When two young, athletic businessmen came up with their own fundraising idea for the Special Olympics, their brains went far beyond the typical events. Forget a 5K, 10K, or even a marathon. Patrick Larson and Jake Lepak are setting their sights on running 50 miles around Lake Harriet on May 19 to raise money for Special Olympics Minnesota.

Larson and Lepak met through the Special Olympics Minnesota Young Professionals Board in May 2022 but Larson said it felt like they have known each other much longer than that. The board focuses on entrepreneurship, fundraising, volunteering, and raising awareness for the Special Olympics.

“Along with that entrepreneurship, we're very vocal about encouraging board members to pursue their own fundraising, if they have a unique idea that they think would be a good way to engage the community to raise money,” Lepak said.

Another board member has raised $30,000 over three years through a golf tournament. Larson hosted a pickleball tournament to raise money.

Lepak's previous fundraising effort was slightly more involved than golf or pickleball.

“Two years ago, I decided to participate and called it an extreme athletic challenge,” Lepak said.

His idea? Run around Bde Maka Ska for 12 hours. The date he chose? A very cold day in December 2022. The temperature was five degrees with negative 10 degree wind chills, Lepak recalled.

“I made it about five and a half hours and 32 miles before pulling the plug,” he said. Extreme athletic challenge, indeed.

This year, Lepak is bringing Larson along for the run on May 19. Both men are longtime runners. Lepak, originally from St. Louis ran for Macalester College. Larson, a Minneapolis native, ran for Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

In a city with many lakes to run around, Lake Harriet is a favorite of Larson’s. He has deep family roots in Lynnhurst, with his uncle and parents living in the neighborhood. Plus, he lives two blocks away from the lake.

“I'm indifferent,” Lepak said. “It’s Patrick’s lake. I am happy to let him drive.”

The custom-made singlets Patrick Larson and Jake Lepak are wearing on their May 19 run around Lake Harriet. The front of the singlet includes blue waves to represent Lake Harriet and elements of the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games logo. Photo courtesy of Patrick Larson.

To run 50 miles around Lake Harriet, Lepek and Larson will need to make 17 laps around the lake. Each lap will take 25-30 minutes. They are encouraging people to join them on the run. On their fundraising page is a Google Doc where people can sign up to join them, so they know who to look out for. They will be wearing custom made shirts, or singlets, with the Special Olympics athlete oath on the back. The singlets also include elements of the 2026 Special Olympics USA Games, which will be held at the University of Minnesota.  

All money raised during Lepak and Larson’s run is for the Minnesota Special Olympics chapter. For runners and supporters of Lepak and Larson on May 19, Broders’ is donating pizza. “They actually have a Special Olympics athlete that works there,” Larson said. Other local businesses sponsoring the run are Lake Harriet Pizza, Red Cow, and Red Rabbit.