Run the State 5K and Hike Series returns April 18

posted by Brent Brown on March 10, 2020

What has caves, a pioneer village, sand dunes, horseback riding, some of the Hoosier State’s most scenic walking trails, dog parks, fishing, biking, golf, miles of sandy beaches, an astronaut memorial, a one-of-a-kind fire tower, camping, AND… um, bison?

The amazing array of Indiana State Parks hosting the 2020 Run the State 5K and Hike Series – that’s what!

With a total of four fun events planned as part of this annual Invest in Your Health staple, this year’s slate of hikes and run/walks will allow state employees to experience a whirlwind tour of some of Indiana’s most unique and memorable state parks.

The new Run the State season once again kicks off with a trip to Indiana Dunes State Park, a majestic northwest Indiana location that is home to three miles of beaches and three unique sand dunes. It also has a stroller and pet-friendly trail that has established itself as a favorite for casual walkers as well as avid runners.

Participants will visit the dunes Saturday, April 18, for the first Run the State 5K. Always an appropriate mid-spring debut for the series, Indiana Dunes State Park is beautiful year-round. Guests may want to dress warmly, however, as April on the shores of Lake Michigan can get a bit chilly.

Of course, that’s nothing a good run can’t fix, right?

The next stop will take us to Wells County for the first time since the summer of 2018. Ouabache State Park features a bison enclosure (home to an entire herd of majestic creatures) as well as a 100-foot fire tower built in the 1930s. The June 27 5K is bound to be a pleasant walk for employees and their families, though the course is not stroller-friendly.

Located on the banks of the Wabash River, Ouabache (which is actually pronounced “Wabash,” but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone in Bluffton who doesn’t call it “O-ba-chee”), was first recognized as a state park in 1983. It’s less than half an hour’s drive from Fort Wayne, and is perhaps one of northeast Indiana’s best kept “secrets.”

Next on the agenda is a trip to Spring Mill State Park – a first for Run the State – to hike an expansive park that features a period-perfect pioneer village and a spring-powered watermill. The first hike of the season will take place in a cavernous park seemingly frozen in time, transporting guests into 1863 to see how some Hoosier settlers lived in the midst of the American Civil War.

The hike at Spring Mill State Park is set for July 11 and should be a mid-summer blast for fledgling Run the State participants AND seasoned hikers who’ve been part of the fun since the series began in 2016.

All Hoosier state parks are steeped in history, but did you know that Fort Harrison State Park wears an important bit of Indiana’s past on its sleeve – er, uh, in its name?

The Lawrence-based park bears the moniker of former U.S. President Benjamin Harrison (you may have heard it called “Fort Ben”) who, though born in Ohio, served as a U.S. Senator for Indiana. Following his single-term presidency, he resided in Indianapolis until his death in 1901. The park bearing his name opened in 1906 and is located on part of what was once the site of Fort Benjamin Harrison.

More than a century later, the park remains an attractive option for golfers, equestrians, and anyone wanting to walk or hike some absolutely gorgeous Hoosier scenery. Paying homage to its military roots, visitors can also enjoy the park’s Museum of 20th Century Warfare.

Fort Harrison has previously served as the grand finale for the Run the State series, and this year will be no different when we visit the historic park Aug. 15. What will change a bit, however, is the format. Previous events have welcomed runners and walkers to identical 5K events held (almost) back-to-back. The 2020 program retains the popular 5K, but adds a hiking option in lieu of a second race.

The dual-event setup will encourage runners and walkers to take a stroll (or try to set a new personal best 5K time), while hiking pros will surely enjoy time on the trail. It’s the best of both Run the State “worlds” and should be an appropriate send-off for another great season of outdoor events.

The 5K and hike series is open to all state of Indiana employees and their families. Some visitors choose to bring along the family’s four-legged members as well., and the dogs involved typically appear to enjoy the event as much as their human counterparts – maybe more so.

As always, the Run the State series is intended to encourage state employees to be active while simultaneously showcasing the nearly limitless fun that awaits visitors to Indiana state parks. Guests are encouraged to “make a day of it,” exploring the parks and checking out some of each location’s distinct features and attractions.

There is no charge to attend any of the events, though a park entrance fee of $7 (which allows admittance of a carload of people) is in place.

Check out the links below to register for (and learn more about) your chosen event.

Note: Registration for Ft. Harrison State Park will open at a later date.

Be sure to keep an eye on investinyourhealthindiana.com all season long for event photos, wrap-ups, and more.

Story by Brent Brown, Indiana State Personnel Department

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