It was almost cold enough to see the runnersâ€™ breath, but not quite. Onlookers were wrapped in heavy jackets, hats, gloves and even some earmuffs â€“ a site that seemed out of place only a day after 75-degree weather. The timekeeperâ€™s eyes were deep underneath the brim of his hat, and only his pink cheeks and nose stood out from behind the thick fleece collar he had bundled around his face.
A small crowd stood gathered around the southwest end of The Oval, the large round road at Colorado State Universityâ€™s campus encircling a sea of still-green grass and billowing trees. The leaves were just slightly turned, looking more brown than gold under the gray-lit sky.
As tired and lonely as the weather can make one feel on a day like this, a full sense of energy floated through the air as the race participants surged on. Both humans and canines cheered on the runners. Humans gave thumbs up as they made their first loop, all smiles and eyes dancing as dog ears flapped and tongues wagged with the wind.
It was the third consecutive year for Paws on the Pavement, a 5K run-walk event hosted by CSUâ€™s One Health Club. The event, which took place on Oct. 8, 2011, originated as a way to promote obesity awareness by encouraging people to run with their dogs, for both canine and human health benefit.
According to club president Anna Fagre, a veterinary medicine and public health student, each year there is a new One Health challenge.
â€œThis year it was vector-borne disease, so we had a table set up with vector-borne disease awareness stuff â€¦ Theyâ€™re spread by ticks and mosquitoes â€“ Lyme Disease, West Nile Virus, things like that,â€ Fagre, a veterinary and public health student, said. â€œBut we still focused on obesity awareness, too.â€
One Health Clubâ€™s main objective is to encourage communication between the veterinary and human health sectors, as well as other scientific disciplines. The club seeks involvement with veterinary, pre-med and natural science students.
â€œItâ€™s a very interdisciplinary look at health,â€ Fagre said. â€œThe environment and human health and animal health are all interrelated, so weâ€™re trying to bring that to CSU.â€
And brought it to CSU, they did. Despite dreary weather and the bone-chilling temperature, participants ran enthusiastically, and stuck around to visit afterward. First place winner Leora Garcia ran with her dog, Samson. Although she runs about 10 races each year, it was her first with Samson.
Garcia, a health and exercise science research associate, wasnâ€™t sure what to expect.
â€œHe did well, and it was fun,â€ Garcia said. â€œDogs are pack animals so at the start of the race, running with all the dogs, it felt like running in a pack.â€
Participant Emily Winter ran the race with her dog, Shadow, in both 2010 and 2011. Paws on the Pavement is an event she runs â€œjust for fun,â€ and sheâ€™s happy that it supports a campus club. She and her roommate, Carly West, both second-year veterinary students, ran the race together this time.
â€œWe are both avid dog runners,â€ West said.
But the affair attracted more than just running enthusiasts. According to Fagre, people came out to have a good time with their dogs, socialize and check out the goods.
After crossing the finish line, large groups of dog-human teams congregated under tents and around tables stocked with dog treats, snack foods, water bottles and fitness paraphernalia. Vendors provided information for both human and pet health and fitness. Hillâ€™s Pet Nutrition, Advanced Spine and Posture Center, Countryside Animal Hospital, Sprouts Farmers Market and Gibâ€™s Bagels all provided items or services. In addition, the dogs were given a medical check-up.
â€œWe had some veterinary students there who were giving free physical exams with one of the veterinarians from community practice down at the vet school,â€ Fagre said. â€œThat was great because it gave veterinary students a chance to practice their physical exam skills and I think that the people who brought dogs really enjoyed that component of it.â€
The event served as a fundraiser for One Health Club, which brings experts and guest speakers focusing public health to meetings and other events.
â€œI think it was successful of not only in terms of the number of people who came out, despite the weather,â€ Fagre said, â€œbut just the overall vibe was really good and everybody had a really good time.â€
See a slideshow of event photos here.