Running for Special Olympics

Southwest runners aim for 50-mile trek around Lake Harriet on May 19 to raise funds for Special Olympics

Two Southwest runners are making a difference one step at a time.
On May 19, 2024, Jake Lepak and Patrick Larson will run 50 miles around Lake Harriet to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics Minnesota (SOMN). They expect it to take about eight hours.
“Both Jake and I are former collegiate runners (Luther College and Macalester) who have continued to train and run marathons/ultramarathons after college. We are really excited about this opportunity to not only raise money for SOMN, but to also do it right in our backyard,” said Larson. “Lake Harriet feels like such a fitting venue given the amount of foot traffic on nice days in May.” 
Look for the runners wearing custom singlets that have Special Olympics on them. A table will be set up near the bandshell so people can get more information and make donations. “Additionally, we are encouraging any and all people to run with us for any distance,” said Larson. Special Olympics athletes will join in for portions of the run. Wait by the table for them to pass by every 24-30 minutes, and then join them. 
On the day of the event, follow their Instagram accounts (@patricktml22 and @lepakchopra) where they will be doing some live streams, Q&As, and song requests.
Larson’s uncle has lived at 47th and Aldrich his whole life, and so he’s spent a lot of time around Lake Harriet. Five years ago he moved to Linden Hills, and then relocated to Lynnhurst, where he serves on the neighborhood council. He suggested that the two run around Lake Harriet.
“I’ll be honest, this was definitely my idea because I love Lake Harriet,” said Larson. “I live just two blocks south of Lake Harriet and in my personal opinion, it is the best lake in Minneapolis. I recently got a dog and named him Harriet.” 
Lepak moved three blocks away from  Bde Maka Ska in 2023. 
The two friends met through their mutual involvement in the Special Olympics Minnesota Young Professionals Board. 
“The board is comprised of young professionals in the Twin Cities area and act as an extension to the executive board of directors and help raise awareness for SOMN through fundraising, events, and entrepreneurship,” Lepak observed. Their group works to support goals tied to major milestones within the broader organization, like helping support the 2026 USA Games, which will be held in Minneapolis. They hold various events throughout the year, invite guest speakers to meetings, and volunteer at Special Olympics events.
“It is a really great way for people like Jake and myself to meet other like-minded young people who all care about bettering the lives of people with disabilities,” said Larson.
He added, “My mom is a retired pediatric physical therapist so I grew up around people with disabilities and attribute much of my involvement to her incredible work with the community. I also love sports having been a collegiate runner so there is such a natural synergy between advocating through people with disabilities and sport. I truly think sports have the power to bring out the best in all people, and it’s so evident through what Special Olympics does on a daily basis.”
Lepak has been involved with SOMA for about eight years, and has wanted to give back in more ways. He just wrapped up a season of coaching a power-lifting team in southern Minneapolis, The Barbenders.
 “It’s been rewarding to partner with such a great organization that can make such an impact in so many ways,” said Lepak. “Plus, it’s a lot of fun.”
Larson grew up in a running family and his relationship with the sport has evolved over time. “I have always loved the competitive aspect of the sport and the ability to constantly strive for better times, even after college. I also truly love the therapeutic element of running. I believe I’m my best self when I’m consistently running and in good shape,” he remarked.
For the May 19 event, his training has been a consistent build of miles each week. He’s been running between 60-70 miles a week with one long run per week. He did 30-mile and 35-mile-runs in preparation. 
Previously, Larson completed a 50k trail race in Afton, an experience he said “was incredibly hard given the hilly course. Besides that, I have never done anything like this before, but I think that is the allure of it – continuing to test our limits for a good cause.”
Running is meditative and grounding for Lepak.”While it’s not always easy at times, I feel like at this point it’s a lifestyle thing for me and I always feel refreshed and energized after a nice easy run,” he stated. “When I’m training seriously for competitions, it’s a lot of fun to be able to push myself and see how far I’ve improved over the course of a couple months, years, etc.” 
He wrapped up a training cycle before the St. Louis Marathon on April 27. Post marathon, he took a couple of long bike rides. He paired easy runs leading up to the 50 miler on May 19 with a couple 25-30 milers on back-to-back days to get adjusted to the volume.
Lepak has done a handful of ultras-marathons. Two years ago, he attempted to run 12 hours around Bde Maka Ska. It was early December. The temperature was 6 degrees with 15 mile-per-hour winds. “I made it about 5.5 hours, and 35 miles before pulling the plug,” he said. “Definitely learned my lesson, and my winter ultra days are far behind me.”
Lepak and Larson are excited for their May 19 fundraising run, and encourage anyone and everyone to come out and run/jog/walk with them. 
“We are going to accommodate our pace to be inclusive of whoever wants to join us,” said Larson. “At the end of the run, we’ll be having a small gathering of people just north of the bandshell that will include pizza that is being generously donated from Broders.” They expect that to occur at about 2:30 p.m.


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