Many people go to Petit Jean State Park to see Cedar Falls. I don’t blame them, however, there are more trails awaiting discovery. An easy way to experience them would be to hike/run the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Boy Scout Trail, which combines most of the trails at the state park. If you want to have fun and have support during your run, Hoof It For Heifer 20k Trail Run is my recommendation.
The course gives you a little bit of everything. Sounds of water flowing will calm you as you make your way. As you lament over the uphill, you’ll appreciate the downhill. Cool rock formations and cave dwellings can be seen, while unforgettable views distract you, leaving you lost in nature. After last year’s race, how could I not return?
To get background information on how Hoof It For Heifer came to be, I talked with the race director, Wanda Eason. We discussed her involvement with Heifer International, the race, and her love for the trail running community.
[Nicholas] Where does the name Hoof It For Heifer come from?
[Wanda] We opened it up for suggestions to volunteers, Heifer employees, and people we know. That name was a popular choice. One name that also came up was Stampede for Heifer.
[Nicholas] Why did you decide to put on this race?
[Wanda] I’m a volunteer for Heifer. I work mainly with kids, school groups and at the Heifer Ranch. Since, I had never done any fundraising for them, I decided to give it a try. I never considered myself a fundraiser, but I thought doing something like this would be natural because we have many runners in the state that would love the opportunity. It doesn’t seem so much like fundraising as it does just fun.
[Nicholas] What made you decide to do a trail run as opposed to a road race?
[Wanda] I have more experience volunteering for trail runs. I have volunteered for Arkansas Traveller 100, Sylamore Trail 50k/25k, and Three Days of Syllamo. I know a lot of trail runners and I love the trail running community. I felt I knew more to start with to put on a race. We had a lot to learn, but we had help from people that knew what they were doing.
[Nicholas] Why Petit Jean State Park?
[Wanda] We were trying to find a good place where there weren’t already a bunch of runs. After thinking about a number of places, a friend suggested Petit Jean. I checked with the park and found out they never had a trail run before. I think it’s a beautiful park and it would give us an identity that we might not have if we were on a familiar trail. I thought it would be a good chance for us to share the park and trails with people.
[Nicholas] How many people signed up and participated last year?
[Wanda] Out of the 57 that registered, 48 started and finished.
[Nicholas] Were you pleased with the number of participants?
[Wanda] I’ve been very pleased with the turnout and reception. I know it will take time to grow. The Sylamore Trail races started with twelve people and twenty years later it’s selling out in hours.
[Nicholas] What made you decide on a six-hour course time limit?
[Wanda] The recommended time to complete the trail is eight hours because of difficulty. It’s a course for experienced trail runners and we figure they’d be moving faster than someone out on a leisurely hike. With that said, if someone wanted to hike it, they’d still have plenty of time.
[Nicholas] In addition to a fun race, what else should runners expect?
[Wanda] Each runner gets a t-shirt, a goody bag, and a finisher’s award. The aid stations will be well stocked and our volunteers are great. (editors note: you may find an AO Recovery Beverage Insulator in your goody bag this year.)
[Nicholas] How many aid stations are there?
[Wanda] Two aid stations are on the trail around miles 4 and 8. The first aid station is after you come out of Blue Hole. The other one is in the parking lot of the Seven Hollows Trail.
[Nicholas] Are there any creek crossings?
[Wanda] It depends on how much it rains. If the water is high enough, you will probably get your feet wet at Blue Hole.
[Nicholas] Is there anything different this year?
[Wanda] We’re going to have alpacas at the end of the race. Last year we had goats, chickens, and rabbits. We’d like for this to eventually work into a family event out in a beautiful state park where there are things for kids to do.
There are lots of places to stay, if you’re a camper or if you wanted to stay in a cabin. With the newly renovated restaurant and lodge, there are opportunities for a family to make a weekend out of it. We aren’t really emphasizing that right now, but we’re working toward it.
[Nicholas] What are your hopes for the second year?
[Wanda] I hope, again, everybody that starts finishes it. We want runners to enjoy it while we’re working to raise money for a worthy cause. I really believe what Heifer International is doing.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to visit some Heifer projects in Peru. I’ve seen the people firsthand that are project partners, the people’s lives who have been changed. I was able to hear their stories. I know at Heifer we do what we say we are doing. I’m glad to be able to be a part of helping to make that happened.
Wanda was genuinely excited about directing the race and I was surprised when she was able to name people that had signed up and recall where they were from. She continues to think of ways to make the race better. She told me they would like to try a fun run either next year or some time in the future. Registration closes the week of the race, but if there is enough interest, she may start doing race day registration.
A few runners left the race last year to go on to do Hogeye Marathon the following day. This will probably be the last year it’s possible, since Hogeye will move to Sunday, March 30, 2014.