Running a good race

There were 572 runners in the 2019 Hot2Trot event, and organizers are hoping to break the 600-runner mark this year. Runners can compete in the half marathon, 5k and 1k kids’ run, as well as participate through a virtual race this year.

Organizers of the Hot2Trot run and walk aren’t known for resting on their laurels, and the 2020 event will be no different.

The Saturday, June 20, run will be the ninth annual event, and Wes Maertz has been involved since the beginning. This will be his third year as race director. Cindi Kelm-Nelson, the assistant race director, has been volunteering for the past three years.

“We have a goal of 600 runners this year,” Kelm-Nelson said.

Last year, the early morning run and walk brought out 572 participants. Proceeds amounted to $10,000, which was recently presented to the Cottage Grove Fire Department. In the first eight years of the Hot2Trot, about $42,000 has been raised for the fire department.

The Hot2Trot features a 13.1-mile half marathon, a 5k run and a 1k kids’ run. Registration fees are $60, $25 and $10, respectively.

Kelm-Nelson said the 5k run is the most popular. To boost that run, organizers are offering a 5k family four pack for $80. Also, the kids’ run had about 100 runners last year, a significant improvement from the first few years.

Also new this year will be the opportunity to run a virtual race for $30, which still includes a T-shirt and medal.

“Those have become pretty popular in the last five years, where you don’t actually have to be physically present to run it,” Kelm-Nelson sad. “You can run it from wherever you are,” Kelm-Nelson.

She said with the run being held Father’s Day weekend, a lot of people are out of town, so the virtual run lets them participate and still donate to the fire department.

“There’s actually a lot of races out there that are all virtual,” Kelm-Nelson added.

There is no concrete goal for how many virtual runners they hope to have this time around, but Maertz would be happy with 20 people registering.

Maertz said another new piece this year will be an app that allows people to send encouragement to runners on the course.

“We are keeping all of our popular races as well as adding RaceJoy technology so friends and family can follow the progress of participants as it happens form their mobile devices or computer,” he said.

The 5k is the most popular partly because it’s mostly local residents participating.

“We do a lot of registration the night before and the morning of,” Kelm-Nelson said.

The half marathon has a lot more non-residents, as runners are willing to travel longer distances for these types of races.

“We definitely want to grow the half event outside the community,” Maertz said. “If we want to grow to 600, 700, we have to grow outside the community.”

Kelm-Nelson is reluctant to use the word “prestigious” about the half marathon but said the longer run adds credibility to the event.

“We want people to think of it as more than just a Cottage Grove run,” Maertz said. “This is a regional run.”

The event is entirely run by volunteers. A minimum of 75 are needed to host the event, and organizers hope to see closer to 100 each year. The Saturday morning race kicks off at 7 a.m., but volunteers are needed hours before then and throughout the race and post-race ceremony.

“Our race does start early,” Kelm-Nelson said. “It has to finish before the (Fireman’s Festival) parade, and the other reason is that it’s June, and it’s really hot, especially for the half (marathon).”

Once again, the Cottage Grove Parks and Recreation Department will offer an eight-week program to help people go from the couch to the 5k.

Corporate sponsors are also being solicited.

Last year, $20,000 was generated in sponsorships. With about $9,000 in expenses, that allowed for the $10,000 donation to fire department.

Without the corporate sponsorships, the event would pretty much break even, and no donation to the fire department would be possible.

“This race has a lot of potential, and it has potential to grow,” Kelm-Nelson said. “With all the proceeds going to the fire department, I think it’s a really essential component to their budget, too. I can’t speak for them directly, but it feels good to give back to the community.”

For more information on the run, visit or follow the Facebook page.

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