Hundreds support Williamstown through remote fun run

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Professor of Economics Sara LaLumia (top left) ran a half-marathon in Williamstown for the recent Williams for Williamstown fun run. In Punta Gorda, Fla., Marshall Lapidus ’60 (top right) speed-walked 3.56 miles. Brandon Abasolo ’13 spelled out “Williams” (bottom) on 16.3 miles of San Francisco streets. (Photos courtesy of Sara LaLumia, Marshall Lapidus and Brandon Abasolo.)

Professor of Economics Sara LaLumia has a tradition of traveling to races with her mother: The professor usually runs a half-marathon, while her mother, who lives in Pennsylvania, runs a 5K.

The pair continued that tradition recently — though this time with no travel involved — through a virtual fun run and day of physical fitness organized by Williams for Williamstown, a student-led initiative to buy food and other supplies from Berkshire businesses for medical workers in the area, and Williams Student Athlete Advisory Committee.

“It’s probably going to be a long time before she and I get to travel somewhere together to run a race again, so it was a fun thing for us to be able to do in this electronic way,” LaLumia said.

Under the slogan “Sweat 2 Support,” the fun run took place the weekend of Saturday, May 2. Since it was virtual, the structure of the run was up to the participants, who could choose their own locations, distances and starting times after signing up through a short Google Form. The entrance fee was an optional donation via GoFundMe or Venmo to Williams for Williamstown.

To spread its message to the College community across the country and the globe, Williams for Williamstown took to social media. The organization even notched celebrity endorsements: both former Bachelor in Paradise contestant and app co-founder Dylan Barbour ’16 and President Maud S. Mandel cheered on participants in videos posted on the organization’s Facebook page.

“I will be doing a 10K to support,” Barbour said in his video. “I love what Williams for Williamstown is doing.”

Eliza Bower ’20, the founder and president of Williams for Williamstown, estimated that between 400 and 500 people participated in the fun run. She attributed the event’s success in part to the College’s culture of athleticism.

“At Williams specifically, people love being active and getting outdoors,” she said. “It’s really unique to who we are as a school.”

According to Bower, the organization raised $8,183.93 from 140 donations between Thursday, April 30, and Sunday, May 3. That amount accounts for over a quarter of the $31,924.09 that the organization had raised by May 5. Bower noted that although she had no way of knowing whether the contributions over those four days were because of the run, most of them came in on Saturday and Sunday, the days it took place.

Although I am a much less accomplished runner than LaLumia, who has run half-marathons in 20 states, I nevertheless decided to run my first half-marathon for this event. Suffice it to say that it was not easy, and that I did not break any records other than my personal record for how much my hip joints have disliked me.

It was a different experience from any race I had ever done. For one thing, the run was marked for me by a recognition that running is a privilege. This is a notion that has been in the zeitgeist more than ever, given the difficulties of social distancing in some areas — and, more recently, the heightened attention to the story of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot in Georgia by two white men while he was on a jog.

This run was also different, of course, in that the other participants were not alongside me. When I last ran a race, at a high school track meet two years ago, I was up against not only my howling muscles but also visible competitors; I could have reached out and touched them (but didn’t, because that would have been weird). This time, it felt like I was the only competitor.

In Williamstown, however, some racers happened to come across each other. Maddie Dyke ’21, who ran a marathon from the top of Hoxsey Street to the crew boathouse in Pittsfield, Mass., found herself running alongside other participants in the virtual race.

“It was kind of fun to see them in their Williams shirts,” she said, and to pause to greet them.

Brandon Abasolo ’13 took Eph pride further — 16.3 miles further — than mere T-shirts. His running route traced “Williams” in block letters, serifs and all, on the streets of San Francisco.

“It wasn’t a super fast run, but I’m just glad I was able to do it without getting lost,” he said. It should be noted that he ran the 16.3 miles at a pace of under 7 minutes per mile.

Some participants supported the cause with challenges other than runs. Ben Platt ’23, a member of the cycling team, biked from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Coney Island in southernmost Brooklyn. All told, his loop stretched around 40 miles. It wasn’t really a race, he said — on the way back through Brooklyn, he stopped once because of a rainstorm and twice to meet up with friends.

Speed-walking was another alternative for some participants.  Marshall Lapidus ’60 speed-walked with his wife, Suzanne Gordon, in Punta Gorda, Fla. According to the tracker on Gordon’s watch, the pair completed 3.56 miles in 63 minutes.

“We sort of pressed each other to keep moving,” Lapidus said.

Along with being an alum of the College, Lapidus has long been a summertime resident of Williamstown, although the pandemic may keep him and Gordon in Florida this year. The two decided to participate in the event after Gordon read about Williams for Williamstown in an online article.

“We said, ‘OK, we can do that, because we walk here every day for exercise,’” Lapidus said.  “We’d just be keeping with what we do.”