According to organizer Cullen Maag, a 5K run in New Kensington that turned into a fitness and wellness boon turned into more than anyone hoped for.
The first NK 5K FitFEST drew a few hundred people to the county town of Westmoreland on Sunday.
“Pretty good crowd for a first formula,” said Maag, owner of BodyWork412 on Fifth Avenue. “There really is nothing else like this kind of festival. I just wanted to bring some of the activities that I do in my life to the community and get them involved.
“I know not everyone has access to gym memberships or transportation to gyms and such.”
The festivities began with a 5 km race around 9 am. Other activities included yoga outside the Voodoo Brewery, a jiu-jitsu exhibition and a “sound bath” at AngelWing, which involves lying down while gongs, singing bowls, drums and cymbals are played.
Tsar Parrish, 22, of Martinsburg, W.Va., was among the victorious jiu-jitsu participants. He represented Ground Zero in Bridgeport, W.Va.
“I love coming out here and competing,” Parrish said. “Either you learn a lot or you go out and have fun, sometimes both. The key to victory was to stay in control (and) try not to give up any position. … Whenever I can get away from anything fitness related, I love being there. I really like people who practice jiu-jitsu and martial arts. Everyone I’ve met has been very respectful and laid back for the most part.
Bryant Ludwiczak, 27, from New Kensington, also took part in the exhibition along with other members of The Mat Factory. He said he loved having such an event in his hometown.
“That’s really cool,” he said. “Ten years ago nobody would have thought something like this would happen in New Kensington. It’s cool to see positive things happening here and to have positive people here doing good things.
Members of the Pennsylvania National Guard organized a Hummer pullover. Participants had to do a series of push-ups, carry a medicine ball, and then attempt to pull a 6,000+ pound military vehicle about 150 feet.
The 5K had about 160 participants in total. There were divisions for walking, running and rucking.
Rucking is walking or hiking while carrying weight on your back. It has military origins and its name comes from “backpack”, a backpack intended to carry heavy loads.
Steel City Ruck Club member Cecil resident James Stiffey said he had about a dozen team members participate and loved all the events.
“The course was great,” Stiffey said. “The jiu-jitsu tournament is fantastic. The National Guard Humvee sweater was really cool. It’s nice to see these kinds of festivals popping up. I know they do a lot of things in downtown Pittsburgh. It’s nice to see out-of-town interest (in these fitness festivals).
He praised Maag, also a member of the ruck club, for putting it all together.
“When Cullen said they were putting this on, we were like, ‘Yeah. We’re going to come out here and support you,’” Stiffey said. “It’s great to see how many people they have here for this. It was really nice. The weather is perfect.
Maag said he hopes to make FitFEST an annual tradition.
“I would love to. Next year we will definitely do it again,” he said. “I like the combination of four different activities, and we are going to make it a festival village. that the newbie and the strongman can all be in one place together and learn from each other or inspire someone.