The 41st annual Homecoming 5k race brings runners back to campus

runners at the start of the 2021 Homecoming 5K
Push Rim runner at the Homecoming 5K 2021
Push Rim participant at the Homecoming 5K

Kicking off the Saturday Homecoming and Family Weekend festivities, the Colorado State University Homecoming 5K race was a smashing hit as it made an exciting return for in-person runners after a successful virtual race the previous fall. Supporting the original benefactor – the Department of Health and Exercise Science Adult Fitness Program – the 5K successfully brought the community together for a cause, and runners enjoyed the traditional campus route, starting and ending back at the CSU Oval.

The race

The 2021 Homecoming 5K welcomed over 1,100 runners to run, walk, and jog around campus. The number of runners in 2021 blew past the last several years’ registration levels, as people were excited to be welcomed back on campus for the annual event.

All runners lined up on the Northwest side of the Oval, where the CSU Mainstreet A Capella and CSU Army ROTC Color Guard worked in tandem to present the colors and sing the national anthem to begin festivities. At the starting gun, racers ran underneath the iconic balloon arch and high-fived our mascot CAM the Ram before beginning their first lap around the Oval. Runners completed a lap of the Oval, continuing onto a course down Laurel St. that led them on a trek around campus, showing them the beauty of CSU in fall before guiding them through the main center of campus and back again to the Oval.

Walkers enter the Oval to finish the Homecoming 5K 2021
Walkers enter the Oval to finish

This year marked the first year that registrants could mark gender non-binary categories for the race and participate for awards in this category. This race also marked the first Homecoming Race where there were inclusive runner categories, including Push Rim and Push Assist runners. Push Rim runners included runners that use assistive mobility devices, such as wheelchairs, and Push Assist runners included any runners that ran in tandem or teams with mobility devices, such as push-operated chairs.

The virtual race took place along with the in-person festivities, including over 60 racers from 34 states and territories and three countries. Runners submitted race times from their favorite run and exercise trackers and apps and could win prizes based on time or the photos they submitted to the virtual team.

The festivities

The colors are presented to start the Homecoming 5K 2021
The colors are presented to start the Homecoming 5K by the Army ROTC Color Guard

Celebratory festivities followed the main event in the Water Plaza off the Southwest side of the Oval. Sponsors of the event interacted with attendees with various games, coupon and food tables, and prizes. Representatives from Health and Exercise Science outreach and community engagement programs chatted with participants about the various programs that are open to the public. The awards ceremony celebrated the first year that non-binary participants and push-rim and push-assist runners were recognized in their own categories and had their own winners.  T.S. Berger, a local artist and long-time partner of the Homecoming 5K awards, makes mugs and plates for the winners by hand, so each award is unique in its own way.

The triumphant return of the Kids Race also kept the Oval lively, with kids running one lap around the Oval to finish under the iconic balloon banner and receive a ribbon. The Kids Race is a tradition that allows the youngest runners the opportunity to get active with their older family members without having to run the entire length of the 5K course, and the Homecoming 5K committee looks forward to continuing the tradition in future years.

Funding adult fitness education

To celebrate the 41st annual run returning to 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.

Runners begin to re-enter the Oval in the Homecoming 5K final stretch
Runners begin to re-enter the Oval in the Homecoming 5K final stretch

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 in 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 41st 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, so it was a sweet reunion of sorts bringing the Homecoming 5K back to the program.”

The funds raised will support staff and students who provide a safe, effective, and fun exercise experience to those on campus and in the Fort Collins community.  The funds will also provide necessary updates to program offerings of equipment and facilities, along with creating a scholarship program to help subsidize cost for lower income adults in the Fort Collins community.

“We are moved by the support of the CSU and Fort Collins communities and our Department of Health and Exercise,” said Burke. “Seeing everyone out participating at the race inspires us to keep going and find new ways to promote healthy lifestyles and student learning.”

The Department of Health and Exercise Science thanks the community for their 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.