This morning we woke up to about 4 inches of snow in our driveway — enough to (yippee!) warrant placing traction on my running shoes. Yes, this is the mind of a winter-running-loving girl: fresh, soft snow + time to run = happy heart (and feet). I headed out on the blanketed roads near my house just as the sun broke through the overcast sky and the big, fat flakes let up a little.

This weather has me thinking about a local race I always look forward to this time of year: the Farmland 5K European Style XC Challenge. Now in its third year, this event attracts hundreds of runners (and bikers, thanks to a super cool bike race option) who don’t let frigid temps, snow and ice get in their way of some solid and seriously fun outdoor exercise. The Farmland 5K follows the Swedish/Norwegian saying of “There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.”

MRG is again partnering with the Farmland 5K, and I can’t wait to run this (hopefully snow-covered) off-road course with my family on Dec. 6. Last year Andrew and I ran the race together, and though it was especially cold, we had so much fun and warmed up afterward with hot chili and bonfires that are part of the post-race party. Race founder and running coach Lisa Taylor is behind the event (she also created springtime’s Run the Ridge 10K Team Relay). “We really hope people will join in no matter the weather, and come out and join us by the warm fires after the races,” Lisa says. “The plan has always been that we want the event to be naturally tough, a la Mother Nature, and that’s why we call it a ‘challenge.’ This is not one of those events where folks wait to check the weather before signing up.”

Here’s more of what she had to say about this year’s races:

MRG-Farmland2014LogoHow would you describe the Farmland 5K, especially for readers who may be just be learning about this northern Michigan race?

The first Saturday of December is likely a classic winter day, but not too snowy. The Farmland 5K cross country event was designed to embrace year-round outdoor running. We created an event that celebrates running much like folks might have in the late 1800s, over hill and dale. After the race, we provide hot food and hot fires and a great awards celebration.

A bike race was added to the Farmland — why was this important to you, and what’s the feedback you’ve received from participants in this event?

We have a strong biking community and offering an event on completely different terrain would be something unique for our local cyclists. The format for the event is a repeat loop (1.8 miles x 6 laps), and riders can use any type of bike, and we will recognize bike types in the awards – mountain, fat bike, cross, or single-speed. Plus we have a 12 & under division to encourage youth participation.

The Farmland 5K also includes a bike race.
The Farmland 5K also includes a bike race.

Anything new for 2014?

New to the race this year, the bike event will circle through the village with each lap, allowing the runners to spectate and cheer the bikers on. We also welcome a new title sponsor, Keen Technical Solutions, a local company that really supports active living.

What do you feel runners like most about these race?

Runners like that the course is a one-of-a-kind. It is completely on soft terrain, in a contained area on a dedicated cross country course. We have many events in the area that use the same roads and routes, so participants get a nice change of pace, and also a bit of a challenge from the “barriers” we place on the course. The barriers are mostly for fun, and to give the event the European flavor.

Ready for rolling hills and beautiful countryside scenery?
Ready for rolling hills and beautiful countryside scenery?

Any training or racing tips for runners and bikers?

The 5K is a perfect event for either super fit people and for not-so-fit as well! For those wanting to run fast, I recommend cross country racing spikes.

For bikers, I suggest checking the weather carefully leading up to the event. In case there is snow, bikers will want to take a look at the type of tire they have, or if they own a fat bike, using that would make snowy conditions less challenging. Otherwise, it’s a great event to be out and enjoying the seasons, with like-minded people.

MRG-FarmlandAwards2013What can you tell us about the awards, finishers’ medal, post-race party?

The awards for the race are plentiful and so unique! This year we will be using reclaimed barnwood from Lewie Rasho’s barn, some posts that are estimated to be over 100 years old. If you look closely at the wood you can see that it was hand-planed. Very cool.

The finishers medal is actully our signature “tractor” this year, a Kubota, thanks to Ginop Sales.

We make a big celebration about honoring the winners in age categories and invite them for a photo on the podium, made of stacked straw bales. The backdrop for photos is one of Lewie Rasho’s five tractors.

Ready to sign up for the Farmland 5K? Register here » (Prices go up Nov. 23)

This event supports Michigan Land Use Institute’s “Taste the Local Difference” and Norte Youth Cycling.

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