Sixth annual Women Run the Cities Race

The popular race attracts participants from all over the Metro, and it’s happening this month.
ESPN named Women Run the Cities one of the five best races for women nationwide.

On a late-September morning, nearly 3,000 women and girls will arrive at Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis to participate in the sixth annual Women Run the Cities races. With 10-mile and 5K options for women and a 1-mile run for girls, the day is completely focused on female health and fitness.

Although the events are races, the emphasis has never been on competition. “The mission of the event has remained the same since its inception: to provide a non-intimidating environment for women and girls to challenge and push themselves to reach their goals,” says Laura Graf, Edina resident and Women Run the Cities race co-director.  

In the summer of 2006, Edina resident Meghan Huber approached the board of directors of Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women (MNCREW), of which she was a member, about starting a running event that would provide more exposure for the organization. A group of dedicated women met and created the Women Run the Cities race, which kicked off in September 2007.

At the time, there weren’t any other women-only events in the Twin Cities. Graf says it was both exciting and scary to be starting something exclusively by women and for women. “Once I met the other women committed to the event, I knew it would be a huge success,” she says.

Fast-forward to today. A committee of passionate, focused real estate professionals take charge of organizing Women Run the Cities every year. Graf says many of the volunteer members have been involved in planning since 2006. Besides the core planning group, more than 200 volunteers also help with important tasks like helping participants with registration and handing out medals to the finishers. 

“We are all very committed to the event and the reward for all the hard work and time commitment comes when we see all of those amazing women and girls cross the finish line each September,” says Graf.

The 10-mile run begins in Minnehaha Park, crosses the Mississippi River into St. Paul, follows the eastern bank of the river and then finishes back in Minnehaha Park. The course has stayed the same over the years, as has most of the event, aside from small improvements.

“Over the years we have considered significant changes, but we always want to make sure our focus is on making it the best possible experience for each and every participant,” says Graf. “If we are not completely confident that a change will make it better, then we have decided to stay the course.”

Graf is a commercial real estate attorney, MNCREW member and a mom, and has not only held many positions in organizing the event, but she has participated in the 5K and 10-mile runs. Last year her two daughters also ran in the girls’ 1-mile event.

“When I joined the committee my daughters were 2 and 5 years old and were toddling around. Last year, at ages 7 and 9, my daughters crossed the finish line after running the 1-mile event. It was such a proud moment to see [them] cross the finish line with pride and joy on their faces at an event that has been a labor of love for so many years,” she gushes.

Proceeds from Women Run the Cities go to the CREW Network Foundation and the Ann Bancroft Foundation’s Dare to Dream program and Dream Maker awards. The CREW Network Foundation’s career outreach agenda makes it possible for women and girls interested in commercial real estate to realize their goals through educational outreach, scholarships and mentoring programs. The Dare to Dream program aims to support girls in grades 6 through 10 looking to gain experience with their abilities and goals, and the Dream Maker awards recognize two adults, one organization and one girl for their life achievements and ability to support and encourage other women to meet challenges and reach their potential.

Most recently, the event has gained local and national recognition. In January, ESPN named Women Run the Cities one of the five best races for women throughout the country. And in May, the Minnesota Women’s Press touted the run as its “Favorite Run, Walk or Bike for a Cause.” With acclaim like this, it’s no surprise the event sold out in 2011. Early registration is recommended as this year’s Women Run the Cities is capped at 2,700 participants, says Graf.




WHAT: Women Run the Cities Races

WHEN: Sunday, September 23; 8 a.m. women’s 10-mile run, 8:10 a.m. girls’ 1-mile run, 8:30 a.m. Women’s 5K run/walk

WHERE: Minnehaha Park, 4801 S. Minnehaha Park Dr., Mpls.

COST: $35-$65, depending on event and date of your registration; $10 girls’ 1-mile run

POST-RACE: Refreshments will include Starbucks and Muscle Milk. Each participant will receive a long-sleeved shirt and medal, and be treated to entertainment, awards and other giveaways.