On Friday, April 20, traffic was stopped, volunteers were stationed, and raincoats were zipped as the 11th annual Healthy High race began in the midst of a hailstorm. Bad weather had no effect on turnout; runners of all ages and all experience levels, humans and dogs alike, lined up from the Somerset parking lot down past the Rec Center, braving the wind to participate.
The Healthy High, organized by director of the Student Wellness Resource Center, is scheduled for April 20 every year as an alternative to the stereotypical activities of “4/20,” which focus around the recreational use of marijuana. Participants can choose whether they want to run the race as a 5k, 10k or 1-mile fun run. The race kicked off at 5 p.m., with volunteers and bystanders cheering the runners on.
“This is my second year running the Healthy High,” said Emma Van Kampen, a second-year psychology student and member of club track said. “I try to run a few road races a year. During the summer, I run the L.L. Bean Fourth of July 10k, which is a great experience. Some other fun runs are the Turkey Trot in Portland on Thanksgiving, and Race the Runways at the Brunswick naval base.”
While she supports the legalization of marijuana and understands that many celebrate the day by smoking, Van Kampen chose to participate in the Healthy High this year because of her passion for running and the opportunity to do something she loves with her friends. “I do think the race serves the purpose of showing people that there’s a way to ‘get high’ without using a substance,” she said.
“While some people are okay with smoking, others aren’t, and those are personal choices that both groups make. To have that alternate option of ‘getting high’ by a natural release of endorphins from exercise is healthier and preferable for a lot of people.”
Not every runner was as experienced. Brandon Crocker, a fourth-year secondary education student, was “just doing it for fun.” Like Van Kampen, he ran the Healthy High with friends, and despite the fact that he doesn’t do 5ks often, he was excited to participate.
Volunteers ranged from members of Greek Life to service organizations to ROTC, and particularly at the beginning of the race, their job was to direct traffic and guide confused drivers. Third-year Emily Moony and fourth-year Megan Main are members of Gamma Sigma Sigma, a national service sorority. While they haven’t run 5ks themselves, Moony and Main chose the Healthy High as a way to earn community service hours.
The race was brought up in the back by Walk a Mile in Her Shoes participants, men marching in red high heels to advocate for the end of rape, sexual assault and gender-based violence.