As shouts of encouragement filled the chilly November air, runners lined up behind the chalk start line beside Grewcock Student Union and prepared for Hillsdale’s first half-marathon race on Nov. 14.
The Hillsdale Half, organized by seniors Sofia Krusmark and Danae Sollie, began with 200 and 600 meter races for children at 9:00 a.m., followed by 1 mile, 5k, and 10k races in addition to the main half-marathon event. More than 350 runners attended the event, and nearly $5,000 was raised to donate to SPARC, a community organization dedicated to serving families who have children diagnosed with developmental disabilities.
“It was one of the happiest days of my life,” Krusmark said. “It was so overwhelming to see people who have been working so hard throughout the semester be able to run the race. I can’t tell you the amount of people who told me this campus feels alive again.”
The half-marathon event was combined with Hillsdale Academy’s annual Turkey Trot and invited academy students, professors, and college families to run.
“So many parts of our life have been cut out or altered, but running is something that you can always do,” Sollie said. “It gave a reason for people to get outside, exercise, and enjoy the world around them.”
Despite the loss of many volunteers due to contact tracing and quarantine, more than 70 volunteers from the college and the town of Hillsdale contributed to the success of the event. Assistance came from organizations including fraternities Sigma Chi and Alpha Tau Omega, Hillsdale College’s GOAL program, Hillsdale Academy service club, and the local police and fire departments.
“So many people came and helped put on this event and allowed for those moments of victory in people’s lives,” Sollie said.
Sponsors of the race included Hillsdale Brewing Company, Student Federation, Hungry Howie’s, Jilly Beans, Handmade, Rough Draft, and the Outdoor Adventures Club. Pizza, coffee, hot chocolate, and donuts from the sponsors were available at the starting location near Central Hall. The brewery even gave runners free drinks at their location in town after the race.
“A huge thank you to our volunteers. They really stepped up and did a great job,” Sollie said. “And also a huge thank you to all of our sponsors and all of the businesses that showed up for us. We’re just very thankful for all the support that went behind this event and let it be as amazing as it was.”
Seniors Jack Hall and Max Troyke were two volunteers behind the scenes of the race. Hall prepped with Krusmark the night before the race and waited for hours at the halfway mark, the end of the Baw Beese trail, to signal runners to turn around.
“It did become the biggest event of the semester,” Hall said. “There’s so many other things that have fallen apart. That was a huge thing that helped fuel attendance, because we didn’t have homecoming, and we didn’t have a garden party.”
Troyke managed traffic control and communication, and assisted with early morning set up and post-race teardown.
“It was really cool to see people on campus. Campus felt alive again,” Troyke said. “There were people everywhere, eating donuts, drinking coffee, talking to each other, cheering each other on. There’s something special about running. There’s a certain camaraderie that comes when everyone’s together pushing each other forward. It was a really beautiful experience.”
Junior Grace Cool and sophomore Emma Purdy worked together to create the Hillsdale Half T‑shirt design, and Michigan-based watercolorist Kaitlyn Dear, owner of Clexo, created a colorful map of the route.
“I thought it was a really great thing to get people back together and looking forward to something,” Cool said. “So many things aren’t happening this semester and are falling through. I love to stay active, and I thought it would be really cool to have an opportunity to work for such an awesome event.”
Sophomore Rachel Warren, who ran the 10k, said she appreciated the opportunity to cheer people on in between races.
“There’s just so many encouraging people here,” Warren said.
Lucy Cote, a sixth grader at Hillsdale Academy, won third overall of the girls’ 1 mile race.
“This was my third turkey trot, and each year I have a lot of fun doing it,” Cote said. “There were a lot more runners this year, which made it more fun. Also, I beat two of my brothers.”
Krusmark said this was the time to have an event that gives back to the community, integrates Hillsdale Academy and Hillsdale College, supports small businesses, and encourages people to meet their goals. People needed something to look forward to that wouldn’t be canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions, she said.
“Everything that we did was a labor of love,” Krusmark said.
Though Krusmark and Sollie are not actively planning a second event, they hope to pass their knowledge on for others to use next year.
“We both really hope that the half-marathon event is something that continues, because it really does bring people together,” Sollie said.