Runners compete in the first-ever Hillsdale Half Marathon on Sat­urday, Nov. 14. (Kalli Dal­rymple | Collegian)

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.