After weeks of summer weather, fall finally unveiled itself by way of orange, red and yellow leaves scattered across the sidewalk and a quick temperature drop.
The autumn weather created the perfect backdrop for the annual Glow Run 5K hosted by Active Minds Inc. and Phi Chi Theta, which took place on Wednesday, Oct. 11, in Uptown Park.
The Glow Run is an annual philanthropic race featuring runners with neon clothes and glow sticks that raises awareness for mental health issues; nearly one hundred people participated this year.
Active Minds is a nonprofit group that focuses on increasing mental health awareness for college students.
President of Active Minds, senior Mikaela Haney, explained that one out of every four college students experiences a diagnosable health disorder.
“Our mission is to talk about mental health in a positive way to not only bring awareness, but also to encourage students to seek help,” Haney said.
The Glow Run 5K allowed Active Minds to partner with Phi Chi Theta, a professional business fraternity, to promote mental health awareness on campus.
“We’ve been doing this for four years now. Since that first year it’s grown a lot and we’re really pleased with where it’s gone,” senior and Phi Chi Theta president Nathan Sell said. “We’re happy with the turn out tonight and we’re glad to partner with Active Minds for a good cause.”
Prior to the race, Uptown Park pulsed with energy and enthusiasm as the leaders of both groups set up t-shirts and glow sticks for the runners.
One of the most vocal leaders of the evening, senior and director of philanthropy for Phi Chi Theta, Colin McDonough, directed participants on where to sign in and talked about his fraternity.
“Our three pillars are professionalism, philanthropy and brotherhood,” McDonough said. “Glow Run 5K is our biggest event of the year.”
Students waited in line talking excitedly about the upcoming run, dressed in neon yellow shirts accessorized by glow stick bracelets, necklaces and, in one guy’s case, glow-in-the-dark glasses.
The majority of participants dressed in typical athletic attire of running shoes, sweatpants and long sleeves, but a few groups of girls decided to wear brightly colored tutus. The iridescent fabric added a fun twist to the neon theme and complemented the highlighter yellow shirts.
“We wore tutus because we wanted to be glow-tastic,” first-year participant Kayla Jones said.
After filling out waivers and signing in, runners discussed their thoughts regarding the race’s purpose and the Active Minds organization.
“I think mental health is an extremely important thing to be aware of, especially at college campuses,” sophomore Deanna Ponzani said. “I think that because it is not always a visible struggle, people don’t realize how prominent it is among college students.”
Over the last month, Active Minds has worked on projects to brighten the days of students on campus.
“We made a bunch of Post It notes with inspirational messages like ‘stress less,’ and ‘don’t worry, be happy’ and put them in dorms and King Library,” sophomore member of Active Minds Ashley Mays said. “We wanted to spread uplifting messages and make people feel better about themselves.”
After half an hour, the students stood ready for the race to begin when two special guests arrived: first dog, Ivy, and her owner Dr. Renate Crawford, ready to participate. Once the pair made their way into the park, a group picture was taken and the race began.
Nearly 100 students in matching neon yellow t-shirts streamed through the streets of Oxford. Since it was nearly pitch black out, members of Phi Chi and Active Minds lined the 5K route to make sure nobody got lost.
The cold air provided perfect running weather and before long, neon spots in the distance revealed the first runners looping their way back into Uptown Park, clearly exhausted by the miles.
It was a fun evening of casual athleticism and socializing; both the runners and organizers seemed very satisfied with the results of the fourth annual run. Students of all grades participated and awareness for the cause continued even after the event finished as lots of neon shirts and glow sticks made their way to Pulley Diner to refuel.
“Look for us next October,” Sell said. “We’ll be here.”