Virtual race offers a chance to get outside and burn off some energy while supporting your community nature center

By Tracy Will

This summer, instead of hosting its traditional 5K, Quarry Hill Nature Center is offering a virtual 5K race for all ages and abilities, along with a 1K dash for kids. The event encourages everyone to get active, head outdoors and go from screen time to green time. And it’s all for a great cause: race proceeds support Quarry Hill’s robust nature programming and education for kids in southeastern Minnesota. 

“This is a win-win activity,” says Pam Meyer, Quarry Hill’s executive director. “It’s good for you. It’s good for your health. It’s good for the nature center. Everybody comes out a winner in this race.”

Charting your own course

Quarry Hill began its annual Run Wild 5K, accompanied by a 1K Wild Child Dash, in 2016. Since then, the event has become popular for its unique trail-run terrain and festive family atmosphere.

This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in the run planning, as gathering hundreds of people for a race isn’t safe under the current circumstances. But the Quarry Hill race committee wasn’t willing to simply cancel. Instead, they decided to broaden the timing and scope of the event and invite people to participate by completing the 5K or 1K individually, wherever and whenever they want.

Race registration opened May 26 and goes through July 26 online at After you register, you’re free to go wild and make the event your own. 

“With this year’s format, you can do it any way you like,” Meyer says. “If you have little ones who are up with the sun, great! Go out and do it then. If you have teens who aren’t ready to move until the afternoon, no problem. You need to tire the kids out before bedtime? Do it then. If you get worn out and do half in the morning and the other half in the afternoon, so be it. It’s meant to be fun. You don’t even need to run. You can skip, hike, moonwalk or crawl. The trees aren’t going to tell us how you did on your race. It’s up to you.”

Throwing more fun in the mix

Although the race format is flexible, Quarry Hill has included several elements to preserve the festive nature of the event. On Sunday, June 21, a socially distanced drive-through Swag Parade will be held from 5-8 p.m. in the Quarry Hill parking lot. The parade will include music, cheering and enthusiasm for everyone involved. Race participants are encouraged to create signs or decorate their cars to add to the festivity.

People who have registered by June 19 can drive through and pick up their race bags containing a variety of fun swag: bandanas for the Wild Child dashers, custom Quarry Hill buffs for the 5K participants and finisher medals for everyone. The first 250 people to register also receive gourmet s’mores kits in their bags, custom-made by the chefs at Forager Brewery in Rochester.

For those who register for the event between June 20 and July 26, a second pick-up event will be held on Tuesday, July 28, at Quarry Hill from 5-8 p.m.

In addition, although you can complete the race anywhere, a 5K trail and a 1K route will be mapped out within Quarry Hill park. You can follow those trails if you’d like to enjoy the park and try conquering the big hill in Quarry Hill while you complete your race individually or as a family.

A race photo spot has been constructed behind the nature center where you can snap a selfie when you’re done. Participants are encouraged to post their photos on social media and share them with Quarry Hill.

Going the distance to support a community asset

Since its founding in 1972, Quarry Hill Nature Center has provided children, families and individuals in southeastern Minnesota with a wide range of nature programming and education. Although the nature center is currently closed due to COVID-19, Quarry Hill remains true to its core mission: opening eyes and minds through natural science discovery. Its staff is envisioning new and innovative ways to continue fulfilling that mission, despite the fact that many events and activities at Quarry Hill have been cancelled because of the pandemic. 

By joining in the 5K or the Wild Child Dash, participants will be contributing to that effort, with proceeds from the race going to support Quarry Hill programming and scholarships.

“Quarry Hill is not going away. We’re in a strong position right now because of this community that lifts us up and has always supported us in our work,” Meyer says. “We need that support to continue now to stay strong. We’re asking people to go the distance and hit the trail. Be part of this event to show your support. And have fun doing it!”

Quarry Hill Virtual Run Wild 5K and Wild Child Dash

Registration: May 26 – July 26 at

Entry fees: 

5K – $25 adults, $20 youth

Wild Child Dash – $10

Complete the race wherever & whenever you like.

If you’re looking for a challenge, conquer the hill in Quarry Hill by following the 5K trail route marked through the park.

Find all the race details online at


Tracy Will is a Rochester-based writer whose family has enjoyed Quarry Hill for many years. She now serves as a member of the Quarry Hill Nature Center Board of Directors.