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Tough Turtle Obstacle Race Benefits Ithaca Children's Garden


Key Points

  • April 21 was the 6th annual Tough Turtle 5k obstacle course race
  • The race raised about $40,000 for the Ithaca Children’s Garden
  • The money will go towards maintaining the garden and educational programs

On Saturday April 21, the first warm and sunny day in what felt like months, over 500 runners gathered at the Ithaca Children’s Garden for the 6th annual Tough Turtle 5k obstacle course race.

The race is the major fundraiser of the year for the garden, which is free and open to the public every day of the year. In total, this year’s race raised about $40,000 for the garden.

A Fun Challenge

Runners climb over a cargo net obstacle
The final obstacle on the course was this cargo net that runners had to climb up and over. (Photo by Matt Ristaino)

The course that the runners had to navigate followed the Waterfront and Black Diamond trails, both of which border the Ithaca Children’s Garden.

Over a dozen obstacles were spread throughout the course, ranging in difficulty from a series of balance beams to a grueling hill climb.

Other challenges included a “polar plunge,” in which runners had to enter the chilly waters of the Cayuga Inlet, and a “re-use carry,” where runners had to carry crates of material from the Ithaca ReUse Center.

Vinnie Cappadora, who designed the course, said while the course was challenging, it was designed to be as family-friendly as possible.

“There’s a way for everybody to do everything,” he said. “Nothing is too difficult for somebody to do. I’d say in terms of difficulty, on a scale of one to ten, it’s at most a five.”

Cappadora said that the course was designed to have something for everyone, and that was certainly the case for Phillip Stern and his family, who came all the way from Boston to run the course for a second straight year.

“I sort of liked going through the muddy stretch and then through the polar plunge,” Stern said, “but I was with my family and most people liked the wooden pyramid that you had to climb up.”

For Cappadora, the most important thing was for everyone to have a good time.

“It’s important to have everybody complete it,” he said. “If you can’t do it, it’s optional.”

Keeping the Garden Growing

A sign over the entrance to the Ithaca Children's Garden
The money raised from the race will go towards maintaining the Ithaca Children’s Garden and its many educational programs. (Photo by Matt Ristaino)

One of the unique things about the Ithaca Children’s Garden is that it is free to enjoy for the entire community. This means that it relies heavily on fundraising events, like the Tough Turtle 5k, in order to keep things running.

“It takes a lot of resources to sustain and maintain and grow a garden that is three acres for the entire community to use,” said Erin Marteal, executive director of the Ithaca Children’s Garden.

The garden attracts about 70,000 visitors a year, according to Marteal, which puts a strain on the garden’s physical condition.

“That’s a lot of people,” she said. “That’s a lot of wear and tear and use, so a lot of the money raised goes into supporting the physical garden.”

Some of the money will also go towards the educational programs run by the garden, including both on-site and after school programs.

“Our whole mission is to inspire environmental stewardship,” said Marteal.

While the garden is primarily geared towards a younger audience, that doesn’t mean that adults can’t enjoy it as well. Marteal encouraged everyone of all ages to come down and see what it’s all about.

“You don’t have to be a child to enjoy what’s down here,” she said. “To experience a different kind of environment and observe and interact with young people is really rewarding.”

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