Check it out – I’m in the world’s largest corn maze!
Richardson Adventure Farm, in Spring Grove, Illinois, has an annual corn maze that covers 28 acres and includes almost 10 miles of paths. It’s enormous! Every year they host a 5K race, through the maze, and I knew I wanted to do it as soon as I heard about it earlier this year from my friend Jason. It’s the perfect event for me. After all, I love racing, and I love mazes (I draw ’em and sell ’em online) – and this race combines those two loves into one fantastic morning!
The maze has a different theme every year. Sometimes they celebrate Chicago sports teams, and they’ve done Star Trek and Beatles-themed mazes in recent years, too. This year’s maze honors the 50th anniversary of man first walking on the moon.
The maze is actually made up of four smaller mazes, but the 5K route includes parts of all of them. The entire race is inside the maze, excluding about 50 yards at the beginning and end.
To really appreciate the sheer vastness of the maze, you gotta see it from above. Thankfully, the good folks at Richardson Adventure Farm thought about that, and that’s why they installed a 50-foot observation tower next to the maze that offers incredible views.
Most of the paths in the maze are wide enough to only accommodate two people, side by side. So a mass start isn’t really an option – especially when there were 1,000 people participating. Instead, they started one runner every two seconds, and grouped people into waves based on their speed. I run about a 10-minute mile, so I put myself in the 10-minute mile wave.
Running inside the maze was insanely fun. It was completely flat, but the corn was taller than me, and there were over 250 turns, so I never knew where I was going, or what was coming next. It was completely disorienting, with a turn every few seconds.
There was no danger of getting lost. Organizers roped off the paths that we weren’t supposed to take, and they painted chalk lines on the ground that pointed the way.
I had accurately predicted my pace, but it turns out that many others around me did not. I got passed twice during the entire race, but passed dozens of others, some of whom were walking. To be clear, I have nothing against walkers whatsoever, but they established waves for a reason (because passing is kept at a minimum if everyone around you is more or less the same speed) and running around a tight corner and finding a walker on the other side provided a surprise I wasn’t expecting.
I lost track of time and place while running in that maze. It was cloudy, so I couldn’t see the sun, and for most of the maze, I couldn’t see the observation tower either. I had no idea where I was, and I wasn’t looking at my watch, so I no idea how long I had been running, either. I was having so much fun. I was running at a pretty good clip, but with all the sharp turns, some of them hairpin, I know I wasn’t running as fast as I would on a straighter course.
There was a volunteer inside the maze, telling runners when they had 30 seconds left in the maze. I gave it everything I had left at that point. Jason, who had already finished, was watching from the observation tower, and he actually filmed my finish! What a fun surprise. It’s super cool footage, so I put it on YouTube!
(The video is embedded above, or watch here if it doesn’t load.)
I crossed the finish line and was handed one of the coolest medals I’ve ever earned: it has the entire maze, and even had a dashed line showing the route!
Of course I took a selfie with the medal on top of the observation tower…
…and Jason took a picture of me taking that picture.
Jason, by the way, was one of four friends that I knew at the race. This picture, from L to R, is me, Jason, Josh, (another) David, and Erin:
This is a group of winners. Josh won the whole damn thing, and Jason came in second place – out of 974 finishers. David and Erin also won age group medals. I’m the only one in that picture that didn’t end up on a podium, but, frankly, that’s nothing new. I still did really well, and I’m going to value the memories more than I would another medal.
I finished 131st out of 974 participants – top 15%! My time was 30 minutes, 38 seconds. I Also finished 83rd out of 345 men, and 11th in my age group (Men 40-44), out of 48.
Even better, this race was a family affair! My sister Laura drove out from Chicago to do the race. She and her friend Lisa walked the 5K, and had a great time. I waited for them to finish from atop the observation tower, and snagged this photo of them in the home stretch. Laura’s in black, and Lisa’s in blue:
We got a photo afterward, too.
I can’t wait to go back next year. It’s going to be a completely different maze, with a completely different theme and route. What a fun way to get some exercise and spend time with family and friends!
Keep it up, David!
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