More than 20 years ago, Ben Cherbonnier, founder and president of CMA Technology Solutions, wrote and signed the letter that established a casual running group in Baton Rouge called the Fat Boy Running Club. The letter, in addition to a Fat Boy Running Club T-shirt, was mailed in 1990 to select members of the community. The letter humorously reads:
You are an instant winner!
Without calling a 900 number, you have been selected as a recipient of the original Fat Boys Running Club shirt. Your credentials include some or all of the following:
- The ability to at least slow down at every Baskin Robbins.
- You are known as a “buffet buster” at “all you can eat” establishments.
- A light diet means you start eating when it gets light.
- Light beer is OK if you get enough of it.
- Your ideal racing weight remains a perpetual myth and goal.
- Your P.R. is expressed by only the time, but on a Richter scale.
Now that you know the credentials, wear your shirt with pride and support the group when a call goes out. Happy calorie counting.
– Ben Cherbonnier and Don Phelps (original fat boys)
From the Fat Boy Running Club, grew the Fat Boy 5k – one of the most popular and light-hearted annual racing events in the Baton Rouge area to date.
Cherbonnier said he’s been race director for the Fat Boy 5k “from day one,” or for 25 years, because he “enjoys volunteering and being actively involved with the running community.” As the visionary leader behind the creation of the Fat Boy 5k, Cherbonnier watched his idea come to life as a New Orleans French Quarter artist produced a caricature drawing of what would be the original Fat Boy 5k logo for years to come. Every year, Cherbonnier devotes about 30 hours of his spare time to managing, planning and promoting the Fat Boy 5k, and the outcome has been extremely successful.
The Fat Boy Running Club’s original members are long-time friends, Jim Wansley, Don Phelps, Pat Rogers, Lewis Farmer and Ben Cherbonnier, who share a passion for running and living active lifestyles. The original Fat Boys attended local races and gave each other constructive encouragement as they called out, “Hey, fat boy!” mid-run across the race course. Cherbonnier explains the “fat boy” comment was used in a “joking gesture with good intentions to motivate friends without taking it too seriously.” Their friendly name-calling eventually lead to the idea of a light-hearted race called the Fat Boy 5k. Little did they know the profound impact the Fat Boy 5k would have on the running culture in Baton Rouge. The original Fat Boys wanted to host a fun, low-entry-fee race with lots of food and drinks where runners of all sizes, stature and endurance level would have an opportunity to win. And that’s when the Fat Boy 5k was born.
To even the playing field, race awards are given five deep (first through fifth place) and in five year age groups. “It’s not about the prize you win, it’s about being recognized for your accomplishments,” said Cherbonnier. “We wanted to give the fourth and fifth place runners a chance to be winners.” The original Fat Boy 5k was in the late 1980s, but the exact date is unknown because the original Fat Boys aren’t comfortable spilling their secrets (or their ages). The first race had no sponsors, only 80 race participants (called Fat Boys) and served donuts and chocolate milk, which is significantly different from the Fat Boy 5k festivities today. Apparently, the Fat Boys said they knew they “hit the big times when the port-a-potty count went up to 10.” Because of the Fat Boy 5k’s increasing popularity among the Baton Rouge community, Club South Runners (CSR), a local nonprofit organization that encourages running for physical fitness, officially adopted the race.
The Fat Boy 5k began to attract running enthusiasts from around the country, and in 1995 the Fat Boy Running Club from Pleasanton California traveled to Baton Rouge to partake in the running festivities. Official “celebrity race starters” made appearances, such as Smiley Anders, Richard Condon and Jordy Hultberg, and were awarded a Seymour Butt’s trophy (yes, that’s right) as a token of appreciation. Today, the perfect combination of Krispy Kreme Donuts and chocolate milk is still a Fat Boy 5k tradition, including a few more (okay, a lot more) delicious refreshments, such as moon pies, Manda sausage po-boys, and ice-cold soft drinks and beer (bananas and Powerade are available for the health-conscious runners).
To put things in perspective, on a typical race day the Fat Boys consume 70 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, 15 gallons of Kleinpeter fully leaded chocolate milk, 1000 Manda Po boys, 6 kegs of Mockler Beverage beer and 750 Moon Pies! If that doesn’t get your mouth watering, in addition to trophies, medals and large “horse ribbons,” race winners are awarded chocolate Easter bunnies. Adding to the structured shenanigans, door prizes donated by various sponsors are raffled off, and packs of Manda sausages are hurled into the crowd of runners. “The more foolishness involved, the better off you are,” said Cherbonnier. Today, the Fat Boy 5k stays true to its original goal by continuing to offer a unique running experience in a fun environment that’s suitable for people of all ages, shapes and sizes.
The hilly race course through University Acres Subdivision is moderately difficult, but “we encourage people to run or walk at their own pace and have fun,” Cherbonnier said, “Some people just come for the food and don’t even run!” Available spots are quickly filled because of the intimate neighborhood course, which limits race registration to one thousand participants, and it’s no secret, either.
The 2014 Fat Boy 5k opened for registration in February (three months before race day) and sold out after only six days! As an avid runner for a majority of his adult life, Cherbonnier has 35 years of running experience ranging from 800-meters to marathons. “Personally, it’s very important to stay physically active because it directly benefits your long-term mental and physical health,” said Cherbonnier. Since 1978, every Sunday at 7 a.m. Cherbonnier would run 12 miles with about 25 members of the Tiger Cage Run.
Today, the running group is smaller, the distance is shorter and the pace is slower, but Cherbonnier still shows up with his running shoes on. Cherbonnier’s dedication through the years has motivated fellow CMA team members, Dave Renoud, vice president of technical services, and Lewis Hannaman, vice president of marketing, to put on their running shoes for the Fat Boy 5k. Cherbonnier has been a member of CSR for 25 years, and served as president of the organization for a portion of that time.
In addition to the Fat Boy 5k, CSR hosts other races in Baton Rouge and supports local charities and organizations by making sizable donations to the Capital Area YMCA, Highland Elementary, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Baton Rouge Zoo and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. Cherbonnier is still the race director for the Fat boy 5k and is also a board member of the YMCA, but still finds time to jog regularly with friends for health-related and social benefits. “I used to love to run, but now I love to jog! My favorite race, even though I have never run it, is still the Fat Boy 5k,” said Cherbonnier. Moral of the story? Anyone can be a winner, because “Fat Boys” aren’t always what they appear to be…In addition to its Baton Rouge location, the Fat Boy 5k is also hosted in Las Vegas and New Orleans.
To learn how you can register for the 2015 Fat Boy 5k, visit www.fatboy5k.com or contact Ben Cherbonnier at Ben@cmaontheweb.com.