Pi Mile Run

Published April 9, 2008

Pi Mile Run benefits well water project in El Salvador

As 255 Madison students and community members thundered down the Lakeshore Path on the first warm Saturday morning in April, they dodged muddy puddles and happy pedestrians out for a weekend walk along Lake Mendota.

The runners’ motivation? A worthy cause, and several hundred slices of pie waiting at the finish line.

April 5, 2008, was the 8th annual Pi Mile Run, hosted by the University of Wisconsin-Madison chapter of Tau Beta Pi, an engineering honor society. This year boasted double the attendance of last year’s event, with participants running in either a 5K (3.14 miles) or 10K race.

All race proceeds go toward a clean water project in El Salvador.

Mechanical engineering student Ted Durkee, who coordinated the 2007 run, connected the honor society with the El Salvador project. Two summers ago, Durkee traveled to El Salvador to work with ENLACE, a non-profit organization that develops sustainable initiatives in El Salvador.

Currently, families in the communities of Las Delicias, Las Animas and El Rosario spend a third of their meager income trucking in water—yet, the water comes from one of the most polluted rivers in El Salvador.

During his stay in El Salvador, Durkee learned that community residents have been trying to get clean water for more than 50 years. The three communities, which combined have a population of 6,100, now are working together on their attempts to build a well water system. They finally developed formal plans in 2002.

Although the communities have the will to implement the project and ENLACE provides organizational support, they lack the finances to get the wells and pipes in place.

Biomedical engineering student Jessica Hause organized the 2008 Pi Mile Run, with help from Durkee and biomedical engineering student Sarah Steenblock. As in 2007, they again chose the Las Delicias water project as the charity to benefit from race sponsors and registration fees. “We volunteered for this because we were really excited about the opportunity to organize a community event and help fulfill a need that will directly change people’s lives,” Durkee says.

The strong turnout means Tau Beta Pi will donate about $4,000—an amount that will make a significant difference. Every $20 equals 8 feet of pipe for the well system, according to Hause.

A variety of sponsors, including URS Washington Division; Graef, Anhalt, Schloemer and Associates Inc.; Polygon Engineering Council; Saris Cycling Group; Rudolph & Sletten Inc; Underground Printing; Fontana Sports; Montgomery Associates; and Hey and Associates Inc., also helped make the Pi Mile Run a success, says Durkee.

“We were really excited and pleasantly surprised by the generosity of our sponsors this year. That definitely had a tremendous effect on the event and enabled us to make a much bigger impact on our chosen charity,” he says.

The event drew participants at a variety of running levels. Sam Keepman, a UW-Madison sophomore, was the top male winner of the 5K at a time of 18:05. A member of the UW-Madison track team, Keepman says he participated in the race because it benefited charity and was conveniently located. “It’s my first time running this race,” he says. “I didn’t think it would be this big.”

Two other race participants were also first-time Pi Mile runners. Jessica, age 8, and Jocelyn, age 5, traveled from Fredonia, Wisconsin, to tackle the 5K along with their mother, who frequently runs races. “This is the first race they’ve run without strollers,” she says.

Jessica was all smiles about her successful day. Jocelyn was a bit tired.

Kae Yoshikawa was the top 5K female runner with a time of 22:43. Chris Dresser was the top 10K male runner at 34:28 and Jaime Kulbel was the top 10K female at 44:57.

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