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Students look off-campus for racing competition

By Joseph Fanelli
On April 20, 2012

  • Members of the Mini-Marathon Training class warm up on Thursday morning during class after listening to a presentation by fellow students on motivation. Emily Green / The DePauw

It is not a stretch to say there is a moderate percentage of committed runners on campus. Many DePauw students can be found running throughout campus or the Nature Park at most times of the day.

For most of these students, the running stops at DePauw. It is a form of exercise or distraction from studying or maybe even a leisurely activity, but for sophomore Frances Jones, the running is not merely running. It is training.

"For me, it's going to be an accomplishment enough to do the whole thing," said Jones of running in the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon this May. The annual mini has become the largest half marathon (13.1 miles) in the United States and is associated with the Indianapolis 500 festival.

Jones is a first time participant and explained that just finishing the race will be enough for her, but she would like to cross the finish line at around the two hour mark. She has been training with fellow sophomore Suzanne Spencer, another first-timer in the mini. Both have been training since around mid-February for the race, which kicks off on Saturday, May 5.

"(Training) has definitely kept us more disciplined than a normal semester," Spencer said. "You have to budget for an hour and a half of running which is a lot different. It's basically like being an athlete between running, going to the gym."

A schedule like Jones' and Spencer's can be demanding, but both stressed that it has structured their lives and made them very aware of how to properly budget their time. And it does have some other advantages.

"I eat a lot now. I eat all the time," Spencer said.

DePauw athletes have the luxury of coaches and teammates to constantly keep them on their toes. Lack of training or effort for them means no playing time so there is a very clear motivation to remain disciplined in their sport. Jones and Spencer have each other.

Both are former athletes - Jones used to play soccer and Spencer ran cross-country - part of their desire in running the mini is to unleash the competitor lodged somewhere deep inside them. And although they are training together, both understand they will eventually be racing come the mini.

"We're going to start together," Frances said, "So I think our goal is to start together and if we finish together that would be awesome, but if we don't it's not a huge deal, we'll be there at the end."

For impending races, finding buddy to train with is one path to success. Another is to take a class.

Senior Rachel German is one of the twenty-something students that have spent the semester running in men and women's track head coach Kori Stoffregen's "Mini-Marathon Training" class. German is another former athlete and took the class as a way to get back into running.

"For me, it was an opportunity to have someone help me train again and has a good target at the end in running the Mini-Marathon," Rachel said. "It was a good change to get back to training in groups."

The class meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings to run together and listen to student presentations on things like good running technique, nutrition, what shoes and clothes to wear and motivation. Homework in the class is not writing papers, but putting in miles. They are supposed to run two other days a week on their own.

"When I came in I could comfortably run two to three miles," German explained. "Now, I competed a 12-mile run last Saturday. It's just kind of changed my perspective on what normal would be. Five miles doesn't sound impossible anymore, where as when I came in to the class, 13 seemed completely out of my range."

Students do not necessarily have to run the half-marathon in Indianapolis, but it is seen as a great culminating event after a semester of running.

Stoffregen is in his first semester teaching the course and has been very pleased with the class and his students.

"Everybody in the class has gotten better and that happens when you're forced to have to run at least four days a week," Stoffregen said. "And so even our entry level kids, beginners, are doing really well. It's been fun to see how the kids have responded to the class."

The mini is a primary choice of students on DePauw's campus looking for a way to test their endurance and add a little motivation to their daily run. But it is not the only choice.

Freshman Evan Trotta is a triathlete from who spends six, sometimes seven, days a week training with running, in the pool and on his bike. He is actually a part of team based in Columbus, Ind. called Trionic human performance, and has been competing in triathlons since he was a junior in high school. It started as a break from cross-country and turned into an obsession.

"I think last week I put in like 10.5 hours training," Trotta said. "I typically run every other day. And then I try to ride a lot...I typically swim four times a week. Every day I do both. It's a pretty big time commitment. If I'm not studying, I'm training."

Currently, Trotta is training for a half-ironman which means a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike and a 13.1 mile run.

"Typically (the breaking point) comes at mile nine or ten of the run," Trotta said, "and if it's that late, you know you've executed the perfect race. If you can haul and put it all out there and then it's just suffer-fest for the last four miles and you just push through. But if you start hurting through the bike, then something's wrong."

Evan first triathlon of the season is on May 26 in Lawrence, Ind. German, Spencer and Jones have just three weekends left until the Indianapolis Mini. Registration for the event has long been closed, but information can be found out about the race in 2013 online. 

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