Nearly 1,000 people show up each April for the annual Spring Dash, now in its 38th year. Most know what to expect, but every year a few get a bit of a surprise. “Seems like each year we get a few people expecting to run a 5k, but it’s actually a 5-miler,” laughed United Way of North Idaho Executive Director Mark Tucker. While a 5k is a little over 3 miles, don’t be scared off by the extra couple miles, as this is a very fun way to kick off the running season while supporting an organization whose impact is felt throughout North Idaho.
The United Way of North Idaho’s mission is to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Annual events like the Spring Dash help raise the funds to develop programs, work with community partners and conduct important research into these areas. Tucker says a big focus over the past few years has been early learning initiatives.
“Studies have shown the tremendous effect that quality early learning has not just on future learning but employability and even incarceration levels,” he explained. The United Way runs a program called Ready for Kindergarten, which teaches parents the skills to get their children prepared for school while providing free childcare during the classes.
Another way fundraisers like the Spring Dash help the United Way is funding the ALICE research program, which studies financial hardship across the state including the five northern counties. ALICE refers to the population in our communities that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed. The ALICE population represents those among us who are working but due to childcare costs, transportation challenges, high cost of living and so much more are living paycheck to paycheck. “These people are living above the federal poverty level, and here in Coeur d’Alene 48 percent of the community is still struggling or in poverty, and the situation is about 41 percent across the rest of the five northern counties,” Tucker explained. Research is being done, and United Way-funded programs are being implemented to address this concerning issue.
One of the easiest ways to help the United Way and its mission is to attend one of its fun-time fundraisers, and the Spring Dash offers just that. The race will be held on Saturday, April 18, at McEuen Park in Downtown Coeur d’Alene. The 5-mile course leaves the park toward Sanders Beach, along Coeur d’Alene Lake Drive and back to McEuen. What many find most enjoyable about this particular race is that it is open to every skill level. “Last year our top finisher did it in about 25 minutes, so roughly five-minute miles,” said Tucker. “At the same time we had people show up in costumes and push strollers who took almost two hours but had a big smile on their face.”
The race is a Second Seeding Qualifier for Bloomsday, meaning those who hit a certain time get to start the biggest road run in the region right behind the first wave of professional runners. In order to qualify, men need to finish in under 31 minutes and women in under 37 minutes. Don’t worry if you think your time is double or even triple that pace, as everyone at every pace is welcome to run the Spring Dash.
There is also a special race for kids 10 and younger. The Tot Trot stays within the park as kids sprint, run, jog, walk or whatever around the approximately 1/3-mile paved trail through the park. Children ages 5 to 10 will complete two laps while children 4 and younger will do a single lap. Parents are welcome to cheer from the grass or run alongside their little one.
While it’s not always the warmest day of the year, there is plenty to keep you occupied at the start/finish line. Local community organizations will have booths set up with helpful information. There will also be water and bananas available to participants at the conclusion of the race. The Wellness Bar and Cosmic Cowboy Grill will also be providing snacks during the event.
Each year local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops provide the majority of race-day volunteers, but Tucker says they are always in need of a few folks to set up and do outreach before the big day. It takes months of planning, and Tucker says it’s absolutely rewarding to see such a big turnout each year.
“To see everybody having fun and watching all the finishers with a smile on their face and seeing everyone come together is awesome,” he said.
Tucker is aware that not everyone who enters the race knows exactly what impact they are having on the community, but he hopes to bring even a small amount of awareness to each person who signs up. Registration is currently open at UnitedWayOfNorthIdaho.org/springdash. Cost for the 5-mile run is $25 and $8 for the Tot Trot. Prices will increase after April 5. All runners receive a T-shirt and swag bag, and additional information on the race and packet pickup can be found on the website or with your registration.