Winning runners earn gator heads for running fast through the swamp. The race course wound through, not just near, the water. Right: Louis Rufo crosses the finish line for his team, Riot.
Some people like to camp on District land, some like to ride horses, some like to hike and some like to fish. Then there are those people who like to run 50 miles through river and swamp in the dead of winter.
More than 300 of those running-through-the-river types invaded the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve’s West Tract on Feb. 13. They were competing in the Dances with Dirt winter running event.
“The Dances with Dirt people are not your typical visitors,” said Chuck Lane, a District senior land use specialist. “As a result of this event, hundreds of people had the opportunity to enjoy portions of the Green Swamp that are seldom seen.”
Dances with Dirt organizes extreme running events around the country, and this is the group’s second Green Swamp event. The group holds four events a year, one each season. Other events take place in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. The Green Swamp event took place on the Florida Trail and the many shell roads in the area.
The District is encouraging people to “Get Outside!” and enjoy District lands, and Lane said the event is a positive example of how public lands may be used. “This type of event allows people to leave with an increased appreciation for Florida’s natural environment.”
“It’s beautiful, almost like the whole place was landscaped,” said Dances with Dirt’s Randy Step. “We enjoy the natural beauty of the area and the Florida hospitality.”
Runners began at the Withlacoochee River Park, traveled through the Green Swamp and into Colt Creek State Park before returning to the river park.
Race lengths included a 50-mile and 50-kilometer run, a half and full marathon, and a 5-by-50 mile relay. Runners ranged in age from 16 to 74 and hailed from 22 states and one Canadian province, with runners traveling from as far as Washington state.
“We hope to make the extreme Dances with Dirt run in the Green Swamp an annual winter break event,” said Dances with Dirt’s Step. “We want to bring together trail runners from Florida and all points north.”