People from all ages from Vassar and from the community huddled on the quad in front of Rockefeller Hall on Saturday. Outfitted in costumes, athletic apparel or a spirited combination of the two, runners of all skill levels stood in the brisk, clear sunshine with numbers pinned to their chests. The enthusiasm was palpable and the conversation audible as each person awaited the sound of the starting signal.
The runners were waiting in anticipation of the imminent Halloween 5K Fun Run hosted by Vassar College. In one brief moment, the buzz emitted by the crowd was silenced with the commencement of the race; the runners were off.
While running a 5k is no simple task, participants were more interested in having fun than in competing with each other. As Devon Wilson ’19 said, “I feel like it was a great opportunity for people to reach out to the outside community. It was a fun time for both friends and family to run and enjoy the spirit of Halloween together.”
Tracing their way around the entire campus, runners in this year’s Fun Run were able to see everything Vassar has to offer. A standard 3.1- mile course complete with medals for all finishers, this year’s 5K started in the residential quad and encompassed the majority of the College’s campus. The biggest challenge to runners this year was by Sunset Lake as runners were forced to climb the course’s steepest hill going up to Walker Field House.
The 5K Fun Run hosted by the College is on its way to becoming a tradition. For the past six years, standard participation usually numbers in the mid to upper one hundreds. The goal for this year, or at least one of the many besides creating an overall enjoyable experience for participants, was to have over 200 runners complete the course.
Despite the past trend of participation, members of the Office of Health Education maintained an optimistic outlook. As HealthEd Office Intern Taylor Vann ’16 explained, “We think our chances of reaching that goal this year are high because last year we were unable to do a 5K based on the way the academic calendar worked out with having a late October Break and Halloween in the middle of the week.” She added, “We’re hoping that the one year hiatus has generated a lot of interest, and will get more people to come out and run.”
Fortunately for all involved in the coordination of this event, Vann’s reasoning was well founded. Participation in the event this year numbered well over 200 and marked a record in attendance. Fellow HealthEd Office Intern Marvin Corleto ’19 agreed that the race was a success in terms of more than just turnout. One of the students primarily involved in the coordination of the event, Carleto noted the higher levels of runner commitment to the spirit of Halloween. Runners were given the option of running in costume, and though children had the incentive of a costume contest immediately after the race, Carleto noticed a decent amount of older runners donning more lighthearted costumes as well.
Because the event was designed to appeal to more than just the running community, this year’s Fun Run included attractions to draw in general participation from Poughkeepsie and surrounding areas as well. Many partnerships were forged to contribute to the event. For example, the Office of Health and Education partnered with the Town of Poughkeepsie’s Department of Parks and Recreation to host a trick-or-treating event for kids of all ages. Following the end of the race, children were able to go to several rooms in Josselyn House on the northwest corner of residential houses and trick-or-treat in students’ rooms.
Fall refreshments, including cider and donuts, were offered to older race participants, and a costume contest and pumpkin decorating were options for all. The Poughkeepsie Farm Project also offered educational activities for those interested. Taking into consideration that the race course itself was a source of attraction to runners, members of the Office of Health Education appreciated seeing a substantial amount of engagement from Vassar and the surrounding Poughkeepsie community at the event.
It was obvious to coordinators that this year’s Halloween Fun Run and its related events were a resounding success for participants. This opinion was shared by members of Vassar College’s student community who decided to participate.
Part of the huge turnout may be in part due to higher sports team involvement. The Sunday before the race, the swim team issued a challenge to itself and to other sports teams on campus. The first challenge: to get through a 5K the day after a meet as well as a practice that morning. The second challenge: if any other sports teams wanted to do it with them.
Madison Carroll ’18 explained that, at first, she was apprehensive. “To be honest, I was kind of nervous. As a swimmer, I’m not really used to or prepared for running any distance,” she said.
She went on, “However, when we found out we could walk and still be a part of the race, I was really excited.” Carroll reiterated the fact that participating in the Fun Run was a bonding experience between not just her and her teammates, but also between Vassar and the community. Carroll said, “It ended up being a great bonding experience for our team, and an opportunity to be with other Vassar students as well as the outside community.”
Children, students and adults were able to participate in activities open to all ages and interests, and there were spirited attempts by all to engage in the festivities of Halloween. Costumes were worn, candy was distributed and community partnerships were forged. Vann described the Office of Health Education’s outlook for Halloween and the event best when he said, “We’re very excited for the Fun Run this year.” Fortunately for him and all involved, this year’s Halloween 5K Fun Run turned out be cause enough for celebration.