Over 1,000 runners took over the streets of Valparaiso on Saturday for the Valparaiso Family YMCA’s Ringing In Spring 5K/10K Race. This year marked the 25th anniversary of the event, which donates all proceeds to the YMCA’s Annual Campaign.
The event is the largest springtime race in Northwest Indiana, having reached over 2,000 participants one year. The course starts at the YMCA, winds through north Valparaiso before circling back. The founder and previous Race Director, Mike Jones, stepped down last year and Valpo resident Nate Nunnelly volunteered to take his place.
“This is a fun way to kick off the racing season for these runners,” Nunnelly said. “It’s also a great event for the Y because it raises a lot of money to help kids and families to supplement their fees when they couldn’t otherwise afford the full cost of the programming.”
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Part of why Nunnelly volunteered for the role was his love for the community, and the role the Valparaiso Family YMCA plays in it.
“I grew up in Valparaiso and when I decided to raise a family I knew I wanted to come back here,” he said. “The YMCA is a big part of that community. It brings people together and helps promote wellness. I wanted to be a part of something that helps support that mission.”
Bob Wanek, CEO of Valparaiso Family YMCA, sees Ringing In Spring as a perfect representation of the Y’s goals.
“It’s exciting because you’re bringing the community together in the interest of improving personal wellness,” he said. “You’ve got people of all different ages, shapes, sizes, and skill levels represented. It truly is a family event and it’s exciting to be at the finish line and see those first runners come flying through.”
Some runners wore costumes and bunny ears as they made their way through the city, while others pushed strollers or walked with their kids. No matter their stride or choice of workout attire, live entertainment and cheerleaders encouraged everyone from the sidelines. This extra dose of excitement was a new addition to the race this year, but was exactly what participants needed to cross the finish line.
Elite runners such as Michael Loewe, winner of the 10K race, pushed themselves to start the season strong. For an athlete like Loewe, their effort is often about more than simply having fun.
“It’s really about motivating other people,” Loewe said. “I used to be 240 pounds, now I’m about 175. Losing the weight, getting into running, and keep other people motivated is really what starts me. Of course, I’m super excited to win, too. I’ve done other races in Valpo before but this is my first overall win.”
While Mike Jones may have stepped down from his role as Race Director, he still took part in the fun by ringing the bell to start the race and mark a new era for one of the Region’s biggest events.
“I’m thrilled to be involved and excited to be starting the race this year,” Jones said. “It’s great to help out the Y, but it’s also about showing support for the runners out here in Northwest Indiana.”
When all of the participants crossed the finish line, the Valpo Family YMCA welcomed everyone to the Family Express After Party, where they were treated to snacks and drinks to refuel after the race. An awards ceremony was also held to honor the winners and everyone who came out Saturday morning! Overall winners of the 5K and 10K races for men were Brian Bowman, who ran the 5K in 17:29.9, and Michael Loewe, who ran the 10K in 37:14.9. Overall winners for the women’s 5K and 10K races were Ariel Langley, who ran the 5K in 21:31.4, and Chrys Lawson, who completed the 10K race in 41:56.4.
Congratulations to all of the participants! For more information about the Valparaiso Family YMCA, please visit https://valpoymca.org/.