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Homecoming Race celebrates 30th year

October 12, 2010

The first annual Homecoming Race in 1981 featured about 30 runners, and was timed using Popsicle sticks says Sheri Linnell, who started the event when she was a graduate student at Colorado State University. As director of the Adult Fitness program and an instructor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science, Linnell went on to direct the race for 28 years before her retirement in spring 2009.

Healthy activity during Homecoming weekend

Runners circle the historic Oval during the 2006 Homecoming 5K Race.

Today the Homecoming Race averages nearly 2,000 participants, draws major sponsors, and benefits the Heart Disease Prevention Program of the Human Performance Clinical/Research Laboratory in Health and Exercise Science. Generous sponsors contributed $27,000 in 2009. A large committee dedicates many hours to putting on the race each year, which also includes a popular kids’ fun run around the Oval featuring Cam the Ram.

“I started the race with the intention of encouraging people to run for fitness, and to promote a healthy activity during Homecoming weekend. As the race evolved, it became a fundraiser for exercise equipment for the Adult Fitness program at CSU, and now thirty years later it provides major funding for the Heart Disease Prevention Program,” said Linnell.

Students learn to manage a race

“All undergraduate majors in the Health Promotion concentration in the department spend one semester working as practicum students with the Adult Fitness program. One of their responsibilities in that practicum is to work as course marshals for the Homecoming Race plus other tasks such as working at registration and the finish line. They get to learn about the logistics of managing a race.”

The Adult Fitness program was started by Max Morton who was a department head in physical education, the precursor to Health and Exercise Science. The program was initiated by Morton and a cardiologist at Poudre Valley Hospital as a cardiac rehabilitation program. After the cardiac rehab program moved to the hospital, the Adult Fitness program continued as a venue for adults in the community to exercise and be active in order to prevent heart disease.

Adult Fitness participants who owned companies were some of the first sponsors of the Homecoming Race and the Adult Fitness clients were some of the first participants.

Inspiration for staying fit

Carol Blair, professor of microbiology, accepting a prize following the 2008 Homecoming Race. Sheri Linnell, who started the race in 1981, is holding a microphone in the background.

In the early races, Linnell would encourage all of her Adult Fitness practicum students to volunteer or to participate. Many of the students were not runners and it was a way to get them to try a new activity. Linnell remembers one non-traditional aged student in particular who was intimidated and didn’t want to run. She got hooked on running after the race, and Linnell saw her once running up Trail Ridge Road to prepare for the Pikes Peak Marathon.

While not all race participants become marathon runners, many go on to tackle bigger races. Carol Blair, professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology & Pathology, says participating in Adult Fitness and setting the Homecoming 5K and other races as goals gives her an incentive to keep training and working to stay fit.

Professor now a dedicated runner

“I started the Adult Fitness program in late 1995 and ran the Homecoming Race for the first time in 1996. The program has been great for improving and maintaining my health, fitness, and sense of well-being. It’s also great for socializing and finding friends to keep you going. I started it as one measure to prevent osteoporosis, to which I am genetically pre-disposed,” said Blair. “I intended to do weight-bearing exercises such as lifting weights and walking. Sheri and my husband Patrick Brennan, who also participates in Adult Fitness, talked me into trying out running and I haven’t looked back!”

Blair says when she first started running races, 5K was her limit, but she gradually worked up to 10K, 10 mile, and half-marathon (13.1 mile) races. “I’ve run the Homecoming Race and CSU’s Cinco Cinco 5K in all kinds of conditions, ranging from bright sunshine to snow falling, but my most harrowing races were half-marathons. One was the Steamboat Half, where pouring rain started at the same time the race did. We were running downhill in about six inches of water and absolutely drenched. I got first place in my age group out of eight, mostly because I stuck with it and was anxious to get dry and warm at the finish.”

The annual Homecoming Race is a fun event for the whole family. Children are invited to take part in the free Kids Fun Run led by Cam the Ram.

Fun community event

Now that she is retired, Linnell doesn’t miss her years of being race director, having her living room floor littered with race materials, and never getting any sleep the night before! But she still encourages everyone to participate. “The Homecoming Race draws runners and walkers of all ages and abilities and it supports a great cause.”

Blair adds, “The Homecoming 5K is a lot of fun and a great community event no matter what the weather!”


Race sponsors include gold-level sponsors at $5,000 from CSU’s Youth Sport Camps, the Poudre Valley Health System and ReMax Northern Colorado Offices. Sliver-level sponsors at $2,500 are the CSU Bookstore and Triple Crown Sports. Bronze-level sponsors at $500-$1,000 are The Egg and I, Orthopaedic and Spine Center of the Rockies, Markley Motors, Miramont Lifestyle Fitness, Dell, Gay and Karan Israel, and Ren and Sharon Jenson. The race artwork was donated by Sam Cooper Design.

Contact: Gretchen Gerding
Phone: (970) 491-5182