The inaugural space race challenges participants to aim for the stars

Outer space is unknown in many ways. But Dark Sky Park in the Geauga Park District aims to highlight some of the mysteries of space through educational opportunities such as the upcoming Space Race.

Outer space is unknown in many ways.

But Dark Sky Park in the Geauga Park District aims to highlight some of its mysteries through educational opportunities such as the upcoming Space Race.

The event—which was rainy or bright from 5-7 p.m. October 1 at the Observatory Park’s 0.85-mile Planetary Trail, 10610 Clay Street—invites all runners, joggers, and walkers to complete as many laps as possible during these two hours.

The entry fee is $20 if paid online before September 30th, or $25 on race day and registration is required.

The Planetary Trail is a flat, assembled surface loop, with a 2-hour chip timed by GCXS Race Timing & Management, that will provide interpretive shows focusing on every planet in the solar system.

Along the way is a diagram of the base of the Great Pyramid at Giza and the feature of Stonehenge.

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

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

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

Worstler credits Jan Glove, a GPD volunteer, who helps with the Astrotots program at Observatory Park, with the concept.

“I took the concept of racing from endurance running – running as far as possible within a set time frame,” added Wearstler. “However, with our two-hour time frame and a max distance of 13.6 miles, or 16 laps, we’re basically running multiple races simultaneously.”

He said each ring is 0.85 miles away from the Sun. One cycle takes 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 entirely self-propelled, and participants can spend as long or as short as they like.

One lap (the minimum distance that must be completed for the bar), is just under one 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 further afield,” Werstler said. “Anyone who manages to pass the eighth cycle and beyond would have gone faster than the speed of light, if we measured that distance at the speed of light.”

Holly Sauder, GPD Special Events Coordinator, said they hope participants will enjoy this race and learn more about the solar system.

“We also hope that the participants will discover the observatory’s garden if they haven’t already,” Sauder added. “We will be doing planetarium shows and watching the night sky, weather permitting.”

The first 250 people to score are guaranteed on race jerseys and everyone who completes at least one lap gets metal ends as well as a bar indicating the distance they covered in the two-hour time frame and “lots of goodies” to take home to commemorate their space race experience . Prizes will go to the top three male and female winners, according to GPD.

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

Participants can register at www.geaugaparkdistrict.org.

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