In the early morning hours, Malcolm X Plaza, usually desolate during the weekend, was energized by a modest but eager crowd dressed in purple and gold shirts, tight running shorts and brightly colored Lycra.
The group of around 100 people was there for the sixth annual SF State 5K Walk, Run & Roll Sunday, April 24, a race started by the campus recreation department as a way to keep school spirit high, even on days where people usually aren’t expected on the college grounds.
“It’s a great way to get people out there and be active,” said Polo Chavez, special events student co-manager for campus recreation and co-organizer of the race. “SF State is a commuter school, so events like these really help foster a sense of community in the student body.”
While Chavez said students made up the majority of the demographics of the race, faculty and community members turned up to break a sweat as well. Jackson Wilson, a professor for the recreation, parks and tourism department, power walked the race with his baby daughter strapped to his back.
“This was the first time,” Wilson said, referring to the experience of having his daughter and all her baby supplies loaded on his back during a recreational race. “But it was fun, walking along with her and hearing her chuckle and encourage everyone else.”
First to rip through the purple streamer at the finish line was long-time San Francisco resident Randall Conner, an experienced runner looking for a fresh course to challenge him.
“I really liked the course; it was fun,” said Conner, who finished with a time of 18:01. “I found out about it online a couple days ago, just looking for a 5 or 10K; the ones I knew about sounded kind of boring, so I wanted to try something different.”
Trailing behind him in third was dietetics major Christian Avalos, with a time of 19:11.
“I feel great!” Avalos said. “I do boxing, so I do a lot of running for that, and I thought it was a great run for me.”
Thirty volunteers from campus recreation and other departments lined the pathway to the finish line, cheering and encouraging every runner, jogger and power walker as they made their way towards the towering purple and gold balloon arc signaling the race’s end.
“(It was important) for me to be involved in something that makes all this stuff possible and help make that happen,” said kinesiology major Jan Peña, who volunteered as pacer for the race. “My thing is personal training (and) coaching, so I have a huge interest in the physical fitness side.”
From getting a good workout to spending time with friends, everybody had a reason for coming out for the race. For mother and daughter team Amber and Carla Ward, the race also provided a good warmup for Bay to Breakers, the iconic citywide race known for its crowds of quirky, costumed participants.
“We’re scared!” Ward laughed, before explaining that she was looking forward to both Bay to Breakers and the SF State race. “I’ve never been to this campus, and I’ve been to San Francisco a few times, so I do think it’s a good race.”
By the time the race was winding down, the temperature was climbing, and the contestants sprawled in the shade in the quad, enjoying their gift bags, cold drinks and the company of fellow runners. Christian Enos, special events student co-manager and co-organizer of the race, said he was happy with the turnout and hopes for the race to grow and become a tradition on campus.
“Campus recreation is all about promoting health and wellness,” Enos said. “So that’s what this race was about.”