What happens when you combine a love for trail running together with a passion for supporting youth mental health programs? You form your own non-profit trail race company, The Storm Trail Race Series!
My name is Many Hansel and my husband, Bill, and I did just that back in the spring of 2019. We are both ultrarunners, which means we enjoy very long trail races at distances many people don’t even like to drive! We also both have a passion for getting people out on the trails and exploring the beautiful Driftless area.
Trail running began for me as a combination of my love for hiking and my love for running. Why not do them at the same time? Well, because I was slow, I was intimidated, scared to fail, to be last, to have to walk part of the route — the reasons for not starting were endless.
However, a fabulous group of trail runners took me under their wing and started me on my trail running journey. Here I am years later, having completed two 50-mile races and a handful of other ultra events.
I wanted to give back that feeling of belonging to others who wanted to try their hand (or should I say legs?) at trail running. I wanted to make them feel comfortable to join in and feel like they could challenge themselves without the fear of failing.
To do so, we established immediately that all of the events that we would hold would never have cutoffs. Many races have limits to the time that participants can be out on the route. We will not pull anyone out of our events because time is running out. We will be there to celebrate that final finisher just as we do the first-place finisher.
Our first event in 2019 was Storm the Farm. What an amazing experience this was for all involved! We had around 150 participants doing a variety of distances from 5K up to 43K. With no cutoff, we hoped that participants that had always wanted to give an ultramarathon distance a shot would do so with the 43K. We also wanted to encourage people of all paces to join in with no worry of being pulled off the course mid-race.
One couple, Julie and Jay Dureske, participated in the event with the goal to simply finish the 5K event. And they did just that. Then they kept going and going out on the trails for the remainder of 2019, collecting mile after mile until they had reached their goal of 100 miles of hiking! It was awesome to watch them reach that goal and establish a goal of 200 miles for 2020! We love seeing people fall in love with being on the trails and want to bring that to as many people as we can!
While accomplishing that, we also want to use our events as a catalyst to raise funds for area youth mental health programs. We have relationships with several local organizations including Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center, Family & Children’s Center, and Solomon’s Song. We collect donations from our participants and also donate a large portion of the race profits to these organizations to help support their youth mental health programs.
Storm the Farm 2021 is coming up in July at Briggs Outdoors. Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center will be the chosen recipient of this event’s donations.
Watch our website <&underline>www.thestormtrs.org</&underline> for more information or to donate. Thanks for your support, Winona!
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