My involvement with the Urbana Park District began 40 years ago on a cold snowy Thanksgiving Day at Crystal Lake Park when I joined about 40 other hardy runners running through the park in the annual Turkey Trot. (Last Thanksgiving the Park District celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot with more than 1000 participating.) At that time, I realized that Crystal Lake Park was a perfect venue for running and walking and with the park district’s support we began hosting a regular Monday night fun run at the park. We chose Crystal Lake Park not only for its beauty, but 2 laps around the park measured exactly a 5K. Over the many years we sponsored the fun run, runners of all ages from all over central Illinois would attend this regular Monday event and experience the park in all its glory through its spring, summer and fall seasons. These fun runs are still happening but now they are hosted by the Second Wind Running Club on Tuesday nights and instead of Crystal Lake they are now held at Meadowbrook Park. Both runners and now walkers participate in these fun runs and on a good night upwards of 100 people or more experience the prairie views along with the deer and pheasants of Meadowbrook as they run through the park.
Besides weekly fun runs, both Crystal Lake Park and Meadowbrook Park are perfect hosts for numerous other event walks and runs throughout the year. The Illinois Marathon organizers purposely planned the marathon and half marathon course to run through Meadowbrook to showcase this unique running area to the thousands of out of town runners who participate in the race every year. It is the seventh mile of the marathon course is now run through Meadowbrook Park.
Fitness and running is my passion. I truly believe that exercise is a fountain of youth. The latest research overwhelming suggests that fitness activities greatly improve our mental and physical health. The Urbana Park District with its excellence in its parks, its fitness programs and its indoor and outdoor public pools have and are continuing to contribute to the health and wellbeing of our community. Little did I know that 40 years ago when I participated in that little Urbana Park District Turkey Trot that I would still be running through the Urbana Parks (although much slower) and I would be asked to serve as a trustee on the Urbana Parks Foundation. It is an honor to be involved in supporting the Urbana Park District. Over the last 40 years the Urbana Park District has certainly enhanced my life and improved the lives of the members of our community.