Pictures of runners in gator gallop

Participants run in the Gator Gallop 5k, one of the various events that takes place during homecoming week at UF in Fall 2019.  (Photographer: Adler Garfield, 2019 Director of Photography)

Gator Gallop usually kickstarts homecoming week at UF each year, flooding the streets with blue and orange and spreading Gator spirit. But runners this year will be participating from wherever they can run. 

The Gator Gallop fun-run will be remote this year due to COVID-19, allowing Gators across the country to participate from Oct. 2 through Oct. 16. The 5K, typically in person, is one of the various events that takes place during homecoming week at UF.

Each participant will receive a packet with information on how to prepare for the race this year. They will have two weeks to complete the race at their own time and pace from anywhere in the U.S. 

The goal of this event is to bring back the UF and homecoming spirit, despite campus being desolate, said Aschdin J. Fink, associate producer of communications for Homecoming & Gator Growl.

“Even though a virtual event wasn’t our first choice, it is nice to see Gators across the nation get involved since this virtual run doesn't require you to be in Gainesville,” she said. 

COVID-19 has led to 65% of UF’s classes being held virtually and many students staying home for this semester.

Many events were canceled for the Fall semester, like convocation, family weekend and commencement, so students guessed that homecoming events were cancelled as well, said Elle Chumlongluk, director of Gator Gallop. 

The Gator Gallop team is working to turn a bad situation into a positive experience for Gators across the world, she said. 

“This run is a great way to get active, get out of your room and off of Zoom,” she said. 

Runners must register online for the event. Participants must pay in order to run.They can pick up their package in-person for $22 or have it shipped to them for $28. Pickup locations will be released closer to the event.

Photo of a runner with fists in the air

A Gator Gallop participant stands among other runners in Newell Drive in Fall 2019. (Photographer: Adler Garfield, 2019 Director of Photography)

Each year, Gator Gallop is paired with a different charity. This year, it is partnering with the Child Advocacy Center which aims to help abused and neglected children in Gainesville, to raise money through the race.

During registration, participants can choose to donate directly to the charity. As of Thursday, $530 have been raised, Chumlongluk said. 

The fee covers a limited-edition Gator Gallop T-shirt, an engraved metal, a downloadable race number, a link to a Gator Gallop playlist and a customized training plan created by a team at RecSports. 

“Each participant will get a packet with custom race paths to run on throughout campus and a guide of local trails and parks in Gainesville to run on,” said Fink. 

Current UF students have access to a one-time fitness class via Youtube Livestream with RecSports that will help them prepare for the race. The “Interval Training Class” will help runners build up their stamina to be able to complete the race more easily. 

In past years, Gators and Gainesville residents would line the streets, wearing blue and orange, cheering for runners. 

The virtual event will include a running simulation that goes through campus’ main attractions like Century tower to make it as realistic as possible. The simulation can be used in remote locations, if one is uncomfortable running outside and on a treadmill. 

“The virtual aspect to the event will hopefully ensure that participants can actively help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing,” Fink said. 

Cai Baralt, Gator Gallop participant and current associate producer of finance for homecoming, said he was shocked at how many people were involved in past years. He hopes the accessibility of the event will encourage Gators across the country to participate safely from their homes. 

“It was amazing seeing how supportive the whole Gator community is of one another,” he said.