The chill in the air may be tempting you to hunker down for the winter. Instead of going into hibernation, hit the road with family and friends for this year’s Nippy Hippie 5K Run/Walk, hosted by the Altoona Area Chamber of Commerce.
Don your tie-dye T-shirts, peace necklaces and bell-bottom jeans for the second annual run, which takes place Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. It starts and finishes at the Spring Creek Sports Complex in Altoona, with the timed race taking place on a closed course. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Children’s Garden project at the Enabling Garden in Altoona.
“We thought it was a really good cause to contribute to this year, and we like to keep our money local,” says Beth Van Ryswyk, event planner with the Chamber.
The festivities will continue post-race at the Thaw Out party, where there’ll be food and beverages available. Medals will be presented to the top three men and women finishers.
All participants will have their names put into a drawing to win prizes, which will include a pair of running shoes and a running watch. Winners must be present at the Thaw Out party to win.
“We’re hoping to see an even bigger crowd than last year coming out and having fun, doing something healthy as a community and having a good time,” Van Ryswyk says.
Participants need to register online at www.altoonachamber.org. Click on the Events tab, then the listing for the Nippy Hippie run. Early-bird registration is $25 (plus a $2.50 processing fee) and ends Oct. 27. At that time, the fee will increase to $30. Online registration ends Nov. 5, but participants may also sign up the day of the race.
Those registering early will receive a long-sleeved, dri-fit shirt, headband and drawstring bag full of swag from sponsors. Kids 10 and younger are free, but they will not receive the shirt, headband or bag.
Organizers hope to build on the success of last year’s inaugural event. There were 280 participants and Mother Nature decided to cooperate, providing great weather.
“It actually was a beautiful day,” Van Ryswyk says. “It was a little windy, but it was nice and sunny. And the runners were definitely sweating when they got done. We couldn’t have asked for a better day than we did last year.”
Not only did participants enjoy themselves, they were also supporting a good cause. Money from the race was donated to the “Shop with a Cop” program, which gives kids the chance to go Christmas shopping with a police officer to buy presents for their family members, Van Ryswyk says.
“We were definitely excited to partner with them last year,” she says. “We like to support a local charity every year.”
The birth of the Nippy Hippie came about from brainstorming new Chamber events, Van Ryswyk says.
“We wanted something new and exciting for the Chamber,” she says. “November was a good time for our Chamber members to do it. And we wanted something fun for the community to participate in as well.”
And the name? It was something that came together during the planning process.
“It’s nippy outside, so that’s really what it’s about,” Van Ryswyk says. “And it’s just a lot of fun, sometimes, to have a theme tied to the event.”
While donning hippie garb isn’t required, many participants last year ran with the theme.
“People got into the spirit of that and a lot of them dressed up last year, which was a lot of fun,” she says.
Jeff Essink and his family wore bright, multi-colored tie-dye shirts that were specially designed for the race. The four of them — including Jeff’s wife, Nicole and two kids Kaity, 11, and Benjamin, 7— are planning to wear them again at this year’s run.
“I thought it was great,” Jeff Essink says of the event’s first year. “It was just a fun, family thing to do. It was more of a fun run, with the theme. I like the fact that the kids were free — that’s promoting families to do it.”
It was their first 5K as a family.
“We’re just trying to keep our kids active,” Essink says. “Nicole ran with my daughter, and I ran with my son. It was really fun, just to have the kids out there. They were kind of motivating to us as well.”
Benjamin fell within the first mile and scraped his knees. But that didn’t stop him.
“But he got up and did the whole thing,” Essink says.
There were times he wanted to walk, but seeing his son running kept him going. They motivated one another.
“The kids were inspirational to us,” he says.
While events like the Nippy Hippie are a good time, they’re also helping to promote healthy lifestyles and encouraging people to get active, Essink says. Completing a 5K — whether you run or walk — is a milestone for many.
“I think a lot of people have a fear of doing a 5K,” he says. “So it’s just getting them out there. That’s a big accomplishment for some people. It’s hard enough to run a block, never mind a 5K.”
The Nippy Hippie was part of a day filled with activities for the Essinks. Earlier that morning, they got their fill of pancakes at the Altoona Fire Department’s pancake breakfast. Later, they went to the Thaw Out party.
“It was just a great, afternoon event,” Essink says of the post-race celebration.
The race gave Heidi Van Wyk an incentive to get active after having her daughter.
“I had just had a baby, so I thought it would be something fun to get me motivated to do something,” Van Wyk says.
Without that race deadline, she says she wouldn’t have pushed herself to return to running as quickly. Van Wyk also did the race with two others to support Van Ryswyk, a friend of theirs. It took Van Wyk a little more than 30 minutes to finish the race.
“I thought it was fun and well put together,” Van Wyk says.
People running in costume made things more entertaining.
“It just made it fun because people had wigs on and funny little outfits,” she says. “It made it more lively. It made it more fun, rather than competitive.”
She would have liked to make it a family affair, but it was too cold for her daughter, Paislee. Van Wyk’s husband, Justin, plans to join her this year. If the weather is nice enough, Paislee will be with them, too.
She says the 5K offers people with different activity levels the opportunity to get physically active.
“I think that having something to look forward to gives you motivation to not be last,” says Van Wyk, who wants to improve her time this year. “You want to be in good shape so you can have a decent time. Doing it with a group has other people who don’t normally run or walk get interested in doing it as well.”
Andy and Jackie Teeple were Van Wyk’s race buddies. The Teeples are planning to participate this year, too.
“I’m trying to get a couple of buddies to run with me this year, and we’ll decide whether to get dressed up,” says Andy Teeple. He’s also trying to convince some of their neighbors to join them.
Teeple was happy with last year’s event, praising everything from the race course and participants’ comfortable shirts to the lively atmosphere.
Promoting the race less as a competition and more as a fun way to support a good cause helps the community more, he says, because people who aren’t as competitive are more apt to come out and participate.
“I thought it was well run and it was fun,” Teeple says. “It was good to eat pizza afterward, and they had good prizes. It was a good time.”