40th annual CSU Homecoming 5K continues the tradition with the first ever virtual race

The 40th Annual Colorado State University Homecoming 5K was unlike any other 5K that came before it. The race was held in an entirely virtual format, allowing runners from all over the globe to participate and submit their times between September 20 and October 3.

The race was organized by the CSU Department of Health and Exercise Science. Despite COVID-19 changing the format, community members, students, children, alumni, and their families once again participated in the historic event, running or walking in socially distanced and health conscious groups as part of this traditional Homecoming experience.

A map of all of the states that had homecoming 5k participants
A map of all the states (and countries) represented by runners in our first virtual race

The race

The decision to hold the race virtually was made with the goal of allowing families, roommates, and small groups to continue to participate in this homecoming staple in a manner that was comfortable and allowed them to adjust the format to meet their local and state public health guidance.

Runners registered online and were mailed their 5K t-shirt and welcome packet, so they could participate while showing off their CSU Homecoming pride. From there, runners could choose their course and their pace, with runners’ times ranging from just under 16 minutes to over an hour. Runners were encouraged to submit times via screenshots or by sharing the reports from their fitness apps, as well as submit photos of families, friends and coworkers who participated with them.

Over 350 registered runners ran the virtual 5K, with runners located in 27 states across the U.S. and one international alumnus running in the United Kingdom. Of those runners, 107 were alumni, 36 were CSU faculty members or staff, 114 were current CSU students, and 59 were members of Adult Fitness and Fit Cancer, two of the Health and Exercise Science outreach programs that include members from the local community.

Jocie Bradford and Jillian
Jocie Bradford ran the race in 59 minutes with Jillian this year, and their awesome Star Wars costumes won them the Best Costume award. Congratulations to our favorite Jedi and Sith masters!

The festivities

Although there could not be a formal celebration this year, a virtual live stream celebration was held to honor all the virtual runners and to celebrate Homecoming, our beneficiary, FitCancer, and our sponsors for participating with us this year. The livestream was held at 10 a.m. on October 3, streaming to viewers on Facebook and Instagram. Viewers tuned in to a ceremonial race between staff members Jessica Weisz and Richard Perry, a video highlighting the work FitCancer does for our community, as well as an interview with Sheri Linnell, former Adult Fitness director and the founder of the Homecoming 5K.

Prizes were given away live during the stream, as they would have been during a traditional homecoming ceremony. The prizes this year were based on best family photo, best costume, best homecoming spirit gear, and most inspirational story, rather than time. Winners of our categories can be found featured on the Homecoming 5K website. There were also surprise raffles, which allowed anyone who submitted a time to be entered for a cool CSU prize swag pack. Prizes were mailed to all the winners after the completion of the livestream.

The livestream recording can be viewed on the Health and Exercise Science Facebook page.

Jo Riley and her family and their Homecoming Mum
Congratulations to Jo Riley and her family! She ran the race with her CSU Homecoming Mum, a handmade mum that reflects the tradition in Texas to give a mum to your homecoming sweetheart. Thanks for all your work and sharing your mum and your family with us!

Supporting survivors

All proceeds from the race support the Fitness Therapy for Cancer Program (Fit Cancer) in the Department of Health and Exercise Science. The Fit Cancer program is a supportive, group-based exercise program that tailors exercise and fitness routines to the needs of each cancer survivor with the goal to combat the deleterious side effects of treatment and empower participants to engage in meaningful, active lifestyles. Research has shown that cancer survivors who are physically active have greater overall survival rates and quality of life, and FitCancer provides an educational and supportive environment that allows survivors to reach towards those goals.

Through the efforts of sponsors, runners, and donors, the department was able to raise over $16,000 for FitCancer and their program.

“The Fitness Therapy for Cancer (Fit Cancer) Program staff are grateful to be the recipients of the proceeds from the 40th annual CSU Homecoming 5K! The funds raised will have a major, positive impact on the Fit Cancer program,” said Heather Leach, Ph.D., director of the Fit Cancer program.  “These funds will support staff and students who will continue to deliver a top-quality exercise experience for cancer survivors, and since adapting the program to virtual delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic, the funds raised will also help provide necessary equipment and technology. We are so appreciative of the support from the department of Health and Exercise Science, the CSU and the Fort Collins community. Your efforts and generosity will benefit all the cancer survivors who participate in the Fit Cancer program and provide HES undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity gain hands-on experience in exercise oncology.”

Fit Cancer continues to do amazing work in the community. For those new to the program or interested in more information, please contact Fit Cancer program staff at patplab@colostate.edu or (970) 491-4653 for more information. Stay tuned for the Fit Cancer program start dates in 2021 by checking their website or by following the Physical Activity for Treatment and Prevention Lab on Instagram and Facebook @patp.lab.csu and @patplabcsu on Twitter.


Thank you to the sponsors of this year’s race, which include CSU Youth Sport Camps, Re/Max Alliance, the CSU Bookstore, First Watch: The Daytime Café, Ren and Sharon Jensen, Bill and Jan Beitz, Barry Braun,  and Jessica and Andrew A. Wright.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.