The charity partner for the first race is Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance (LOWA), set to receive a $2,000 donation at the conclusion of the race.

Tourists, newcomers, and old-timers agree. Natural beauty is the main attraction for the Lake region. Another is the wide variety of recreational opportunities on and off the water. Foremost among these are the Ozarks Hills where the rise and fall of terrain call to hikers and runners eager to meet the challenge.

On May 4, an international runner traveling from Cape Town, South Africa and more than 70 runners from six states, including Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Montana, will convene for the Trail of Four Winds 25K, the first in a Lake of the Ozarks Trail three-race series organized by local runner, John Shelby. The charity partner for the first race is Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance (LOWA), set to receive a $2,000 donation at the conclusion of the race. Another key partner is the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and locally, Lake of the Ozarks State Park, the largest park in Missouri. Shelby says the department and park welcomed the opportunity to highlight the region in another light--that of competitive trail running.

The website, Lake of the Ozarks Trail Series, includes a graphic for the trail that begins and ends at Public Beach #1. Data accompanying the image note the average trail grade is a manageable 4% (2 degrees) with a maximum grade of 24% (13 degrees). More important, as everyone familiar with the area knows, the views of dense woods and fine coves will be spectacular. 

Shelby began running in high school and quickly learned the truth expressed in Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run: “the secret to happiness is right at your feet.” Shelby has found not only happiness, but also “adventure … unfold[ing] one stride at a time”--happiness in the company of “like-minded individuals” and adventure in the long distances of running alone where a runner competes against the course and his own best efforts.

Shelby has run Cross Country and marathons. He added a relay race through light and dark in the Arkansas Ozarks as an adult, and through it all, he says, running is “about new adventures and challenges” whether or not it results in “a personal record or a podium finish.” As proof, Shelby reports he’s adding the Smokies Challenge Adventure Run (SCAR) across the entire 72 miles of the Smoky Mountains National Park in under 24 hours to his résumé by the end of March 2019.

Shelby is both the designer and organizer for the Trail of Four Winds 25K. He credits a local runner, Chris Boyle, for his service as a sounding board and consultant on the trail’s layout.

With a background in running and communications, Shelby was also well-equipped to build a website promoting the racing series at the lake. In February, he hosted a preview for the trail, an event that brought registrants to the region before the actual race date on May 4.

In fact, the race has brought together full-time local residents, second-home owners, and competitors already in possession of laurels. Michael McCulloch was last year’s Ha Ha (Tonka) Half marathon champ, and he’s now one of more than 70 runners set to compete in May.

The Trail of Four Winds 25K and future trail runs introduce national and international runners to the adventures awaiting them at Lake of the Ozarks. They bring their dollars and their energy to the region. Based on the reasons people give for moving to the area, Shelby is confident many of them will return again for more of the beauty and adventures to be found here.