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Back to Leiden for the Science Run: ‘As founder, I just have to participate'

Once a year, former employee and avid runner Dennis Hoencamp returns to his old workplace. That’s when he competes in the Leiden Science Run. As an event coordinator, he once devised the relay race as an anniversary activity. It grew into an annual event for the entire University and the Bio Science Park. ‘The Leiden Science Run brings everyone together.’

How did the idea for the Leiden Science Run originate?

‘In 2015, our faculty celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary. In honour of this special anniversary, we organised all kinds of activities: an extravagant opening of the academic year, a food court, a gala, and a big symposium. But we also wanted to add something else. Something less formal to connect the different institutes more, but also to seek more connection between students, researchers, teachers and supporting staff. And what is a better way to connect people that through sport? 

Student running club Currimus annually hosted the Geuzen Run (Geuzenloop), and that was our inspiration. Running is quite low-threshold. People can train anywhere. We kept the distance short: 5 kilometers, and located the start finish are in front of the Gorlaeus Lecture Hall building. We didn't want it to become an event where every person ran just for themselves. That's why we made it a relay race. That way, the focus was on running together. On putting down a team performace with your research group, study association, colleagues or perhaps a mix of teachers and students.’

'Once a team of professors joined the run, the registrations started to take off.'

How was the response?

‘Everyone was immediately enthusiastic. We started taking team photos of the teams that had already signed up. We shared these with quotes on the website. Once a team of professors joined the run, the registrations started to take off.’

What was the first edition of the Leiden Science Run like?

‘The first edition was a great success. Apart from the sunny weather, this was mainly due to the hard work and preparation of the University Sports Centre (USC), Currimus and the Science facilities team. We had prepared everything on paper, but they made sure that everything was actually in place on the day itself.’   

During the pumping warm-up by Natascha from USC, everything fell into place and then everyone was ready to take off. During the first edition, we already raised 4545 euros!’

Ever since the first edition, USC sports instructor Natascha van den Nieuwenhuizen has guaranteed a smashing warm-up. In 2023, she will be present again.

Back then, you also raised money for charity?

‘Definitely. Also the first edition we ran for UAF, the foundation for refugee students. That gave many people extra motivation to participate. Of course, as a university, we also have a nice link with this charity. With our effort, we offer other students and professionals the chance to develop and put their talents to use. Working together for something so wonderful joins people together even more. Ultimately, we only benefit, because all the talent and knowledge of these students eventually comes back to us.’

In action behind the scenes during the first edition in 2015

And then a new tradition was born?

‘The Leiden Science Run was actually meant to be a one-off event. But the following year everyone asked, “Will there still be a run?”’ Laughs: ‘So, yes, then we had no other choice. We decided to take a bigger approach and involve the whole University. Teams participated from Leiden Law, from the Rapenburg, from Humanities.... The second edition was really a university-wide run. Then, we went even bigger and also involved the companies on the Bio Science Park. We would run past all their buildings anyway, and for many companies, the health of their employees is an important thema. So: a perfect combination.’ 

The last edition was before the pandemic and tied in with the festivities surrounding the 444th anniversary of the University. We adjusted the distance to 4.44 kilometres and raised a record amount of 12,135 euros with 101 teams.’

You no longer work at Leiden University anymore. Why are you coming back for this?

‘The Leiden Science Run is a little bit my baby after all. It's hard not to join an event I once thought up myself. If you will still be organising this run in ten year's time, I will still be taking part. Just to see what you have made of it. And, of course, because I just enjoy being here and taking part.’

Dennis (left) during the last Leiden Science Run in 2019

You won't be running alone, of course. Who are on your team?

‘I am running with three other former employees. We are still in touch and this is a great opportunity to see each other again. So you see that in this way, too, this event unites: even though you are working somewhere else, you still feel connected to the Faculty. And that doesn't just apply to the people running: three other former colleagues are coming to support us! We’re happy to see that the Science Run is back!’

Are you aiming for a win?

‘I’ve been doing a lot of running myself over the past few months to raise money for the Dutch Cancer Society. So I’m in good shape! Of course we are going for a new personal record. In a half marathon, the distance is the achievement, but now the it’s the speed. Full gas and no air left once you cross the finish line, that’s the idea!’ 

Support Cool kids are Back or one of the other teams

Team Cool Kids are Back consists of Dennis Hoencamp, Jeroen Scharroo, Bryce Benda and Christian Eistrup. Support them or one of the other teams via geef.nl.

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