Inaugural Space Race Challenges Participants to Aim for the Stars
September 21, 2022 by Rose Nemunaitis

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

Outer Space is a vast unknown in many ways.

But Geauga Park District’s Dark Sky Park aims to bring some of its mysteries to light through educational opportunities like its upcoming Space Race.

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

The fee for participation is $20 if paid online before Sept. 30, or $25 on race day and registration is required.

The Planetary Trail course is a flat aggregate surface loop, chip-timed for two hours by GCXS Race Timing & Management, which will be providing interpretive displays focused on each planet of the solar system.

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

“Everyone can set a goal or push themselves beyond,” said Trevor Wearstler, GPD’s outdoor education specialist. “We have created an opportunity for runners or walkers of all abilities to participate in this unique race.”

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

“I hope participants take the opportunity to push themselves for just one more lap,” Wearstler said. “The course and structure of the race is based on our solar system. I would like to see people treat the race like an outer space adventure, each lap taking you farther into the unknown. Though not scaled to the solar system, I think it will give participants a real sense of the vastness of space.”

Wearstler crediting GPD volunteer Jann Glove, who helps with Observatory Park’s Astrotots program, with the concept.

“I just took the race concept from endurance running — running as far as possible within a set time frame,” Wearstler added. “However, with our time frame of two hours and a max distance of 13.6 miles, or 16 laps, we are basically running multiple races at once.”

He said each 0.85-mile loop lands you further away from the Sun. One lap gets 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 completely self-driven, participants can go as long or short as they wish.

One lap (the minimum distance to complete for a ribbon), is just under a mile, but all 16 possible laps (13.6 miles) are just over a half marathon (13.1 miles), according to GPD.

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

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

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

The first 250 people to register are guaranteed race T-shirts and everyone who completes at least one lap gets a finishers metal plus a ribbon indicating how far they got in the two-hour time frame and “lots of goodies” to take home to commemorate their Space Race experience. Awards will go to the top three male and female finishers, according to the GPD.

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

Participants can register at www.geaugaparkdistrict.org.