“If I can do it, anybody can do it.” That’s the message Plymouth resident Cathy Schmidt would like to share with any woman thinking about participating in Women Run the Cities next month at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis.
“I came to running later in life and I didn’t even think I could run down my block,” says Schmidt, one of the co-founders of the 5K and 10 mile event, now in its sixth year. “A few months ago, I did my first 10K, and I just felt really great the whole time.”
Just as the all-female participants draw inspiration from their fellow race-day competitors, Schmidt was inspired to run by her friend and colleague—and marathon runner—Meghan Huber, who along with Schmidt and others launched Women Run the Cities in 2006.
With careers in commercial real estate, both Huber and Schmidt, members of Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women (MNCREW), became involved in discussions about ways to raise the profile of the organization and perhaps develop a signature event. “I thought it would be fun to have a race,” says Huber, who lives in Edina. “Women in this group are pretty competitive already, and when I started to talk to others about the idea, I found I was getting a really good response.”
The first year, about 900 runners ranging in age from their early 20s to early 70s participated. Despite having to switch venues the month before—the races were originally going to start at the Stone Arch Bridge, but had to relocate following the 35W bridge collapse—the organizers were pleased with the response and the positive atmosphere provided by runners and volunteers alike.
“I remember driving over the Ford Parkway Bridge after it was all over, and I literally burst into tears,” says Huber, laughing at the memory. “We had this idea, and it became a real thing.”
This year, Women Run the Cities will be held September 23. Approximately 2,700 participants are expected; 1,400 for the 10-mile, which begins at 8 a.m., and 1,300 for the 5K run/walk that follows at 8:30 a.m. Both races are out-and-back, traveling in and around the Minnehaha Park area. For the little runners, a girls’ 1-mile run begins at 8:10 a.m.
With the exception of a race managerial team hired to help coordinate the event on race day, Women Run the Cities is still operated by a committed contingent of volunteers, more than half of whom have been with the event since the beginning.
“We really pride ourselves on paying attention to all the little details, such as our high quality race shirts,” Huber says. “One of our goals is to make sure that all the women participants know how much all of us want them to succeed and be proud of their accomplishment.”
“If you have worked hard to set a goal, no matter if this is your first race or if you are a veteran, we want you to feel empowered,” says Schmidt, who does her training runs at French Regional Park. “And to be on the race course with only women is just really cool.”
So cool, in fact, that earlier this year, ESPN named Women Run the Cities as one of the top five women’s races in the country, behind the popular Nike Marathon in San Francisco and a race in Boise, Idaho, billed as the largest women’s event in the United States with more than 13,000 participants.
Huber, who has participated in several races across the country, started running in her thirties and trained to celebrate milestone birthdays—at 40, she ran in the Chicago Marathon, and she plans to enter the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., this October.
“Focusing on accomplishing any race goal and then achieving that goal is really a magical experience,” she says.
Schmidt and Huber are hoping to run the 10-mile race together September 23, which would be a distance milestone for Schmidt and a personal milestone for Huber, who has never stepped away from event-day coordination to actually run in the race she envisioned seven years ago.
Registration is still open for Women Run the Cities, which will be held at 8 a.m. September 23, at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis. Cost is $35-65, depending on time of registration. In addition to the 5K and 10-mile race, there is also a 1-mile run for elementary and middle school-age girls ($10).