I haven’t really researched this but if I had to develop some kind of science-based estimate on the number of nonprofits in Helena, I would hypothesize that it would be a whole heck of a lot.

Each of these has their own worthy mission, but one of my personal favorites is the Prickly Pear Land Trust. And here’s why: I spend time on Helena’s trail system nearly every day of the year and nearly every day that I am out there, I think how incredibly lucky I am to have this amazing resource right out my back door. And all of this is available to me because of the work of PPLT.

If you’re not familiar with the Prickly Pear Land Trust, it is the organization that works to conserve open land in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson and Broadwater counties. As our communities have virtually exploded in growth over the last 20 years, PPLT’s efforts have served to make our communities more livable for both people and animals by protecting habitats, securing ecosystems and providing abundant recreational opportunities.

Those recreational opportunities are what got us out on the trail system last Saturday, May 11 (as if we needed an excuse). The boys and I ran PPLT’s Don’t Fence Me In 13th annual trail run, during which we got to enjoy the trails on a beautiful Saturday morning while simultaneously supporting PPLT’s efforts to maintain and expand our beloved trail system.

Initially, Mike, my third-grader, and I thought we’d sign up to do the 12K, but due to reasons beyond our control (namely an illness that required multiple rounds of antibiotics and Peter, my kindergartner, wanting to join us), we opted for the 5K, which took us on a route we hike at least once a week thanks to its proximity to our house.

We could have even taken Bad Dog with us since there’s also a 5K dog walk/run along the same route, but using our better judgment, we decided to leave her at home. There’s also a 30K race, which we had no illusions about and didn’t even think of attempting.

When Mike and I were planning on doing the 12K, I envisioned us doing long, training runs together, logging mile after mile through the South Hills. But that

didn’t exactly work out, so here’s what we did: I hiked with Bad Dog twice a day like I always do and Mike joined me when he could.

It certainly wasn’t the hardcore training regimen that I had dreamed of, but — as I kept reminding myself — Mike is only 9 years old and sometimes it’s OK just to have fun with something. So, as encouragement to you and yours — unless you’re planning on winning the race — you can probably finish a 5K pretty easily with minimal (or even none at all) training involved.

And unless you’re grooming the next Olympic superstar, if you’re racing with your children, your focus should be on just having a great time.

Which is easy for me to say now, but I will tell you that I really had to work at tamping down my competitive drive as I strolled through most of the 5K with Peter in tow. Mike found a friend at the start of the race and they ended up running the entire route together. Peter and I, however, dawdled at the back of the pack, stopping to drink water, smell wildflowers, and add to his rock collection.

Thankfully, PPLT’s “Don’t Fence Me In” run is about as family-friendly as you can get. First, children 10 and under get to participate in the race for free. And here’s the best part: They get a T-shirt, a race bib, and a timing chip so they feel like a “real” race participant no matter how long it takes them to finish.

And while the 30K event draws some of the top competitive trail runners in the country, the 5K is full of families enjoying some time on the trails together. We saw many grandparents with their grandchildren and there were a few 3- and 4-year-olds doing the run, too.

The race wasn’t much longer than our normal family hikes, but the boys were proud of themselves for participating and finishing. While waiting for Peter and me to finish, Mike figured out where and how to print out his chip time, which he attached to his race bib as a memento. The boys wore their race shirts all day and when we ran into a teacher from their school while out shopping, Peter ran up to her and announced, “Hello! I ran the race!”

Indeed he did. And with any luck, PPLT’s Don’t Fence Me In run is the first race of many for the boys. As race season gears up for the 2013 season, there are many options from which to choose like the Governor’s Cup, the Race for the Cure, or the Big Dipper’s 6K. I know we won’t be setting any speed records, but participating in these races helps to raise money and awareness for many great causes while giving the boys a real sense of accomplishment and laying the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle for years to come.

If you’re interested in participating in any of Prickly Pear Land Trust’s summer events, mark your calendars for the kid’s Eye Spy walk on June 13 and the annual weed pull and barbecue on June 27. For more information on PPLT or to learn more about their events, visit their website at http://

Sara Groves is a freelance writer who lives in Helena. Read more Family Time columns at helenair.com.

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