The Tour de La Porte is a walking, running and biking event that benefits patients with cancer in La Porte, Indiana. According to the race’s website the event started in 2002 and has raised $709, 348 and has helped 1,095 cancer patients. I had the opportunity to meet the founder of this race, Larry Noel, as I was sitting at a picnic table Friday night recovering from the 5K trail race that I had just run. He told me about starting the event as a biking event and how it had grown over the years. He expressed gratitude that we had traveled over 3.5 hours to participate and then gave me 3 rubber Tour de La Porte bracelets to give the kids.
Talking with Mr Noel made me want to do a little more research on this event and how it got started. I read an article that was shared by the event, that gave a little bit of background and then highlighted stories of a few of the participants. Read this story from La Porte County Life here. I also found an article from 2012, also from La Porte County Life, that tells more of Mr Noel’s story and why he felt so strongly about helping those with cancer (he had several family members affected) and why he chose a bike riding event (that later added a 5K, 10K and half marathon). It’s a great article. Check it out here
My conversation with Mr Noel Friday evening is a good illustration of how this event captured first the attention of my best running friend, Mindy, and then my attention when she invited me to run it with her the second time she returned. As I mentioned, La Porte, IN is approx a 3.5 hour drive (longer with kids) and with a 6:30 am CST half marathon start time, staying overnight is a must. The fact that the event also offers a 5K trail run the night before the half marathon makes driving up there Friday afternoon and staying overnight a fun trip! The kids also love swimming in the indoor pool at the hotel, so it really is like a little mini family vacay!
The 5K trail race on Friday night is not chipped time. It starts in the grass on the side of one of the roads in the park where all the events start and finish, runs across the sand on the beach of the lake, and then heads into the wooded trails. The event organizers do a good job of marking the trail with colored banners and have spray painted the roots in the path with the same color paint making it easy to follow the course. This was particularly helpful as I ran alone this year and tend to get lost easily. The lead pack of runners took off and I lost them pretty quickly after entering the woods but I was still ahead enough of the runners behind me that I was alone for a good portion of the course. The trails are beautiful in this part of the state and there are definitely some good hills that left me pretty breathless going up them. There was one water stop on the course and several volunteers at places on the course where someone may make a wrong turn. The only negative thing is that the course is not truly a 5K (this was the same last year) and my watch states it was 2.78 miles but being out in a park in the woods it is also possible that my Garmin’s measurement of the distance was not accurate as well. I only stumbled once on the course and was able to catch myself (all the core work I’m doing!) without falling! Zero falls on a trail run is a pretty good day for me, but then as I was sitting recovering and chatting with Mr Noel, I heard my name called as the 3rd place finisher in my age group! That was definitely a pleasant surprise!!
Then it was back to the hotel for swimming, dinner and bed as Saturday’s wake up call was going to be early. (Little did we know how early as our son had his watch alarm set for 4:30 am which happened to be 3:30 am in a different time zone, but that’s a story for another time) The start line of the half marathon is on the street that turns into the park and offers beautiful views of a Pine Lake (and it was gorgeous watching the sun come up!). The route is marked by signs and coordinating colors by race. It was announced several times that the half marathoners were the ORANGE route but honestly there was adequate signage and so many volunteers that I never needed to rely on the colored markers on the street, although I did see them!
One thing that has stood out to me about this course the last 2 years that I have done this race is the hills. They aren’t huge mountain hills or anything, I think I would call them more like rolling hills, but they just seem to be on every mile of the course. I am certain we ran some flat areas but there were so many times when I got to the bottom of one hill just to find that it was time to start climbing the next one. Again these are not the types of hills you find in some other races that are known for the big hills, these are completely runnable (if that’s a word) but they were definitely noticed! There were aid stations about every 2 miles just as stated by the guy with the microphone at the start line, and I also carried my hand held water bottle with me.
The course runs through what I would consider more of a residential area, although not a neighborhood – the roads were more like county roads, no sidewalks, etc but also no farm land to be seen, just beautiful houses with nice big yards in what seemed like it would be a quiet place to live. Then I would guess somewhere between mile 3 and 4 we made a right turn and headed out further on to county roads where there were some cornfields sprinkled in with the houses. The course was mainly closed to traffic but the people that lived along the route needed access to and from their homes (I totally get that) and so there were a few instances where you would hear people yelling from behind you to get over because a car was coming. Never did a feel that the drivers of these cars were impatient and I felt like they carefully maneuvered through the runners with safety in mind.
This part of the course makes a circle that connects back to the first part of the course around mile 10 and then takes runners back to the park on the other side that gave us the opportunity to run around Stone Lake which was also very beautiful! This lake has the beach that we ran on during the trail run and also has a playground where I later found out my kids were playing when I came around the lake and could see me running from across the lake. The finish line is at Cummings Lodge where there was cold water and lots of food waiting! I felt a surge of excitement coming around that lake to the finish and felt like I finished strong. I found a nice place on the curb to sit after I finished to catch my breath and drink some water and was able to catch the award ceremony for the 5K, 10K and half marathon. The overall winners took home golden shoe trophies that looked like a legit running shoe that someone had spray painted gold and mounted to a base. I’m sure my description isn’t great but it was one of the coolest awards I’ve seen. I will share a picture posted by the race photographers, because I’m pretty sure you guys will love them too. I am nowhere near fast enough to earn one of these, but I sure can admire them!
After the last runners from the half marathon finished, it was time for the mini fun run that was a race for kids ages 4-8 that cost $1 per kid!! First of all, how awesome is that? Most races that offer runs for kids have a cost that is more like $10-$20 per kid and with 3 kids that really adds up. The kids ran by age group which means Sawyer and Stella ran together and man was I impressed! They were in it to win it, taking 2nd and 3rd place! Every kid that ran got a cute little medal, beach ball and sand bucket with beach toys. So cool! After the fun run we started to head back to the car and we were approached by a La Porte police officer (I recognized this guy because he had been at an intersection on the course and was very interactive with the runners, yelling out encouragement!) He took the kids to his car where he gave the boys each a football and Stella a teddy bear (which she still sleeps with a week later)! I did not catch this Officer’s name but his kindness will always be remembered.
Can you tell why this is a race that is worth the drive? It has a very small town feel but both years I have felt very supported as a runner! Next year I think it would be fun if we stayed an extra day and Justin did some miles on his bike! Then we could have the whole Tour de La Porte experience!!!