By Todd Fertig
Runners of all ages, as well as a few animals, enjoyed unseasonably warm weather for the 10th annual Winter Wonderland 5K at Lake Shawnee Saturday night.
Decked in garish Christmas sweaters and tutus, adorned with strands of lights and reindeer antlers, the runners navigated their way through the holiday light display, enjoying the temperature that hovered around 60 degrees at the start of the race.
Funds raised from the race, sponsored by the Sunflower State Games, support TARC, a program dedicated to the service of children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. That cause is dear to a few of the participants, including Topekan Meagan Busey, whose son received services from TARC when he was young.
“It’s a great cause,” Busey said. “It was a great benefit to our son when he was a little guy, and we continue to support it. This race is fun because you get to dress up. Everyone can put their own spin on it and get into the holiday cheer.”
Sherry Lundry, President of the Sunflower State Games Board of Directors, welcomed the runners and thanked them for their participation. She said the event not only supports TARC, but it helps keep the Sunflower State Games at the forefront of the public consciousness.
The event attracts runners of all ages and abilities.
Matt Swedlund, Washburn Rural High School cross country coach, accompanied a group of local high school runners, some of whom showed up in costumes.
“For us this is a fun after-season thing,” Swedlund said. “Basically, all of October is championship racing. So, this is nice to have a beautiful night to go run through Christmas lights and just have fun.
“I love the whole culture of the 5k road race vibe. It’s good to see people of the community out having fun running.”
Eleven-year-old Samantha Lauver, of Topeka was running her first 5k, accompanying other members of her family.
“I like running,” Lauver said. “It will be fun to look at the Christmas lights while you’re running for something different.”
For those who missed the 5k race, they can still enjoy the Winter Wonderland driving course, which is
TARC’s biggest fundraiser each year. The drive is open from late November through December 31. For dates and times, check the Winter Wonderland website. https://winterwonderlandtopeka.com/