Family Fest Wellness 5k carries on despite October snow

Matt Glover and Lindsay Weber

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Gusts of wind and flurries of wet snow did not deter 247 participants from joining  Macalester’s Wellness 5k Run/Walk on Saturday, Oct. 12. However, the frigid weather meant that the Health Promotions team, who run the event each year as a part of Macalester Family Fest, had adjustments to make. Health Promotions employees altered the course, moved the registration and raffle indoors and changed the location of the finish line.

While 327 participants pre-registered, just 211 of them showed up, along with 36 who registered onsite. Regardless of the smaller number, the registration area in the Leonard Center (LC) was packed shoulder-to-shoulder as the clock drew near the race’s start time of 9 a.m.

The online signup stresses that participants need not be “olympic athletes” to sign up. The 5k is open to all regardless of athletic ability and is explicitly non-competitive. Faculty, staff, students, family members, dogs and strollers are all permitted to attend.

Lily Denehy ’22 was a first-time participant in the 5k. Despite the fact that she “hates running,” she made her way to the LC before 9 a.m. ready to take on the challenge.

“I saw the signup and I was like, you know, I should do that,”  Denehy said. “I want a free shirt.”

Ken Trager, father of Macalester first-year Matthew Trager, traveled to Macalester for the weekend for Family Fest. He saw the 5k as an opportunity to spend time with his son. Unfortunately for Trager, his son did not make it to the event that morning.

“He’s the smart one,” Trager added. “He’s sleeping.”

The three participants all hoped they would be able to run the entire race — and had varying expectations of their ability to do so.

“Ideally yes, I will be running the whole time,” Denehy said. “It will be a slow run though.”

Trager, on the other hand, was not as confident.

“Hopefully I can make it,” Trager said.

It was not the first time the Health Promotions team had to make adjustments for extraneous circumstances like weather. In fact, it happens quite frequently, according to Director of Health Promotion Lisa Broek.

“There’s so many weird and quirky things that happen every year,” Broek said.

Last year, when the Health Promotions team woke up early to set up the 5k, they were greeted by a sign on Shaw Field that read “keep off the grass for three hours.” As it turns out, a contracted Facilities Services worker had just come to fertilize the field, unbeknownst to the event organizers.

“I was not happy about that,” Broek said.

The 5k’s most memorable mishap was a year in which it snowed during the 5k and iced over the course route, forcing the organizers to move the entire event into the LC Fieldhouse. 300 runners and walkers all racing on a 200 meter indoor track led to collisions, overcrowding and general disaster.

“OK, lesson learned: if it’s bad weather, cancel,” Broek said.

But the windchill of 23 degrees Fahrenheit did not result in a canceled race this year. Fortunately for participants, the roads did not ice over from the snow.

“It will be the coldest but funnest 5k!” Broek announced into a loudspeaker as the group prepared to file outside.

Participants braced for the cold, while others were underprepared.

“I’m gonna go grab another layer,” Athletic Director Donnie Brooks said upon feeling a gust of wind as he stepped outside.

Perhaps surprisingly, the snow and cold was even a draw for some of the participants and organizers.

5k participant Alex Zhu ‘22, who hails from Alexandria, Virginia, said that snow and cold weather was part of the reason he chose to attend Macalester. For him, snow during the race is just part of the fun.

Linden Kronberg ‘22, a member of the Health Promotions student staff, hoped that the snow would add to the aspect of camaraderie within the race.

“Running in the snow with a bunch of people who are also freezing their butts off can be pretty big community building,” Kronberg said.

In line with Kronberg’s hopes, participants supported each other through the challenges of running a 5k in the bitter cold. During the race, a friend of Denehy’s had to stop running as she ran out of breath. Instead of leaving her behind, fellow runners cheered her on, encouraging her to persevere.

Much to her satisfaction, Denehy ran the entire 5k without stopping for breaks to walk. Zhu managed the same feat. Running in the snow was a new experience for both – and they both expressed an interest in returning next year.

“I’d definitely do this again,” Zhu said.

Regardless of snow, ice or unexpected fertilizer, Broek says that the 5k is a great way for participants to get some exercise and spend time with their community. It is a low-stakes event and, according to Broek, the event’s hiccups can even add to the fun.

“[I look forward to] what other zany, unpredictable thing is gonna happen that’ll make a good story for next year,” Broek said.

Lily Denehy ’22 is The Mac Weekly’s Food & Drink editor.

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