Champaign parks host 5k run through the snow

David Saveanu


Photo by David Saveanu | Participants in the Champaign Park District’s Frozen 5k prepare for the race at the starting line, Jan. 20, 2018.

Photo by David Saveanu | Participants in the Champaign Park District’s Frozen 5k prepare for the race at the starting line, Jan. 20, 2018.

The Champaign Park District organized its Frozen 5k run to motivate the public to start the year off right—by getting out and getting active.

Runners showed up at Hessel Park in the morning on Saturday, Jan. 20, to embark on the five-kilometer (or 3.1-mile) trek through the snow. With a crowd of almost 200 people, the starting line was filled with cheering runners of all ages, barking dogs ready to join their owners on the course, and a supportive audience.

On the park district’s website, the event was described as going through three parks along “beautiful trails.” The race path began in Hessel Park, went through Mattis and Moore Park, and returned to Hessel Park.

Topher Wendt, the park district’s race director and organizer for the Frozen 5k, said, “this is the first time we’ve ever done the Frozen 5k.”

“We were looking to add to the array of fitness events that we provide,” Wendt said. “[The park district] noticed that there was a gap in our winter months, so we figured that mid to late January, when people are making their new year’s resolutions to get active again…[we would] encourage people to get out [and] get moving.”

The park district’s website described the event with New Year’s resolutions in mind.

“Don’t (snow) flake out of your fitness routine, test your endurance in this Frozen 5K,” the website read.

Wendt thought that organizing the 5k in late January would pose a “bit of a challenge” for runners who were looking for one but did not expect to get as many participants in the event as they did.

“It’s much bigger than we ever thought it would be, we figured we’d get 50…really intense runners that are out running all winter long,” Wendt said. “We’ve got almost 200 participants running, families, kids, people of all ages, it’s really incredible to see the turnout that this has gotten.”

The final tally for participants was 192.

“I’m a runner myself and I look for winter races,” said Wendt, on what prompted him to organize the Frozen 5k, “and there was nothing we were doing in the winter.”

The race was won by Tricia Frisella, with a time of 17:34.

“I saw the race advertised on the Second Wind Running group’s [club] race page so I decided to come out and just go as hard as I could from start to finish,” Frisella said. “It was a really good course running through both of the parks, lots of turns, a little bit icy out there on some patches but overall great course [and a] great day.”

Champaign’s park district holds events like this throughout the year.

“We have all sorts of events, last night there was the mom prom where moms take their kids to a dance,” Wendt said. “As far as fitness events go, the four main ones we have are now the Frozen 5k, the mini triathlon which is paired with the nano triathlon, there’s the pie run which is with the Taste of Champaign, and then there’s the cupcake run which is in association with Champaign-Urbana Special Rec and really encourages people with special needs to get out and be active.”

For more information on events like the Frozen 5k, visit the Champaign Park District’s website at