DKS reporter runs the third-annual Black Squirrel 5K

Participants in the Kent State University Black Squirrel 5K begin the course at 8 AM on April 13. Photo by Adrianne Bastas.

Grace Murray

As my cell phone begins to buzz, I’m reminded that a few short months ago, I signed up for Kent State’s Black Squirrel five-kilometer race. I groan, wonder why I thought that was a good idea and hit the snooze button.

The Student Recreation and Wellness Center put on the Black Squirrel 5K. It is the third-annual race in honor of Kent State’s “unofficial mascot,” and as excited as I was to participate, I just wanted to roll over and go back to sleep.

But in what feels like a matter of seconds, my cell phone begins to buzz again, urging me to peel my eyes open and to get out of bed. After a bit more whining, I force myself to get up before the sun on Saturday morning.

I throw on my running shoes, thinking about the hundreds of miles they’ve traveled, and before I know it, I’m out the door.

Once I park outside of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, I make my way to the starting line of my ninth race to date, as hundreds of other runners fill in the space around me.

In the seconds before Greg Bailey, assistant director of intramural sports, community leagues and sports clubs, sent all of us onto the course, I watched as people nervously adjusted their race bibs, which had chip timers attached.

In a brightly colored blur, runners in their neon green Nikes and turquoise jackets cross the starting line, jockeying for a spot at the front of the crowd.

The five-minute milers lead the rest of the pack across the street and into the science mall. In and out, runners weave through one another, pushing themselves to go faster and faster.

When we make our way to the Esplanade, I’m flanked by two six-feet-tall runners, and in an effort to prove my short legs are just as capable, I push myself forward.

I run down the hill in front of Kent Hall with the sounds of heavy breathing and quick steps following close behind.

We run down Main Street as the rest of Kent begins to wake up. Cars speed down the road with their drivers rooting us on.

Soon, we breeze past the Ice Arena with the SRWC starting to come into view. I pick up my pace, excited to be nearing the end.

Seconds tick by on the clock that greets me at the finish line, and I’m grinning from ear-to-ear as I realize I’m about to beat my previous record. I sprint through the finish line and come to an abrupt stop as I meet a crowd of runners who crossed just before me.

I walk to my car, pleased with my performance, but my ego quickly deflates as I realize the Black Squirrel 5K is not even one-fourth of the race that awaits me in Athens, Ohio, the next morning.

I take a sip of my water bottle and decide that’s a worry for another day.

To see how I fared, along with all of the 650 runners, visit

Contact Grace Murray at [email protected].