Colorado State University alumni and community members gathered Saturday, October 15 on the historic CSU Oval to participate in a long-standing tradition of Homecoming and Family Weekend: the Homecoming 5K race. Just before 8 a.m., 1,400+ participants gathered, ready for Barry Braun, head of the Department of Health and Exercise Science to signal the beginning of the race. With goals of setting personal best times and supporting the Adult Fitness Program, the racers delivered. Two runners smashed the original course record as runners of all ages, abilities, and identities raced together.
Most of the runners opted to return to the Oval to race in person, while a few alumni and CSU community members participated virtually from locations around the nation and world. Racers on the Oval set out to run, walk, and jog around campus on a variation of the traditional course this year run in reverse to allow for a more streamlined runner experience.
“We are thrilled we had nearly 300 more runners than the past several years,” said Braun. “It is heartening to see so many people gathering in person for group fitness as a part of our Homecoming celebration.”
Runners were greeted on the Southwest side of the Oval, where the CSU Mainstreet A Capella and CSU Army ROTC Color Guard presented the colors and sang the national anthem to begin festivities. Braun greeted the runners from his stand above the crowd, welcoming them back and thanking the runners and the organizers. At the starting sound, racers ran underneath the festive green and gold balloon arch to the cheers of the onlooking community and families. Many runners high-fived CSU’s mascot CAM the Ram before beginning their first lap around the Oval.
Reversing the traditional flow of the course allowed runners and walkers to enjoy the scenic parts of south campus during the first leg of the race, showing them a stunning display of CSU in fall before guiding them up past the lagoon and through the Moby complex, then along the fall-colored trees that line Laurel Street before running back again into the beautiful, fall-tinted Oval. This adjustment also allowed runners to start and finish the race in the same place, guiding them from the finish into the post-race festivities in the Water Plaza south of the Physics building.
This year marked the second year that registrants could mark gender non-binary categories for the race and participate for awards in this category, with three awarded winners in the category and over a dozen non-binary or gender fluid participants this year. This race also marked the second Homecoming Race where there were inclusive runner categories, including Push Rim and Push Assist runners, available for registrants. Push Rim runners use assistive mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, and Push Assist runners ran in tandem or in teams with mobility devices, such as push-operated chairs.
Virtual participants submitted race times through the RunSignUp registration website from their favorite run and exercise trackers and apps, allowing them to participate from wherever they are in the Homecoming fun.
This year, two runners broke the prior in-person record for the course, coming in under 15 minutes for the 5-kilometer run. Ois N. O’Gail, a 25-year-old from Laramie, beat the record easily, coming in at 14 minutes and 39 seconds, with Ben Kirbo, a 19-year-old, shortly behind him, coming in at 14 minutes and 56 seconds.
A celebration and award ceremony followed the main event. Sponsors of the event welcomed attendees to booths where they could play games for coupons and prizes. Runners replenished with food and beverages. The Health and Exercise Science outreach and community engagement programs offered informational booths where participants could learn about the various programs through the department that are open to the public.
Just before awards were given out, the traditional Kids Race kept the Oval alive with excitement, as kids run one lap around the Oval and finish under the iconic balloon banner to receive a ribbon for running. The Kids Race allows the youngest runners to get active with their family without having to run the entire length of the 5K course – although some children run both.
The awards ceremony celebrated the top times in age and gender categories, including non-binary runners. T.S. Berger, a local artist and long-time partner of the Homecoming 5K awards, makes mugs and plates for the winners by hand, making each award unique and distinct.
Funding adult fitness education
To celebrate the 42nd annual run through campus and the Oval, the department invited the Adult Fitness Program, the first and historic benefactor of the race, to once again be the recipient of this year’s race proceeds.
Adult Fitness is an interactive fitness program sponsored by the department that pairs Health and Exercise Science students with community members looking to learn more about their health and fitness. Students make customized, personalized workout and health plans for their clients, giving the students real-world experience interacting with clients with unique needs and giving clients a one-on-one experience that enhances the depth of their exercise and fitness routines.
Through the race proceeds and donations this year, more than $20,000 was raised for the Adult Fitness Program.
“The Adult Fitness Program students, staff, and members are grateful to be the recipients of the proceeds for the 42nd annual CSU Homecoming 5K,” said Kimberly Burke, the Adult Fitness director and instructor. “The Homecoming 5K started with students and members of Adult Fitness back in 1980, and it is always a sweet reunion of sorts bringing the Homecoming 5K back to the program.”
The Department of Health and Exercise Science thanks the community for its overwhelming and continuous support of the race, and the sponsors of this year’s race for their ongoing commitment to the health and wellness community of Fort Collins.
The Department of Health and Exercise Science is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.