The City of Mansfield invites folks to join its Barks and Rec.
No, it's not a new department, but it is something new. The Barks and Rec Running, which combines humans and canines in a fitness activity, begins Saturday, Feb. 10 with a six-week run, pardon the pun.
"There are two things people in Mansfield love - fitness and dogs," said Ann Beck, marketing and communications manager for the parks and recreation department. "As a parks department, we are always looking for new and creative ways to get people outside and active, and at the same time our animal care and control staff has so many pets who need not just homes, but love and attention.
"One day we realized the answer to both our problems was to team up, and it all just came together quickly from there. Our fall intern (Nicolette Ricciuti) took over the concept as her special project, and really worked with all the different staff and departments to figure out all the logistics to make sure it's an incredible experience for everyone."
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Participants will show up at Katherine Rose Memorial Park for six consecutive Saturday mornings in one of two groups, either at 8 or 9. They will then run with their partners from the Mansfield Animal Shelter (one dog per family).
The program is designed as a "couch to 5K," so the actual distance depends on each participant. There will be an instructor at each class to help coach and motivate everyone with the goal for each to complete the 5K at the end of the six sessions.
The event is open to anyone age 14 or over (with parent/guardian permission).
Cost is $40 for all six weeks, and this includes entry into the 5K run on March 24, which will include a variety of entertainment and is sponsored by Methodist Medical Center.
"It's been so many months in the making, we're all just so excited to see it finally happen, and we couldn't be more thrilled with the responses we've gotten from residents already," Beck said.
In fact, the idea began with a single start time of 8 a.m., but Beck said so many signed up that they added the later time.
If a person can't participate in all six weeks, drop-ins are welcome for a rate of $7. And if you just want to run the 5K, that's okay also, with participants being able to choose whether they want to be accompanied by a canine. Cost to run the 5K alone is $20.
But the hope is folks will take advantage of the chance to hang out with a new furry friend.
"This allows them (the shelter) an additional way to be in the community and show off their wonderful dogs, as well as gives the dogs a safe place to exercise and run off all of their energy," said Greg Guse, recreational supervisor. "Ideally, each participant becomes attached and connected to the dog they run with each week, which leads to the dog finding a forever home.
"There are benefits for everyone. The dogs get exercise and love and interaction with us, participants are choosing to focus on fitness and work towards accomplishing their goals, and the community becomes closer as we all partner and work together."
Whether a person can run five miles or simply likes to walk a ways, Beck said there are no requirements to participate - except for wanting to get more healthy and have fun. They'll be paired with a dog that best suits their exercise style.
"When people register we're getting them to self-report their fitness level," she said. "So we can put older dogs with some who aren't so fast, more relaxed. We're not going to put a puppy with someone who can't keep up.
"Research shows people who have pets are healthier. Dogs want to be walked."
Guse said this is a great event for families.
"We have families choosing to exercise together. The dogs are looking for a family to take them home, too," he said.
And, the event is open to anyone wishing to participate, whether you live in Mansfield or not.
Beck said anyone who participates in the program and adopts a dog will have their adoption fees waived. There will also be a discount for those who adopt a dog on the day of the 5K.
To register online, visit https://apm.activecommunities.com/mansfield/Activity_Search/barks-rec-5k-5y-03-24/8171. For more information, contact 817-728-3680.