Lambeau Field is not shy to crowds of people gathering around to watch a football game; however, Saturday morning the mass of people that filled the parking lots at the stadium were not anticipating a football game, but the first 5K Run at Lambeau Field hosted by the Packers and Bellin Health.
Approximately 3,000 runners and walkers kicked off Packers training camp with a 10 a.m. start at the north side of the Packers training facility, Ray Nitschke Field. The route took the participants out of the parking lot, into neighborhood streets surrounding the stadium and back to the field. Runners then entered the stadium and were able to run around the field before they finished back in the parking lot on an artificial turf replica of the 50-yard line at Lambeau Field.
Bellin Health is not inexperienced with putting on events like this 5K. Since 1977, Bellin Health has overseen the Bellin Run which drew more than 18,000 participants this year. This run, one of the nation's largest 10K road races, was originally established to encourage cardiovascular fitness but has also grown to contribute more than $130,000 towards a Bellin College Scholarship Fund.
Now Bellin Health has since teamed up with the Packers to create another annual run that will raise enough money to donate a portion of the proceeds to surrounding area non-profit organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Volunteer Center of Green Bay, YWCA, Anxiety Disorder Foundation and My Team Triumph.
Dedicated Packers fans came out in full force despite a heavy mist, many illustrating their support for the football team with their green and gold running attire throughout the streets. Participants varied from passionate runners motivated to break their personal best times, to parents pushing their children in strollers for a walk.
With a time of 14:54, Matt Mroczynski, a soon-to-be senior on the cross country and track and field teams at Illinois State and originally from Pulaski, won the entire race. Mroczrynski, along with all the top three finishers in each age group were presented awards at the awards ceremony in the Tundra Tailgate Zone. Each placer received a Packers themed gift for their accomplishments.
"I wanted to use this as a measuring point for my summer training for cross country," said Mroczynski, "but it was nice running around Lambeau and seeing yourself on the (TundraVision)."
The inaugural run brought together participants of all ages from around the area and even participants representing 35 different states. Marisa Irving, 21, from Tulsa, Okla., decided to make Lambeau a stop for her and her father's road trip to Michigan to visit her grandfather. Irving who has not participated in a race since high school, decided to partake in the Packers 5K Run because she was already planning on being in Green Bay for the first training camp practice. The Packers' affiliation to the race it gave her more interest to engulf herself in the training camp experience.
"When I got to the end of the run and entered the stadium and ran around Lambeau I got butterflies," said Irving. "It was awesome."
The Packers 5K Run was not only a success for Irving, but for many others. With an overwhelming response from all, the buzz was that that the event was well organized and a good experience.
"Registration went smoothly and the race got off at 10 a.m., that's all we could ask for," said Kandi Goltz, Packers game and fan development manager. "Other than a few tweaks here and there, I think we can open it up to more people next year. We wanted to keep it manageable this year."
In addition to runners and walkers, My Team Triumph members participated in the race. The athletic ride-along program was created for children, teens, adults and veterans with disabilities who would normally not be able to experience endurance events such as triathlons or road races.
Participants and spectators also had the opportunity to visit with 5K run partners on site. They could sample bagels from Alpha Baking, test drive vehicles from Chevy at the Chevy Ride n' Drive Event, test their strength at the Gold's Gym display, see the benefits of yoga from Z Power Yoga and climb the Wisconsin Army National Guard Rock Wall.
Murphy in the Morning and John Maino from 101 WIXX Radio also were on hand to get participants fired up for the race.
Fans have been coming to Lambeau Field annually dressed in their jerseys to sit in the stands and watch their favorite players on the football field, now fans will have another excuse each year to put on their jerseys in support of their favorite team and get some exercise in the Packers 5K. With the excellent results of the participation and awareness of the event, it will be a great event for the Packers to host every summer.
The Bellin Health website contributed to this story.