MANKATO, Minn. – Each October, the Minnesota Pork Board has promoted pork by offering bacon during the Pork Power 5K race. The 5K (3.1 miles) race is one of five events operating under the umbrella of the Mankato Marathon.

Yes…bacon…can be eaten while running a 5K race in Mankato.

“It’s a fun event that always has a good turnout,” said Joy Leafblad, sports commissioner director for Visit Mankato. “The Pork Power 5K is the only event that offers food while you run.”

In normal years, pork producers hand out freshly grilled pork chops-on-a-stick after the run.

This year, the event will run a little bit differently with no food giveaways allowed, because of COVID-19 rules. Instead, everyone receives a jacket or sweatshirt plus a medal. For the 5K event, participants who finish and record their time get a sweatshirt with a MN Pork logo.

They also get a cute pig medal.

In its 11th year, the Mankato Marathon offers five events: the Marathon limited to 250 runners; the Half Marathon limited to 900 runners; the 10K and 5K each limited to 700 participants; and the KidsK for 100 participants.

The event normally occurs in mid-October each year. In 2020, participants can choose their course, start time and a day to run their race between Oct. 12-26.

Gold and above sponsors include: Mayo Clinic Health System, Consolidated Communications, HyVee, Pepsi, McDonalds, Northwestern Mutual, Scheels, MTU Onsite Energy, Minnesota Pork Board and Mankato Family YMCA, along with many media partners, and additional sponsors.

“We love to partner with Minnesota Pork,” Leafblad said, adding that the Pork Power 5K race sold out last year. “It’s more than a run, it’s an event on Friday night.”

For the past many years, the Pork Power 5K served as a warmup run for Marathon runners and a fun run for others, said Pam Voelkel, Minnesota Pork Board director of events and promotions.

“We’ve actually done this for a number of years with Mankato Marathon,” Voelkel said. “It’s more designed to get that marathon crowd and to stress the nutritional value of pork in a healthy diet.”

Extra protein plus great minerals and vitamins makes pork a good choice for runners, she added.

Pork enthusiasts can find great recipes and ideas for cooking with pork on the Minnesota Pork Facebook page.

Recent recipes on the site include ham pinwheels; tomato basil sausage spaghetti squash, Vietnamese noodle salad and Italian sausage white bean stew.

Minnesota Pork Board is also partnering with Twin Cities Live the week of Oct. 12. A new segment on cooking with pork will be broadcast each day.

“They’ll just be talking about how pork fits into a nutritious diet, the versatility, cooking temperatures and those types of things,” she said.

Over the past six months of COVID-19 quarantine, many consumers are cooking pork at home. Ground pork, pork roasts and ribs are all wonderful foods to use in home cooking.

Since COVID-19, Voelkel’s noticed that many consumers have a new appreciation/understanding for the food system and pork in particular.

“In Minnesota, it doesn’t matter where you go and purchase pork – whether it’s Cub Foods, whether it’s your local butcher shop, whether it’s your local Independent Grocers Alliance, or SuperValu – for the most part, any pork that you purchase – it is very likely it was grown right down the road from where you live,” she said. “Just remember to thank pig farmers that are getting all of that nutritious pork for us.”

The last day to register for the 2020 Mankato Marathon is Oct. 15. Signup information is available at Mankatomarathon.com.