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To kick off the addition of cross country to its roster of varsity sports, Penn State Brandywine hosted a 5K Fun Run/Walk on Saturday, Dec. 5, the first time the campus' trail was used for an official running event.

Although a wintry blast of snow and sleet blanketed the region that morning, spirits were high among the 75 registrants who either ran the 5K cross country course, or opted for a more leisurely 1K walk.

The event, free and open to the community, also featured writer and avid runner Christopher McDougall, New York Times best-selling author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, who shared his experiences with the crowd before joining the group for the run.

McDougall’s quest for the "secret" of running took him to an isolated area of Mexico where the Tarahumara, an indigenous race of mega-runners, can run 50 miles or even further at a stretch. Effortlessly. And not only can they run long distances, McDougall, originally from Drexel Hill, said, but they also do not get injured.

"I had been plagued with every injury in the book," McDougall said, "Plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, shin splints, you name it. I tried different therapies and none worked. I was amazed to see these people, running in thin-soled sandals or barefoot, with none of the typical foot maladies that many of us experience. That was counter to everything I had been taught to believe about running."

McDougall re-learned how to run ("Run like a four year-old," he advised), forgoing running shoes and finding a way to land lightly on the balls of his feet instead of coming down harshly on his heels. Once this technique was mastered, his injuries faded away and have not returned.

True to form, he did not let the cold, wet and muddy ground on the Penn State Brandywine campus deter him. He cheerfully ran barefoot on the three-mile course.

Despite the chilly December 4th weather, best-selling author and runner, Christopher McDougall, runs barefoot over the finish line at Penn State Brandywine during the campus' 5K Fun Run/Walk.

By all accounts, the course was not as easy as one might think.

"It was very different from what I expected," Kimberly Hickey, of Drexel Hill, said. "It was much more of a workout running on a trail. I will definitely do it again."

Mary and Bryan Housel traveled from their home in northern New Jersey to participate in the run. "I heard about it third-hand, from a friend of a friend of a friend," Mary Housel said. "We had already read Chris’ book and were huge fans, plus we love to run cross-country. This was a great event."

Director of Student Affairs Matthew Shupp was pleased with the turnout. "Given the disappointing weather that day, I am thrilled that so many runners and walkers participated," he said. "There’s obviously an interest in the community in such events, and we hope to make this an annual tradition."

Added Director of Athletics Jim Gastner, "We were very happy to host the 5K Fun Run and 1 Mile Walk to celebrate the creation of our intercollegiate cross country team. Kevin Kelly, the new coach at Penn State Brandywine, was instrumental in making the event happen and beginning the development of a first class cross country course at Brandywine. The men’s and women’s teams bring the number of Brandywine teams competing in intercollegiate sports to eight."

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