U5k Kicks off Homecoming Week, Runners Reflect on Experience


5K participants run across the University of Utah campus in the rain on Sept. 18, 2020 in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Kailey Gilbert, News Writer


On the gloomy morning of Sept. 18, just as a downpour ceased, the countdown for the annual University of Utah Alumni 5K Run began, kicking off the 2021 Homecoming Week.

As a crowd of around 700 people barreled through the narrow starting line, including President Taylor Randall, the announcer began to speak of the years behind this race.

Beginning in 1998, the U5k as it is known has been the kick-off to Homecoming Week and the sponsor to several scholarships for students.

As the first finisher, the U5k honored John D. Cahill. Cahill is a 97-year-old U alumni, receiving his master’s degree in 1989, who happened to be injured this year.

He has participated in every U5k to date and was honored to be given the first participation medal at the race.

“Running is a wonderful, relatively inexpensive pursuit that anyone can do,” Cahill said. “I didn’t start running until I was 62 years old.”

Cahill said he ran his first-ever marathon at 65 years old, and his final marathon was when he was 84. He said how he would run 40 to 50 races every year, racing nearly every weekend.

Cahill spoke of how he got interested in running in the first place. 

“I was a little overweight, and I was driving down to Mexico … and I bought a pair of shoes and I started running every morning,” Cahill said. “For an old fart, I was pretty good!”

Cahill said running saved his life after he began to feel a pain in his left breast causing him to go to the hospital where he found out he had to have an angioplasty at 63. After the procedure, his heart was able to recover and he continued his running journey. 

“Buy yourself a pair of cheap tennis shoes and start running,” he said.

Next to cross the finish line with a time of 18 minutes, 3 seconds was 16-year-old Jackson Healy, an aspiring U student and high schooler at Box Elder High School.

Healy described how he began enjoying running, recalling the first time he ever ran the U5k. His uncle, and alumni at the U, encouraged him to run the race. Finishing that first year with a time of around 25 minutes, Healy discovered that he enjoyed running and began training on his own and for his high school team. 

“Racing after COVID-19 has been interesting because I wasn’t necessarily fast before, and then I trained a lot because I had a lot of time,” he said. “I improved a lot, and that’s what I think is cool about running: if you put in the time you will improve.”

Healy expressed the value of running and encouraged others to start running as well.

“There’s just something so fulfilling about being able to achieve goals, and I know if I put my mind to something that I can do anything,” he said. “It can help in all aspects of life. It’s very relaxing and meditative.”


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