Vassar Today

See Vassar Run

By Peter Bronski

Zach Williams ’12 sees Vassar run—on campus, through the neighborhoods of Poughkeepsie, on the trails of the Vassar Farm and Ecological Preserve. “You see the same people running,” he explains, “but you don’t necessarily meet them.” One organization—RunVassar, of which Williams is a member—is hoping to change that and take the campus’s running culture mainstream.

RunVassar began as the Vassar Track Club, which was formed in 1986 as a way for cross-country team members to run during spring, their off season. When track gained varsity status in 2007, cross-country athletes suddenly had an outlet for the spring. “The mission of the club shifted to being a resource for the larger student body,” says Jon Erickson ’11, RunVassar’s president and co-captain of the men’s cross-country team (pictured above).

The group mapped out detailed running routes on and around campus and developed training plans for people interested in taking their running to the next level. It hosted a trail maintenance day at the Vassar Farm, and—for students competing in local road races—provided race entry-fee reimbursements as the club’s budget allowed. This year, regular, casual group runs are getting off the ground.

RunVassar also continues its tradition of hosting two annual fun runs: the Halloween Fun Run and the Founder’s Day Fun Run. The latter is RunVassar’s marquee event. It attracts an average of 100 runners each year; the run is popular with members of the cross-country team, as well as the team’s alumnae/i. In fact, there’s a healthy rivalry between them.

RunVassar also hosts speakers related to the sport. In April the group invited Kathrine Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, previously an all-male affair. The accomplishment did not come without strife. At mile four, race official Jock Semple attempted to force Switzer from the course because she was a woman. Her boyfriend and other male racers interceded. When Switzer crossed the finish line 22.2 miles later, it proved a seminal moment in the history of equality and women’s rights in sport.

Some 44 years later, almost to the day, Switzer visited Vassar’s campus to talk about those very issues. The themes proved especially fitting given the college’s Sesquicentennial year. But her lecture in April was apropos for a much more humble reason: Vassar loves to run.