by Janet I. Martineau
Forget about running with the bulls in Spain....how about running with the deer at the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge in Saginaw, Michigan.
Or walking amid them and other wild critters.
The refuge and the Friends of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge volunteers are co-sponsoring the third Wild Goose Chase 5K run/walk, set for the morning of Saturday, Sept. 24. Registration is 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. with the competition starting at 9 a.m. -- runners first followed by walkers.
“Participants run on knee-friendly flat, natural surfaces -- gravel roads, and dirt and grass trails -- unlike many 5K events which are on hard paved surfaces,” says Becky Goche, the visitor services manager at the refuge.
“And the race route follows a part of the Wildlife Drive, goes into an area normally closed to visitors and then returns on the Ferguson Bayou Trail. Through wooded, tranquil areas rather than amid urban traffic.
“Runners and walkers have a good chance of seeing or possibly almost running into refuge wildlife.”
The Wild Goose Chase had 112 participants in its inaugural year of 2008, says Goche, and 60 the following year. The event skipped last year because of the construction of the seven-mile wildlife drive route, which will be closed to vehicle traffic the morning of Sept. 24.
“Ages in the first two years ranged from 7 to just under 70 years old. Many people came from the Tri-City area, but we also had some folks from Lansing show up.”
Trophies are awarded to first and second place overall male and female runners. First through third place winners in eight age groups receive medals. And medals are awarded to the top five overall male and female walkers. The event is open to people of all ages, children included.
Early registration (now through Sept. 16) is $20 with a T-shirt or $15 without a T-shirt. And late registration (Sept. 17 to the morning of the race) is $15, with no T-shirts available.
To register, print the registration form off the web site at http://www.fws.gov/midwest/Shiawassee/documents/wildgooseflyer_2011.pdf and mail it to Wild Goose Chase, 4941 Clunie, Saginaw 48638. Make the check out to Friends of Shiawassee NWR.
Restrooms are available on the race site, which begins at the end of Curtis Road west off of M-13. Water and snacks are available at the finish line.
For more information, contact Goche at (989) 759-1669 or email her at Becky_Goche@fws.gov.
Participants can pick up their packet and shirts ahead of time -- from 4-6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, at the Green Point Environmental Center, 3010 Maple in Saginaw -- or during the registration time the day of the event.
Goche says at least one other national wildlife refuge hosts a 5K run/walk through its wilderness, but that they are not commonplace among the nation’s more than 540 refuges.
The Shiawassee refuge spans 9,501 acres of bottomland-hardwood forests, rivers, marshes, managed pools, fields and croplands. It is located on what is called the MIssissippi Flyway for migrating birds, and thus hosts more than 270 species of birds each year.
The American Birding Association has designated the refuge as a "U.S. Important Bird Area" because of that flyway location and the fact southern James Bay Canada geese use the refuge -- hence the name of the 5K race which occurs during fall migration.