Winter 5K run keeps off the COVID-19 (lbs.)


Jennifer Kawleski

Jennifer Kawleski and her family compete in the Cream Puff Run at the Wisconsin State Fair. The Kawleskis competed in the Virtual Summer 5K Run Series and are now looking forward to the Virtual Winter 5k Run Series. The race begins Oct. 30.

Kylie Jacobs, Managing Editor

While marathons and races are called off due to the pandemic, runners, joggers and fitness enthusiasts can still stay active in a lot of ways, including the Virtual Winter 5K Run Series. 

In the summer of 2020, Fort HealthCare started a virtual 5k series event to help combat that loss of competitive races in their community. After the success of having over 500 participants compete in the four virtual races throughout the months of  June through September, organizers decided to extend the series, and have created a Virtual Winter 5K Run Series. The series is comprised of six races being held from the months of October through February.

Fort HealthCare’s worksite wellness specialist, Tiffany Pernat created the event after seeing several other ones done like it throughout the country.

“My role is for the community. It’s focusing on them and seeing what their needs are and bringing about different opportunities. Anyone can participate, any age, and ability. It’s accessible for everyone. Winter can be hard for everyone, and we just want to be able to help keep our community as healthy as possible – the healthiest it can be,” said Pernat. 

The series kicks off with their first virtual race around Halloween. Participants have from Oct. 30 – Nov. 1 to  run their 5K and submit proof of their time via email. The races continue each month with a November Thanksgiving Run, December Holiday Run, Wisconsin Deep Freeze Run in January and February Valentine’s Day Run.

Participants are encouraged to register and can even print out a bib for when they run or walk the 3.1 miles. The race is a way for the community to still have healthy fun together while social distancing. 

“We’re always looking for something fun to do, and with Covid the opportunities just weren’t there,” said participant and school nurse coordinator Jennifer Kawleski. “We would do our runs individually on Fridays, and then check in with each other. The competitiveness is fun to have. We all know we’re going to be doing the same race, so it gives motivation.”

The Virtual Winter 5k Run Series supports Fort HealthCare’s mission to improve the health and well-being of the community. It’s vision is to be the healthiest community in Wisconsin. By offering these free races, they are inviting all available participants to focus on their health and keep their immune system healthy in one of the most crucial times during this pandemic.

“Right now, there’s a lot going on – a lot of stress in people’s lives. Exercise and being able to go outside are great ways to handle stress. It’s something everyone can do safely and personally set their own goals in order to stay motivated,” said senior health education and outreach specialist Traci Wilson, who is also a participant. 

After registering for at least one race, participants get entered into a drawing that will take place after the last virtual race in Feb. 2021. There will be ten $50 gift certificates given away from local businesses. The more races someone signs up for, the more entries get put into the drawing. More information about the series can be found