The Kessel Runners: When Geek and Fitness Worlds Combine


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By Ben Clark

Kessel Runners Program Coordinator with Fort Collins Comic Con

Fort Collins Comic Con recently held their Third Annual Kessel Run 5k and Star Wars Festival on May 4th at Old Town Library Square in partnership with the Poudre River Public Library District. The Kessel Run 5k, a non-competitive fun run, was also the culmination for the Kessel Runners Couch-to-5k Geek Training Program which was all about getting geeky, working on new fitness skills through cross-training, making new friends, and taking running one step at a time working together toward that 5k (3.1miles) goal.

Participating in the Kessel Runners Training Program helped Kristen Tanz to self-identify again as a runner. “I was in the Army for six years, so I ran regularly while I was serving. After getting out, I cut way back on my cardio. Eventually, I missed things like the boost of energy, a sense of accomplishment, and positive mindset I get when I run. I felt so rusty and out of practice when we started this program but had lots of awesome little milestones I could be proud of along the way.” In the training program this season there were many notable milestones among the 50 geeky Kessel Runners which started at an average 16min/mile pace over a 1.25mi distance and ended with an average 12:30min/mile pace over the 3.1mi 5k distance goal.

Besides the weekly traditional group training runs, and themed hero run “missions”, there were 1 to 2 cross-training activities per week across the themes of fitness, education, geekery, and community development. “This year one of our goals was to provide a wide selection of opportunities beyond physical fitness itself,” said Kessel Runners Coordinator Ben Clark. This was quite evident across the themes – parkour fitness with APEX Movement, an educational run/walk & talk along the historic Poudre Trail with the Poudre Heritage Alliance, a geeky Intro to Tabletop RPGs with Dungeons and Drafts, and a community project leading the Poudre Pokémon Station for GEEKWeek at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery – to name just a few of the many activities the Kessel Runners completed.

The force is strong with the Kessel Runners community. Kate Homme, a 2-year Kessel Runners participant shared that she has “met so many great people through Kessel Runners, definitely a benefit of running that [she] didn’t foresee. It’s awesome to meet people who are both completely nerdy but also want to get out and moving.” The Kessel Runners group was very diverse this year with the youngest age being around 7 years old and then on the other end of the spectrum around age 64. There were also 12 Kessel Dogs running alongside their people as both motivational support on-course and improving as four-legged runners themselves throughout the training program. Katie Auman mentioned her experience in the program, “I had gone back and forth about even joining – I wasn’t sure how well I would hold up, if I could keep up with the other runners, or there was the fact I was one of the older runners in the group – ultimately, this didn’t really factor into anything. The group was super supportive of everyone regardless of age or ability.” Some now accomplished Kessel Runners have taken on off-season volunteer roles to informally keep the group runs and some periodic cross-training opportunities going!

The Kessel Run 5k was a great success again this year with nearly 300 runners and over $1000 raised for the Poudre Library District’s many community programs. “The Kessel Run 5k is such a great event because it offers not only the running aspect itself but a variety of festival activities for people to enjoy as well,” said Cari Jones – a cosplayer with the Sith Dynasty who helped to train the young (and some not so young) padawan learners some new Jedi/Sith lightsaber skills during the Kessel Run event. “The run is especially friendly to families and I love how it helps support our local library.”

You can also support the Poudre River Library District at or find more information about the Fort Collins Comic Con Kessel Runners Geek Training Program at Fort Collins Comic Con is August 17th and 18th, 2019!