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Wharton Council Hosts First Annual 5k Credit: Patrick Hulce , Patrick Hulce, Patrick Hulce

Nearly 200 students and faculty turned out to Wharton’s first annual Undergraduate and MBA Charity 5K Race on Saturday. By 9 a.m., loudspeakers at the Hill Field registration table were already blasting high-energy tunes. Soon after, the crowd — a massive, cohesive grouping of adrenaline — moved towards the race’s starting point.

First-year MBA student Dan Runzheimer, one of the runners, served five years in Afghanistan and other American military stations around the world. He was still on active duty just nine months ago.

Today, he’s a member of the Wharton Veterans Club. The group had strong representation at the 5K race, which was co-hosted by the Wharton Council and the Wharton Roadrunners & Triathletes Club.

Runzheimer ran the race with the Wharton Veterans Club’s co-presidents, fellow first-year MBA students Jamie Peace and Ben Revello.

Like Runzheimer, Peace is a former USMC Captain. Revello served as an Operations Chief in the Navy SEALs, the Sea, Air, and Land Teams. Between the two men, they have served in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa and Korea.

Revello, who’s had a 20-year, 22-country tour of duty, looks about the same age as the younger Peace, in his late 20s. “Doing sh-t like this keeps me young,” Revello said.

All proceeds from the 5K race go to The Jericho Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eradicating homelessness. In 2009, Jericho launched the Veterans Initiative, which seeks to alleviate a crisis of homeless veterans by helping with social reintegration.

For participant Jamie Peace, a first-year MBA student, the issue is personal. “We’re talking about guys who worked for us, who performed brilliantly out in the field. It’s hard to see, but these are resilient people,” said Peace, who serves as co-president of the Wharton Veterans Club. “A lot of guys are having a tough time. But we want to avoid the stereotype that veterans are damaged goods.” He thanked Penn’s community for its awareness of veterans’ contributions.

Wharton sophomore Gina Ah-Fenne, an event organizer, said second-year MBA and Marines veteran Robert Seo made a “very good pitch” in favor of donating the race’s earnings — $15 per participant — to the Jericho Project.

The crowd stopped just a few feet past Van Pelt Library, directly in front of a prayer tent that had been set up earlier Monday for Holy Week.

A baffled man with dark glasses stuck his head out of the tent to discover the racket’s source. “You do this every Saturday?” he yelled to a runner, before ducking back inside, snapping the tent shut.

Runners at the front of the pack got down into ready position, hands and feet low on the cement. They were off to an explosive start the instant announcers shouted “Go!”

Others in the back were less serious. “We also marketed this 5K as a walk,” Ah-Fenne said.

Ah-Fenne explained the challenges of organizing such an event for the first time. The route stayed on campus, so the organizers could avoid a costly city permit for road usage. Runners looped up and down 34th to 40th streets, always staying between Walnut and Spruce.

The group disintegrated steadily with each lap.

A few laps in, one marathoner called out, breathless, “How much more, seriously?”

Peace and Wharton Veterans Club co-president and first-year MBA student Ben Revello sprinted along together, at times engaging in conversation.

One man wore a black wig like an 80s glam metal star.

Another runner pushed a yellow one-wheeled jogging stroller, racing with his baby.

But first-year MBA student Brent Frissora had no time for chit-chat. He won the race, clocking in at just under 16 minutes. “I just wanted to win,” he said.

A hoarse-sounding, highly animated organizer cheered on those following Frissora. “Finish strong! Almost there! Pound the pavement! Killin’ it!”

Organizer and Wharton junior Gabriel Oriente hopes to make the 5K an enduring tradition. He began planning it a year and a half ago.

Oriente lamented the paucity of interaction between undergraduate and MBA Wharton students, seeing the 5K as a bridge. The hope was to “bring the whole building [Huntsman Hall] together for one morning.”

“It’s very hard to create a tradition,” Ah-Fenne said. “We want to set a precedent for uniting the two groups.”

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