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Obstacle race raises funds for Ithaca Children’s Garden


Six hundred Ithacans will brave running up steep hills, wheel-barreling dummies while dodging EMTs, and lifting a tire up a 10-foot post during the Ithaca Children’s Garden’s inaugural Tough Turtle race on April 20, a 5-kilometer obstacle race that will raise funds for ICG.

Erin Marteal, the Executive Director of ICG and Race Director, started to organize the event last year as a fundraiser with added hopes of making locals more aware of ICG.  Located south of Cass Park on the Cayuga Inlet, ICG is a place and a program that organizes and implements a range of educational programs among the community’s youth.

The Tough Turtle race will take place along the Cayuga Waterfront Trail and the Black Diamond Trail on the south shores of Cayuga Lake.


According to Khamila Alebiosu, volunteer coordinator and head intern of the Tough Turtle, the race involves thirteen obstacles that are all sponsored by businesses within the Ithaca community. The first out of the gates is the anaerobic ascent, sponsored by FingerLakes Triathlon and Running Company. Racers will have to scale a steep hill that is designed to take the runner’s breath away. The obstacle closest to the finish line is the compost and carrot crawl, sponsored by GreenStar.

In between these obstacles are eleven trials, including a post and tire obstacle sponsored by Purity Ice Cream and a cargo-net wall, sponsored by Cayuga Ski & Cyclery.

“Each [obstacle] has a very unique flavor and altogether, I think it’s a mix of physically challenging obstacles that require grit and perseverance, as well as humor,” said Marteal.

As an obstacle course race, the Tough Turtle mimics other popular races such as the Warrior Dash, Tough Mudder, the Spartan Race and Muddy Buddy.

Kevin Brady, membership services supervisor and trainer at Island Health and Fitness, is teaching the Tough Mud Training class to prepare runners for obstacle course racers. He will also be running in the race.

“It’s great that we’re able to sponsor such a good cause… it’s great for us to get our name out there and again, promote health and fitness within the community,” said Brady.

Marteal said she decided to add the obstacle course element to the race to try something new and different for the city.

The Tough Turtle initially had 300 open spaces but sold out within the first ten hours of registration. The board then decided to open 300 more, which also sold out by the next day.

Runners could either pay a $60 flat fee or sign up as a fund-racer. Fund-racers don’t pay out of pocket but commit to raise $275 to support Ithaca Children’s Garden.

The objective of the Tough Turtle was to raise $40,000 and, according to Marteal, the race is close to meeting its target goal.

The funds will go toward future plans for physical site developments of Ithaca Children’s Garden, as well as supporting the staff to make ICG programs possible.

“The whole point of it is to get kids outside, get kids involved in nature and growing things,” said John Alvarez Del Castillo, an educator for the Ithaca Children’s Garden.

One of the 600 runners will be Mayor Svante Myrick, who will run in the Mayor’s heat at 11:20 p.m. Myrick said he is glad to contribute to the Ithaca Children’s Garden, even though he hasn’t participated in a race since high school track.

“I hope the paramedics are on hand in case my asthma gets out of hand or I have a heart attack,” joked Myrick. “Honestly, I think it’s the best kind of event. It helps people be healthy and it encourages them to stay fit, or, in my case, to get fit. It raises money for an excellent cause, the Ithaca Children’s Garden.”

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