Racing keeps evolving in Marion County

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Turtleman Trek 5k is Saturday

By Nick Schrager

Over the last few years, Marion County has exploded with a slew of runs like Color in Motion 5k, the Warrior Dash, The Bourbon Chase, Back Tutu School 2.2-miler, and the Hills ‘n’ Horns Adventure Race. While they are different types of running events, they all have one thing in common — each race puts a new twist to an old activity.

Soon, Marion County will be able to add another race to that list, the Turtleman Trek 5k. 

According to Carla Wagner, executive director of the Lebanon Tourist and Convention Commission, the Turtleman Trek 5k will be held this Saturday, March 1. 

She said it’s amazing that racing hasn’t become more popular in this community until recently.

“I think when you’re talking about the history and heritage of running in this community, it’s kind of amazing we haven’t had this before because we have the perfect climate for it and the combination of perfect scenery,” Wagner said.

While all the forms of running tend to be popular, mud racing in particular is a reflection of changes in American lifestyle.

“These mud races are extremely popular,” Wagner said. “I think it’s a phenomenon that just has to do with American culture in general. We’re moving much more away from fast convenient food to a natural lifestyle and people are becoming more fitness oriented.”

In fact, there is no shortage of examples of obstacle racing in Kentucky. Some of these include the Warrior Dash, Superhero Scramble, 5k Foam Fest, The Kentucky Dirty, and Kentucky Zombie Mud Run. 

When the Warrior Dash came to Lebanon in 2012, it boasted more than 5,000 registrants, much more than the original 200 runners from Pokey Pig’s first go in the early 1980s. It is important to note that since then the Pokey Pig has since reached more than 900 runners. 

Besides the Warrior Dash, other races have also drawn hordes of runners into the area.

Last year, Wagner said The Bourbon Chase brought in 4,000 runners from around the nation to Marion County. 

“The route from Maker’s Mark in Loretto to downtown Lebanon is the hardest one of the entire 200 miles because it’s very hilly and curvy but absolutely beautiful,” Wagner said. “Everybody wants to run that one because they really like the challenge and beauty of the area.”

And while the races benefit the runners’ health and experience, they also benefit the community’s pocketbook.

Wagner said Marion County saw visitors come from as far away as Greensburg and beyond for the Color in Motion 5k. 

Some of them came to pre-register the night before and doing so allowed them to discover the nightlife and businesses on Main Street. Some visitors also stuck around for a local stage production held at Angelic Hall.

“Racing is good for all kinds of things,” Wagner said. 

As D-day for the Turtleman Trek nears, it becomes much more evident that Marion County has an intimate relationship with running.

That’s because like the Hills ‘n’ Horns Adventure Race at XB Arena last year, the Turtleman Trek 5k was also devised by a Marion County resident. 

Sharon “Sam” Bach, who is the mastermind of the Turtleman Trek 5k, has been an avid runner for nearly two and a half years.

As such, she has gotten to experience both obstacle races and standard 5ks. She has also run two half-marathons. Her time running has allowed her to see various events grow in the community.

“I think it’s a very good thing because some runs aren’t for everybody,” Bach said.

The variety of races allows everyone to enjoy running but also allow seasoned runners to challenge themselves.

After devising the Turtleman Trek 5k less than three months ago, she got together with Wagner and said she was given a small grant to get started.

Bach said she wanted to chip time the race and needed more funds to do so. So she made some calls and got eight businesses and got them to contribute $100 dollars each to the cause.

They include Inter County Energy, Farmers National Bank, Citizens National Bank, People’s Bank, U.S. Bank, Road ID, Fitness One Inc., Cedarwood Restaurant, VanWhy Tax Service, Lebanon Chiropractic Phillips Repair, Inc., Breakfast Boy Entertainment, Lebanon Health & Fitness, Lincoln Trail District Health Department, and Smoky Mountain Knife Works.

As Bach began to put the run together, she decided that she wanted the course to bring people to downtown Lebanon and have a good time. Being a runner, she also knew that the course had to be fairly flat, and being a Turtleman-themed run, she wanted it to go by areas with connections to the Turtleman himself.

The route mimics the Turtleman Trek, which visits some of the locations where episodes of the show “Call of the Wildman” have been filmed. In order to make it a true 5k however, some of the locations could not be visited for the run.

According to Bach, many different people with different experience levels can enjoy the run.

“People shouldn’t get discouraged by speed,” Bach said. “It’s all about having fun.”

Though the race is timed, it is not necessarily about who finishes first. Whether you run, walk, or push a stroller, you benefit from completing the course.

“The time just doesn’t matter so much,” Bach said. “You went out there and did something. You’re doing something to be healthy. You just need to feel good about it.”

Like some of the other runs that have come through Lebanon in the past, the Turtleman Trek 5k is also healthy for the community. Bach said 5ks make good fundraisers and noted that there are several other 5ks to come this year.

“I think it’s good for Marion County to be able to have diverse races for everybody and raise money for different reasons,” Bach said. 

The Turtleman Trek 5k is a fundraising event and the proceeds will go to the Marion County Baseball Boosters Club.

She hopes to make the Turtleman Trek 5k an annual event.

“I hope that it is a very successful event,w here the word spreads that it’s a very good run to do and that we can continue to do it each year and continue to grow,” Bach said.


Race day details

Mary Kay Clements of the Marion County Heritage Center said Ernie Brown Jr., the Turtleman, will make a live appearance in the Marion County Heritage Center on the day of the Turtleman Trek 5k. He will be accompanied with his friend and co-star, Neal James.

The two are set to appear at 10 a.m. and will remain until 5 p.m. They will be available to sign autographs, and Turtleman merchandise will be sold. 

“We will have Turtleman T-shirts, Turtleman pictures, we’re going to have the Turtleman knives from Smoky Mountain Knife Works and Turtleman souvenirs for sale,” Clements said.

The cost to pre-register for the run is $30.

There will be a spaghetti dinner the night before the race at Cedarwood Restaurant. There, participants can pre-register and participate in a Turtleman auction. The cost to attend the dinner and pre-register is a total of $40.

According to Bach, a variety of items will be available for bid at the auction. These items include: baseballs that have been dipped by Makers Mark and signed by Turtleman, five Turtleman knives, cakes, gift baskets, a Four Roses bottle signed by the master distiller, wreathes, massages, and more.

Wagner said there is also an option of becoming virtual runner where you can get all the benefits of the registering to run without actually having to run.

To become a virtual runner is $20.

As of Feb. 20, more than 100 runners from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio have registered for the Turtleman Trek 5k.