By Ryan Richardson
The Chilly 5K Challenge lived up to its name Tuesday morning for the 438 runners who started 2013 off on the right foot.
The Joplin Family Y’s annual race has become a New Year’s Day tradition for area runners of all skill levels. It began at the Y’s downtown location at 510 S. Wall Ave. and ended five kilometers (3.1 miles) later at the branch at 3404 W. McIntosh Circle Drive.
Joplin resident Gregg Ward finished in 27 minutes last year. He said Tuesday morning as he waited for the race to begin that the challenge this year is to keep improving.
“I started running with my wife over two years ago,” Ward said. “This run has definitely grown over last year, and that’s a great thing to see. It’s great to see a wide group of people out here trying to better themselves and to have fun.”
Temperatures dipped into the low 20s before the start, and a few flakes of snow were spotted, so many runners were attempting to keep warm and loose while waiting to begin.
Terra Oxendine, 24, participated in her first Chilly 5K Challenge despite coming down with a cold earlier in the week, and despite the temperatures.
“I was already signed up, so even a little cold couldn’t keep me away from this,” Oxendine said. “I’ve been excited for this all week. The freezing cold hurts, but it will be worth it in the end.”
Oxendine is a Joplin Family Y member who participates in weekly boot camp classes that feature intense workouts and three-mile runs.
“I feel like participating at the Y has made me ready for this,” she said. “It really is a great way to get in shape and to meet people who have the same goals in the community.”
Kim Gray, development director for the Joplin Family Y, helped organize the event, which serves as a fundraiser for the “Strong Y, Strong Community” program.
“In addition to promoting good health throughout the community, the 5K challenge also helps raise money for us to provide Y programs to low-income families and kids,” Gray said. “What started as a healthy way to start the new year has helped others have the opportunity to take part in Y activities who may not have had the chance before.”
Gray said the event has grown steadily since its inception. Last year’s event pulled in 341 runners.
“Everything we do here at the Y is to build confidence and the community,” Gray said. “We want events like this to encourage all fitness levels and age groups to participate.”
THE TOP FINISHER in Tuesday’s Chilly 5K Challenge in Joplin was Caleb Hoover, who came in at 15:28.51. Victoria Kline, of Miami, Okla., was the top female finisher. Her time was 19:20.55.