy spirits, minds and bodies.

Half-marathons — or mini-marathons — are the fastest growing segment of the running market, Bartley said.

They offer a challenge that’s less intimidating or grueling than a full marathon, said Brown County YMCA personal trainer Deanne Weaver, who’s run the Boston Marathon.

The Hilly Half also will include a 5K walk and run and 10K run, Bartley said.

Organizers are budgeting for 500 participants.

The hope is to keep participants in the county the entire weekend, said YMCA board member Brian Fenneman.

“If they’ve never been to Brown County — never been to the park — once they come, once they’re introduced to the park, they’ll want to keep coming back,” Weaver said.

“Typically, an event is not someplace you would drag your family to,” Bartley said.

“But to go somewhere that’s a park, that has stuff that everybody can be doing, and it has the Nashville feel — there’s a big draw there, for the whole family.”

Events will kick off with a Brown County McDonald’s-sponsored children’s race on the Salt Creek Trail, Fenneman said.

That will start late in the afternoon Nov. 11. That day, Hilly Half runners also can complete late registration and enjoy a pasta dinner at the park, hosted by Big Woods, with all proceeds benefiting the YMCA, Fenneman said. The dinner, with entertainment, will be open to anyone, whether or not they plan to run.

On the morning of Nov. 12, live bands will play during warm-ups at the starting line, near the park’s Lower Shelter inside the north gate.

Runners will start up the park road behind the Saddle Barn to the Nature Center. They’ll run to the end of the Taylor Ridge campground, then turn around and head back to the park road.

The second fork veers onto another road on top of a ridge and turns around just short of Hohen Point before heading back to the Saddle Barn.

Bartley said he expects the final downhill stretch to yield many runners a record on their mile splits.

When the racers return, they will be greeted by a Big Woods pizza party, music and a chance to swap run stories, Fenneman said.

“That’s the best part of the race for everybody, at the end, sharing their stories,” Weaver said.