Harry Potter fans join first-ever Potterfest 5k Race

Participants gather at the starting line in preparation for the Potterfest 5k on July 28. 

Jenna Kuczkowski

Friday night, 500 runners lined up under the Kent State arch next to downtown Kent in preparation for the first-ever Potterfest 5k race.

Some came ready in athletic apparel to take on the three-and-a-half mile loop on the esplanade of Kent State while others came in full costume or sported their favorite Harry Potter themed attire.

 Alyssa Mazey, who is the assistant director of International Programs and Education Abroad at Kent State, was a graduate student who worked for the Office of Global Communications when she first began planning 5k races, such as the Run The World 5k. When she began volunteering with Main Street Kent, she used her 5k planning knowledge to put together the Potterfest 5k.

“It’s kind of cool because when last year they only meant it to be a small celebration downtown but it turned into this huge thing which is awesome, but there was just tons and tons of people that the fest wasn’t ready for,” said Mazey. “So this year we’ve put a lot more planning into it and have been planning for eight months now so this year’s Potterfest is going to be crazy.”

The sold out 5k was a non-timed event and participants had the option to run or walk the race. The race’s event page on Facebook even encouraged racers to bring their dogs to participate.

Despite being untimed, some participants started strong and drifted off from the rest of the group. One of the runners, Bryce Thomas, a 13-year-old fan of the Harry Potter series from Marysville, Ohio, aimed to finish in third place. 

“I’ve read all the books a few times, but The Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite movie in the series,” Thomas said.

Like Thomas, many of the other race participants also said this was going to be their first year attending Potterfest Saturday, including 28-year-old Matthew Heppe from Randolph, Ohio.

“I’m running this for the love of Harry Potter. My favorite book is definitely The Goblet of Fire,” said Heppe as he ran along the Student Green.

Jill Kenderes, a 33-year-old from Mentor, Ohio, said The Goblet of Fire is her favorite Harry Potter book as she ran along the May 4 Memorial.

“It was a little bit of a drive for me, but the race just sounded like fun to me,” Kenderes said.

Mazey hopes the 5k will become an annual event to accompany Potterfest, but said Main Street Kent volunteers haven’t had a chance to discuss it yet.

“We haven’t talked in much detail about making the 5k annual, but I think it would be nice to add since it makes it such a great weekend for everyone with a full weekend of fun,” Mazey said. 

Jenna Kuczkowski is the managing editor, contact her at [email protected].