The Long and Winding Road: 4th-Year 5K Is 30 Years Old and Still Going Strong

The 4th-Year 5K, a longstanding community tradition, has historically occurred on the morning of UVA’s last home football game. (UVA Office of Health Promotion photo)

On Saturday at 8 a.m. sharp on the South Lawn, University of Virginia students, faculty, staff, community members, Cavman and President Jim Ryan will line up and wait for the sound of a bullhorn. This will mark the 30th annual running of the 4th-Year 5K, a longstanding community tradition planned and presented by UVA’s Peer Health Educators. 

The Peer Health Educators, part of the Office of Health Promotion in the Department of Student Health and Wellness, are a diverse group of 70 students trained to empower their peers to practice holistic health and well-being in a positive, supportive, interactive and nonjudgmental manner. 

UVA Today caught up Amanda Cheetham, the assistant director of the Peer Health Education Program, to learn more about this year’s race and its history helping promote healthy behavior during the weekend of UVA’s last at-home football game of the season.

She also says it’s not too late to register.

Q. What’s the history of the 4th-Year 5k?

A. The 4th-Year 5K has historically occurred on the morning of UVA’s last home football game. Since 1998, the race has been held in memory of Leslie Baltz, a UVA student and runner who passed away due to an alcohol-related accident in 1997.

Each year, Leslie’s loved ones and best friends from college, along with their families, come to participate in the race, and as in most years, proceeds from this year’s race will be donated to the Leslie Baltz Art Study Fund. This fund supports a second- or third-year art history or studio art major, Leslie’s area of study. The race has created a positive tradition where students can not only make lasting memories with our UVA community, but also be intentional about their well-being goals for themselves and their friends. 

Q. How many participated last year and is this year’s race in-person?

Last year, almost 1,000 runners participated virtually in the 4th-Year 5k. Folks registered for the race online as they normally would, and registration included T-shirts. On the day of the race, when registrants were ready to run, they logged into the race app, RaceJoy, to log their times.

This year, we’re excited to be back to an in-person event and encourage the UVA community to sign up and run/walk to raise awareness about alcohol safety, positive bystander intervention, and promotion of community well-being. The expanded mission for this race is to bring the UVA community back together for a safe and inclusive event – and it’s yet again on this year’s list of things to do before graduation

Q. What helps make this event special for the UVA community?

A. As an event planned and coordinated by students for the past three decades, the race is truly designed by and for students. This year, our awesome Peer Health Educator race interns are fourth-year student Annie An and third-year student Hannah Zaveri. This year, more than ever, it will be impactful to participate in-person after the past year-and-a-half of mostly virtual events and gatherings. From the intentionally low registration cost to the excitement of the Peer Health Educators lining the entire race route to cheer participants on, there is a lot of energy and positivity incorporated throughout the race. It’s also a great opportunity for students, staff, alumni and community members to connect around a healthy outdoor activity. Participants can run, walk, dance, push strollers and even bring their cute pups along on race day.

Q. What kind of alcohol safety awareness and bystander intervention programming do the Peer Health Educators offer throughout the year? 

A. The Office of Health Promotion collects data annually to track student health behaviors, inform our programming and evaluate the success of our interventions. We use that data to target high-risk populations and high-risk time periods and promote the overwhelmingly positive behaviors that UVA students consistently demonstrate.

Peer Health Educators play a key role in that work as part of the Office of Health Promotion, and in collaboration with the Hoos Got Your Back bystander intervention program, Peer Health Educators help promote a culture of well-being and develop a caring and safer community. They are trained to present dynamic outreach presentations on a variety of college health topics, conduct individual patient education sessions, and plan special programming and events around high-risk time periods, like the last home game of the football season.

Q. What does 4th-Year 5K event registration include?

A. Registration is only $17 ($12 if you are a fourth-year) and includes a long-sleeved race T-shirt designed by the Peer Health Educators, a chipped bib to track runners, refreshments on race day and the opportunity to participate in a fun UVA tradition.  

Q. Why should UVA students register to run?

A. Our race has always had the well-being of students and the UVA community at its heart. Plus, it’s a tradition! Especially for students who felt like they missed out on opportunities because of COVID-19, the 4th-Year 5K is a great way to reconnect and find friends and community. For fourth-years looking to complete their “122 Things” list, there are five items this race can help you check off:

  • Participate in the 4th-Year 5K.
  • Run with President Ryan.
  • Take a picture with Cavman.
  • Take a picture in front of the Rotunda.
  • Do something you missed during COVID-19. 

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

Office of University Communications