Inaugural space race challenges participants to aim for the stars

Outer space is a vast unknown in many ways. But the Geauga Park District’s Dark Sky Park aims to shed light on some of the mysteries of space through educational opportunities like its upcoming Space Race.

Outer space is a vast unknown in many ways.

But the Geauga Park District’s Dark Sky Park aims to reveal some of its mysteries through educational opportunities such as its upcoming Space Race.

The event — which took place rain or shine from 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 1 on the 0.85-mile Planetary Trail at Observatory Park, 10610 Clay Street — is calling on all runners, joggers and walkers to complete as many laps as possible during those two hours.

Entry fee is $20 if paid online by September 30, or $25 on race day and registration is required.

The Planetary Trail course is a two-hour, chip-timed, flat aggregate surface loop by GCXS Race Timing & Management that will provide interpretive screens focused on each planet in the solar system.

Along the route is a glimpse of the base of the Great Pyramid of Giza and a feature of Stonehenge.

“Anyone can set a goal or challenge themselves,” said Trevor Wearstler, outdoor education specialist at GPD. “We have created an opportunity for runners or walkers of all skill levels to participate in this unique race.”

Each completed lap will symbolize an amount of travel through the solar system. For example, one lap of 0.85 miles would take participants to Mercury, four laps would take them to Mars, and 10 laps would take them to Pluto, he said.

“Hopefully the participants will take the opportunity to push each other for one more lap,” Wearstler said. “The course and structure of the race is based on our solar system. I’d like to see people treat racing like a space adventure, with each lap taking you further into the unknown. Although not on the scale of the solar system, I think it will give participants a real sense of the vastness of space.

Wearstler credits the concept to GPD volunteer Jann Glove, who helps with the Astrotots program at Observatory Park.

“I just took the concept of running from endurance running – running as far as you can in a set amount of time,” Wearstler added. “However, with our two-hour time limit and a maximum distance of 13.6 miles, or 16 laps, we’re essentially running multiple races at once.”

He said every 0.85 mile loop takes you away from the Sun. One turn takes you to Mercury, two to Venus, three to Earth and so on until you leave the influence of the Sun.

The Space Race will be fully self-guided, participants can go as long or shorter as they wish.

A lap (the minimum distance to run for a ribbon) is just under a mile, but the 16 possible laps (13.6 miles) is a little more than a half marathon (13.1 miles), according to GPD.

“If I was running the race, I would aim for halfway or beyond,” Wearstler said. “Anyone who makes it past the eighth lap and beyond will have gone faster than the speed of light, if we measure that distance with the speed of light.”

Holly Sauder, GPD’s special events coordinator, said she hopes participants will enjoy this race and learn a little more about the solar system.

“We also hope attendees experience Observatory Park if they haven’t already,” Sauder added. “We will be offering planetarium shows and night sky viewing, weather permitting.”

The first 250 people to register receive guaranteed race t-shirts and everyone who completes at least one lap receives a finishing metal plus a ribbon showing the distance covered in the two-hour time limit and “lots of goodies” to go. take home to commemorate their Space Race experience. Prizes will go to the top three men and women, according to the GPD.

“Whether this becomes an annual event or not, people might be surprised to learn that Observatory Park has been open for 10 years now, which makes the race a fun, unofficial celebration of the park,” said Wearstler.

Participants can register at www.geaugaparkdistrict.org.