The pairing seems as natural as socks and shoes.

The Conserve School near Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin, will host a Great Lakes Endurance Series trail run on its 1,200-acre Lowenwood property on June 14, and meld the ecological missions of the school and the race organization.

Conserve offers a semester-long program in nature study and environmental stewardship for high school juniors, and the endurance series creates an ecological classroom through the races it stages in some of the Midwest’s most beautiful locations.

The series is unique in its mission of sustainability: composting food waste, limiting use of cups and disqualifying runners who litter. Age group prizes are local products: cheese from the Oak Grove Dairy, maple syrup from the Maas Farms and ceramic bowls made by local artists.

Jeff Crumbaugh, a science teacher at Clintonville High School and the Great Lakes Endurance Series race director, took a week-long course at Conserve School last summer. Every day, he ran the trails that wind through the property and around eight small lakes.

He pitched the idea of organizing a race to school officials, and received an enthusiastic response.

“There’s a real clear connection between what he’s doing and what we’re trying to promote,” said Phil DeLong, admissions director at Conserve School. “We really admire what he’s doing in his race series, which is different than what you see in most races.”

Crumbaugh started the series in 2000, with the Keweenaw Trail Running Festival near Copper Harbor, Michigan. In 2005, he staged the first Grand Island Trail Marathon and has expanded the series to include nine races this year, including two winter events for snowshoers. The courses take runners through the Tahquamenon Falls State Park and Porcupine Mountain State Park in Michigan, and the Hartman Creek State Park area near Waupaca, Wisconsin.

“This was the idea, that we could use trail running events as a tool for environmental education,” Crumbaugh said. “You can stand in front of a classroom and teach people about the environment, but when they’re actively engaged and surrounded by a beautiful setting, that’s a better classroom for learning.

“It’s not my goal to have big races, it’s to promote environmental education and to create an experience that’s meaningful.”

Running the trails on the Conserve property will not only be meaningful, but a rare opportunity. The land is otherwise only open to the school’s students and staff.

“Most of my workouts happen right here on the property, because I can run right out the door,” DeLong said. “I love it. It’s rolling and scenic; nothing overly steep and we have this beautiful scenery and opportunities to watch wildlife.”

The course for the 25K race will be primarily on wide, cross-country ski trails, with some singletrack. The land has a great variety of northern hardwoods and hemlocks.

“We’re excited to open up this property to silent sports enthusiasts from around the region,” DeLong said.

The Conserve School Trail Run will offer two distances, 20K and 5K. Entry fees are $45 for the 20K and $35 for the 5K. Registration is limited to 200 entrants. The 20K will start at 8 a.m. and the 5K at 8:30 a.m. on June 14. Both races will start near the Lowenwood Recreation Center. Conserve School is located off North Black Oak Lake Road, roughly 4.5 miles west of Land O’ Lakes following County Highway B.

Check the website for information on registration. 

Tom Held blogs at

2014 Great Lakes Endurance Series

Sat., June 14: CONSERVE SCHOOL TRAIL RUN, 20K, 5K, Land O’ Lakes, WI
Sat., July 12: WAUGOSHANCE TRAIL MARATHON, 26.2 miles indiv. & solo, 13.1 miles, Emmet County, MI 
Sat., July 26: GRAND ISLAND TRAIL MARATHON, 26.2 & 13.1 miles, Munising, MI
Sat., Aug. 9: TAHQUA TRAIL RUN, 25K & 10K, Paradise, MI
Sun., Sept. 7: HARTMAN CREEK TRAIL RUN, 25K & 10K, Waupaca, WI
Sat., Sept. 20: PORCUPINE MOUNTAINS TRAIL MARATHON, 26.2 & 13.1 milesm 5K, Silver City, MI