Smile Politely

Survivor Games 5k

“I’m really proud of our kids,” Jen Lawrence said. She’s the race spokesperson for the new Survivor Games 5k to be held April 9 at Crystal Lake Park in Urbana. We sat down over a cup of free range, rain flower tea at a cute bistro table outside the Food Co-op. The essence of hemp, sandalwood oil, and sweat hung heavy in the air as Lawrence waved her arms excitedly and patrons left the nearby Charter Fitness looking exhausted. “They’re just being real troupers about all this.”

The kids she’s referring to are students at the Montessori Habitat School on Kirby Avenue in Champaign who have taken to raising funds for a new roof on building B, the Puppy Cove.

“All kids love animals, right? Lions, and tigers, and bears,” Lawrence said while picking at an organic granola berry muffin with sugar free frosting and tofu filling. “And who doesn’t like an obstacle course? Kids love that stuff.”

Those unfamiliar with races like the Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash might cringe at running races that involve a standard fare of jumping through rings of fire, diving through vats filled with bubbles, or swimming through mud pits spiked with barbed wire. The Survivor Games 5k promises all that and more. This 5k will take these other races to another level, Lawrence assured.

“We’ve contracted with the Scovill Zoo in DeCrater [sic], and they’ve promised us their cheetah and wolf. We’ve also got calls out to Brookfield, Lincoln Park, and Indianapolis about securing a few lions and a silverback gorilla or two. Like King Kong!”

Initially, I was a bit skeptical about the permitting for such an event. Would Urbana allow something involving exotic animals chasing down runners? But Lawrence assured me that all the I’s are crossed and T’s are dotted.

“All the I’s are crossed and T’s are dotted,” she repeated.

About the why of this race, Lawrence was a bit one-track minded. “The Montessori Habitat School really needs a new roof, and the students asked why not do something with animals. It was my idea to pair it up with a 5k.”

Why not just go the traditional route of hosting a regular race with its lame race shirt and sad finisher medals?

“We wanted to make a splash,” she said. “And it’s not like people are going to run the race. It’s just for the kids.”

So children will run through fire hoops and barb-wired mud pits while being chased down by rabid animals?

“Oh, they won’t have rabies. There might be a polar bear too! But, yes,” Lawrence said. “Won’t this be awesome?”

As it happened, one of Lawrence’s students was leaving the Food Co-op with her father, a beleaguered looking man in his early thirties wearing a tweed jacket with elbow patches and a three o’clock shadow. Jasmine is a cute seven-year-old with a toothless grin. Her two eye teeth went missing, and she proudly showed me the five dollars she received from the Tooth Fairy. Jasmine is excited about the upcoming 5k. “I can’th waith to playth with Curiousth Georgeth,” she said.

“You realize that Curious George is not a gorilla, nor is he a real life animal,” I said.

Jasmine broke out into tears, and her father gave me and Lawrence an evil look as he dragged his now bawling child to his Nissan Leaf.

Asked to sum up just why this is a good idea, Lawrence concluded, “There’s definitely a curriculum of peace within Montessori schools. It all kind of works together. This is something we can make a worldwide event, that we can have three-year-olds as well as fourteen-year-olds participate in.”

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