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Willow Creek Wilderness Walk and Run returns to Fort Macleod for third year

stasha donahue

Stasha Donahue and her committee are planning the third annual Willow Creek Wilderness Walk and Run on Saturday, May 23.

The Willow Creek Wilderness Walk and Run has taken great strides to establish itself as a fixture in southern Alberta.
Planning is under way for the third version of the event, which will take runners and walkers on five- and 10-kilometre and half marathon routes through River Valley Wilderness Park on Saturday, May 23.
“The feedback we’ve had is that the route is just awesome,” organizer Stasha Donahue said. “People from out of town love the Wilderness Park trails. We take that for granted, but it is a beautiful thing to have.”
Donahue conceived the idea of a walk and run three years ago when she was looking for a local half marathon event.
Donahue was also grieving the death of her father that year and Fort Macleod was picking up the pieces following the cancellation of the $122-million police college project.
“I wanted something positive to focus on,” Donahue said.
When she was considering a route Donahue settled on one that would leave town, cross the Mackenzie bridge and delve into River Valley Wilderness Park.
“I love those river valley trails,” Donahue said. “I always have. I’ve used them for years.”
A core group has emerged to lead organization of the event, including Allie Meech, Denise Joel, Joella Bevan, Chris Adamiak, Lacey Poytress and Brendan Grant.
“It’s a great, great group,” Donahue said.
Both the MD of Willow Creek and Town of Fort Macleod have supported the event, as have residents, businesses and organizations.
“It’s just great,” Donahue said. “Everybody has been really supportive.”
The run and walk is geared for participation by people of all ages and athletic ability.
“It’s entry level,” Donahue said. “If people are just starting a fitness program it would be a good goal to work on. If you’re a serious half marathon runner it’s early in the season so it’s a good start for the season.”
Participants have ranged in age from six years to 93 years in the first two seasons of the walk and run.
The course is flat, which suits many runners early in the season.
“It was to be something that everybody could do, not just elite runners,” Donahue said of the goal. “There is a place for everybody.”
Last year 160 people took part in the walk and run, with the majority doing the five-kilometre route.
“We’re aiming for 200 this year,” Donahue said. “We have set a cap at 300 in case something miraculous happens. But it builds every year, and that’s great.”
Participants this year will be timed using electronic chips provided by a company from Calgary. That was one of the recommendations from feedback from participants.
“We’re always trying to learn how to improve it,” Donahue said.
The registration fee includes a T-shirt and water, bananas, oranges and bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter.
One of the goals of the Willow Creek Wilderness Walk and Run has been to raise money for a local cause.
In the first year $600 went to Fort Macleod Allied Arts and last year a $1,000 donation was made to the Fort Macleod Playground Committee.
“Part of the aim of this event was to help build community with funding,” Donahue said.
This year proceeds will go the gymnasium project at W.A. Day school.
Volunteers come from all corners of Fort Macleod to help organize and stage the Willow Creek Wilderness Walk and Run.
“I’ve met some really great people through this project, and they come back every year to help,” Donahue said.
Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Joella Bevan at 403-393-7954.
On-line registration is under way at http://raceroster.com/events/2015/4526/willow-creek-wilderness-walk-run.
Information is at www.willowcreekwildernesswalkrun.net or by calling Stasha Donahue at 403-308-0410 or Brendan Grant at 403-627-8793.

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