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Trail runners leave the starting line en masse running under a blue blow up starting line.

Keepin’ it Rural Fundraiser

In early December 2021, a crew of nature-loving trail runners, hikers, and nature supporters participated in the Keepin’ it Rural Run/Hike through the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve (race map below). We chatted with event organizer JP Theberge. JP is also the President and Director of Insight at North County San Diego business, Cultural Edge, a consumer insights research firm.

The 2020 KIR race was canceled due to coronavirus concerns. The built-up excitement of the runners to participate was palpable on the day. More than 250 runners, hikers, and four-legged friends joined in the fun and a slew of local businesses were on hand to support the event. The Escondido Creek Conservancy was the grateful recipient of this race proceeds. Now that the planning for the 2022 race has begun, we reached out to JP to get his perspective on the event.

A vendor booth under a white tent is covered with nature brochures and maps. A man in trail running clothes looks over the maps.

Conservancy Executive Director, Ann Van Leer, and retiring Board Member Jeff Swenerton work the booth at the race.

What inspired the creation of the race?

JP: The race was created to support the Town Council’s mission of “Keepin’ it Rural.” Keepin’ it Rural means attempting to preserve open space and promoting a rural environment. It also was intended to bring together the community to celebrate and appreciate the amazing natural resources around us and to invite people from outside of our community to appreciate it as well.

A young man takes a coloring book brochure about local nature

The Conservancy loves sharing information about nature with everyone.

Why make the event a fundraiser?

JP: The first race was 7 years ago and our goal was specific to initiatives we needed to tackle in our community. Now that those initiatives have been completed, we were able to select the Conservancy as the beneficiary of the race proceeds because the goals of the Conservancy are noble and fit perfectly with our values and mission of “keeping’ it rural.”

A dog on a leash pulls a runner down a dirt trail.

Even our four-legged friends wanted to race!

What makes KIR special?

JP: It is a one-of-its-kind event. As a sanctioned, chip-timed trail run race, it offers competitive athletes and weekend warriors a way to let off steam in one of the most scenic and beautiful areas of [San Diego] County. It is widely considered one of the more challenging trail runs in the area with 1600 feet of climbing on a 10k course and 900 on the 5k. But for those who simply want to participate in a great cause, there is also hike entry in addition to a fun festival that features raffles, give-aways as well as a live band and great food trucks and a local craft beer garden courtesy of Lost Abbey Brewery. Many of our participants are repeat offenders. They always come back because it is an amazing cause and an amazing event.

How difficult was it producing the event during the coronavirus pandemic, and when did you know for sure you’d be able to put it all together?

JP: We had to work within County and state guidelines. We weren’t sure it was going to be feasibly until June of 2021. Our 2020 race had to be cancelled so this was a long time coming.

Is a 2022 race already on the calendar?

JP: Indeed!  We have tentatively planned for December 4th as our next race date (the 7th annual event!).

Anything else you’d like to share about the event?

JP: It takes a small army of people to put together an event like this. We had upwards of 40 volunteers help us in everything from setting up, putting up signage, manning water tables, public safety and we partner with great organizations like TECC who also contribute volunteers and promotion as well as the Rancho Santa Fe Fire District who provides dozens of public safety personnel and, lastly OMWD who provides the venue and allows us the privilege of holding the event in this cherished open space.

To stay updated on the 2022 race, follow KIR on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

A trail runner gives the camera a thumbs up as he goes by.

Having fun? Thumbs up!

Trail runners leave the starting line on a dirt trail under an overcast sky.

The KIR race is held at the Elfin Forest Recreational Reserve. One of San Diego County’s precious natural resources, the Reserve offers 11 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and equestrian trails, as well as picnic areas and scenic mountain viewing points. The natural beauty of the Reserve includes such native plant communities as oak riparian, oak woodland, coastal sage scrub, and chaparral. Typically closed to public access, the KIR 10K/5K is a unique opportunity to enjoy a start and post-race festivities from the base of the Olivenhain Reservoir.

A race map

brand logos

Plenty of awesome local vendors were on hand to support the event.

Support the Conservancy’s Land Conservation Efforts.