Pandemic? No problem: the “virtual” UConn Health Half Marathon, 10k, and 5k races on June 4-7 were a huge success despite social distancing guidelines meaning a traditional road race was off the table.
More than 1,174 registered race participants logged their virtual race times by 11:59 p.m. Sunday night. Together, the runners and walkers raised more than $33,114 in registration proceeds and donations to support the UConn Health COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund. It supports the doctors, nurses, and staff caring for COVID-19 patients on the front lines at UConn John Dempsey Hospital providing needed medical equipment and supplies.
Many individuals made additional donations or bypassed their shirt and medal swag to double their donation. In addition, many participants rallied fundraising efforts from their friends and family. The event’s biggest fundraiser was UConn’s own Hedley Freake, a professor of nutritional sciences and undergraduate program coordinator in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. He raised nearly $3,000.
“I am retiring after 32 years at the University of Connecticut,” wrote Freake on his race donation page. “COVID-19 has made leaving a strange experience but running a half marathon to benefit the UConn Health COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund seems like a great way to go out.”
UConn Health CEO Dr. Andy Agwunobi applauded the racers’ support of the health system’s health care heroes and the difference they are making in the fight against COVID-19.
“Congratulations to the over 1,000 of you who participated in this year’s UConn Health Half Marathon,” Agwunobi said. “Thank you for all the funds you raised for our efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Your support of our front line health care workers has made all the difference. Congratulations and thank you!”
In addition to the individual races, nearly 400 people completed the triple Iron Horse Challenge by running all three race distances of 13.1 miles, 10k, and 5k during the weekend.
One of the successful Iron Horse Challenge finishers was UConn baseball coach Jim Penders.
“Although we are all apart right now to be safe, we can all be together in support of a great cause, and that’s UConn Health,” Penders said. “I’m happy to be on their team.”
Another completer of the triple Iron Horse Challenge was Dr. Rebecca Andrews, who cares for primary care patients at UConn Health.
“Thanks to the Hartford Marathon Foundation and UConn Health for the support,” said Andrews. “Honestly, I never thought I would be someone running a half marathon as distance running is a huge mental challenge for me. But members of the UConn community convinced me to sign up for the half and the Iron Horse Challenge, trained with me, and even cheered each other on when we found each other on our own virtual races.”
One of those fellow UConn Health employees who trained and ran with Andrews this weekend was Kevin Chamberlain, pharmacist and pharmacy residency program director.
“Thanks to Dr. Andrews, who taught me to fight through it all. Thanks for pushing me to do the unthinkable and finish a half marathon, and a 10k, and a 5k, all in 4 days,” he said.
For some participants, this weekend’s race was also a family affair.
“I ran the 5K with my oldest two kids on Saturday,” said UConn Health OB/GYN Dr. Christopher Morosky. “My family came out to be our pace cars, and it really had an in-person race feel to it. I ran my 10K the next day and it was perfect weather. One of my best runs of the season.”
Morosky added: “Hopefully the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10k, and 5k brought some cheer to everyone during a challenging period for us all.”
Liz Rodier, a rising third year medical student in the Class of 2022, ran the half marathon with her father, finishing in 1:39:12.
“My Dad and I ran our half starting at my parents’ house in Avon, and ran through parts of Avon, Farmington, Burlington, Canton, and Simsbury,” said Rodier. “It was definitely hard to run a half marathon virtually as we both missed the energy of the crowd at a road race, but finishing was still very rewarding. We finished together with the same time!”