The Potomac Valley Audubon Society is now accepting registrations for its ninth annual "This Race is for the Birds!" run/walk event, which will be held on Saturday, April 24 on the campus of the National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown.
The Society is expanding the event significantly this year. In past years, it was mainly focused on a simple 5K run. This year, it will feature two professionally timed races-one 4.9 miles long and another 7.7 miles long.
In the past, between 75 and 125 runners have turned out for the 5K race. With the new expanded format, the organization is expecting 250 to 300 runners to compete this year.
Participants kick off last year's PVAS 5k run, walk. Registration is open for this year's race.
There will also be a self-timed 2-mile community jog/walk for families and those who prefer a slower pace, and a 1-mile "Fun Run" for children under 10 years of age.
The 4.9- and 7.7-mile races will follow trails that wind through the forests and fields of the 538-acre NCTC campus.
The 2-mile jog/walk will follow a course that will be very user-friendly for families with small children, and trail-friendly baby joggers will be appropriate and encouraged.
The two races will begin at 9:00 a.m. The jog/walk will begin shortly afterwards and the children's Fun Run will be held at about 10:45 a.m.
The children's Fun Run will be free. Fees for the other portions of the event will range from $15 to $25.
All proceeds will be used to support Potomac Valley Audubon's programs for children, and all fees will be tax deductible.
To register or get more information, go to the race website at www.raceforthebirds.org or call 304-876-6784.
The idea to expand this annual PVAS event came from Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, a Harpers Ferry physician and PVAS member who founded and co-directed the very successful "Freedom's Run" marathon that was launched in the Eastern Panhandle last fall.
"I applaud the PVAS for expanding the format of the race," says Dr. Cucuzzella. "The main theme here is to give a unique opportunity for all. New runners will have an opportunity to challenge themselves beyond the standard 5k on some beautiful trails. For the experienced runner, the 7.7-miler will be a real challenge and certainly worth the drive if you live anywhere within a couple hours of here. You will lose track of time and distance on the NCTC campus's beautiful trails, which are rarely open to the public."
Another main goal is to create a family-friendly outdoor experience. This is a major priority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which operates the National Conservation Training Center. "This event is a natural fit for us," says NCTC Director Jay Slack. "It's a way to get people outside, away from TV and video games. People who connect with the outdoors are more apt to participate in conservation efforts."
The co-directors of this year's PVAS event are James and Suzy Munnis, of Shepherdstown. Both are avid runners and bikers with years of experience with events of this kind.
Dr. Cucuzzella has also been helping to plan the event, as have Tom Shantz, of Falling Waters, who was also very involved with the Freedom's Run marathon, and PVAS Board member Carolyn Thomas, of Scrabble.
"We're so fortunate to have such great partners," said PVAS Executive Director Kristin Alexander. "With NCTC hosting the event, Jim and Suzy directing it, and so many other veteran runners and Freedom's Run people involved, we couldn't ask for a better team to make this year's event bigger and better than ever before."
Both NCTC and PVAS are taking steps to reduce the race's environmental impact. This year's race t-shirts will contain a blend of organic cotton and a fabric made from recycled soda bottles. PVAS is partnering with Karen Valentine of Go Green Gals to help with recycling, composting and overall waste reduction efforts.
The Potomac Valley Audubon Society is a United Way of the Eastern Panhandle partner agency and a member of the Combined Federal Campaign.