Gainesville residents will soon be able to experience a new side of Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
Parts of the park that are normally closed will be opened for the Paynes Prairie 5K on Nov. 22. Richard Dreher, the director of Project Gainesville — one of the organizations hosting the event — said this race is different because it’s part trail, part pavement. Runners could pass alligators, horses and rare birds.
“It’s a beautiful setting,” Dreher said. “It’s a really unique trail, and it’s for a great cause.”
This year’s race will benefit his organization and the Friends of Paynes Prairie. Dreher, 35, said about 200 to 300 runners participate each year.
Caroline Nickerson, a 20-year-old UF history sophomore, ran the Paynes Prairie 5K last year and plans on doing it again.
“I recommend doing this 5K as opposed to other ones because this 5K is a true nature experience,” Nickerson said. “You’re immersed in nature, but you’re running on comfortable, familiar terrain.”
This year’s trail is a loop, according to the 5K website. Runners can expect to traverse on grass, sand, dirt, pavement and underbrush.
Registration is now open. Pre-registration is $30, which includes the price of a T-shirt. Participants can register without the shirt for $25 or at the park the day of the race for $35.
Registration for participants 12 years old and under is $15.
Melia Jacquot, a 23-year-old Book Gallery West employee and recent UF graduate, said she walked the first time she participated in the race but plans on running this year.
“Paynes Prairie is absolutely gorgeous in the morning,” Jacquot said. “You’re actually not dying while you’re running.”
[A version of this story ran on page 9 on 1/4/2014]