Spring has sprung! Finally, it seems, warm weather is here to stay. Normally, all that means for me is fewer coats and more sunburns, but this time around I’ve been determined to not take the warmth for granted. Most of this determination culminated a couple weeks back, when I impulsively decided to sign up for the Environmental Club’s Earth Day 5k. Considering that this year was the 8th iteration of the event, I was also curious to see what exactly an Earth Day celebration would look like.

To clarify, I’m not a runner. Before the race, my only preparations consisted of some time on a treadmill and the vague determination to finish in under half an hour. Upon arriving at the nature park, I was happy to find a sizable crowd. A mix of students, DePauw faculty, and Greencastle residents were prepping for the event: about 70 people in total. Volunteers for DePauw and members of the Environmental Club made check-in easy, and with only a little delay, I found myself with everyone else at the start line.

At about the half-mile marker, I was already shifting my goals for the race. As the kilometers dragged on, I switched to focusing on just keeping up with the person ahead of me, to just keeping my pace, to trying to ignore the building urge to walk the rest of it. Fortunately, the monotony was broken by several placed infographics, put up by the race coordinators to raise awareness for local wildlife and natural concerns. One sign outlined the importance of owls and birds for pest control, while others listed key facts about local non-invasive species. The best sign I saw focused on bobcats, made relevant due to some recent sightings in and around the park. Also on this sign was a mention of Senate Bill 241, a state-level change intending to legalize bobcat hunting as early as July of this year. 

These markers helped to contextualize the run beyond the tiredness and pain I was feeling in the moment. Earth Day, and by extension the race, was and is an opportunity to reflect on the natural spaces around us, and to take the time to consider what we can do to keep those spaces lush and clean. The dedication from the Environmental Club and race coordinators emphasized the work our community is already doing, but also caused me to wonder about what else may be protecting – and threatening – our forests. The senate bill is just one example of a danger posed to local nature, but other threats persist: emerald ash borers, pollutants, and fire threats come to mind. Ultimately, no one person can solve these problems, but as communities, change seems to be on the horizon.

The end of the race reemphasized how many people do care, however. Baby trees were laid out by the hundreds for taking and replanting, alongside succulents, informational material, and other resources. Race coordinators were also close by to answer any questions, and maybe also push runners to take a few trees with them. I personally left with a succulent and three trees, the latter of which will hopefully be growing back at my family house soon. 

I can't’ say I enjoyed the running, or recommend a 5k to anybody looking to get more involved with nature, but what I can confirm is that there are ways to get involved, whether through the Environmental Club, DePauw in general, or even just by getting out in nature with your friends. Happy belated Earth Day, and a big thanks to the race coordinators and participants!