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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Rochester runners lace up to support local nonprofits

Rochester runners lace up to support local nonprofits

On any given Monday night — March through October — dozens of runners line up outside TerraLoco for the shop's $5 5Ks. Though the events are not timed, they do count toward something run-derful. Each week, a different nonprofit in the community is selected as the beneficiary of the $5 individual donations. To date, the runners have helped raise thousands of dollars for area nonprofits, all while staying in shape and making new friends.

We stopped into the shop for a recent event benefiting the United Way of Olmsted County. Here are a few things we learned about the $5 5Ks.

Related: Keeping it local at TerraLoco

Connecting with other runners

Running is often thought of as a solitary sport. But connecting with other runners can help keep you motivated and energized, says runner Tom Gort. 

He attends the 5Ks almost every week while training for his 10th marathon. 

"Here, everyone is supportive of everyone else," says Gort. "One of my favorite parts of this Monday night run is at the end, people who finish earlier stay and cheer on the people who are finishing, until everyone is done ...  You don’t see that very often, but it’s every week here."

Alyssa Dehne agrees that running can be a great way to build community. Having only been in Rochester a short time, she has found that outdoor events like the 5K are a great way to feel connected to her new home.

"This is how I have made a lot of my friends — through running," she says.

Giving back to the community

More than two dozen nonprofits will have the chance to partner with TerraLoco on their 5Ks this year, according to Malia Rai, the store's assistant manager. In the past, she says, organizations have walked away from the event with not only donations, but also prospective volunteers.

“It’s a nice way for [the nonprofits] to share what they do, what their goals are, and then also to raise funds," says Rai. "For the runners, they really like it because it’s a chance to learn and give back."

At last week's event, participants helped give local students a "Running Start for School." The program, which is led by the United Way of Olmsted County, began more than two decades ago by distributing sneakers to kindergartners. It has since morphed into a region-wide effort to provide backpacks and school supplies to under-served youth pre-K to high school. This year, they hope to serve 2,500 kids in need.

“We partner with 11 school districts and we work with them to distribute the backpacks with school supplies directly to their families on-site at school," says Emily Johnston, the organization's outreach program manager. "So, we hear a lot from the school administrators [and] school social workers who have the contact with families, and they see the difference that it makes.”

The United Way of Olmsted County will be collecting supplies (find out what they are looking for here) through July 31. You can view a complete list of drop-off sites, TerraLoco included, on the United Way's website.

'It’s you against yourself'

The events are meant to be fun and pressure-free, and are a perfect way to be introduced to 5K running, says store owner Tiffany Piotrowicz.

Some participants walk, while others push strollers. Despite the mix of ages and abilities, runners says they find opportunities to learn from each other.

"Everyone is very helpful," explains runner Danny Garcia, who is now training for a half marathon. He says fellow runners offer advice, share tips and help each other reach their individual goals. "I enjoy the personal challenge of running," he adds. "It’s you against yourself."

To promote active lifestyles, TerraLoco is hosting the Summer Challenge, a five-week friendly competition that begins June 28. Like the 5Ks, the proceeds from the challenge will go back into the community. This summer, runners will be supporting the Ronald McDonald House of Rochester.

Follow along on Facebook to learn about upcoming $5K 5Ks.

Images courtesy Kynn Schulz Photography

Connecting communities through stories

Connecting communities through stories

Keeping it local at TerraLoco

Keeping it local at TerraLoco