Imagine taking your final exam in running attire at 7:30 a.m. — hundreds of miles away from your classroom. This is exactly what 15 College of Charleston students in Professor Mike Flynn’s Sport Physiology and Marathon Training course are going to do when they run in the Derby Festival Marathon on April 27, 2013 in Louisiville, Ky. Watch a video from the race.
“There is something amazing about training for a marathon: You actually try harder in everything else you do,” says Stephanie Roberts, a sophomore majoring in computer information systems. “My grades have gone up and I am taking more leadership positions throughout the college and in my sorority. In my opinion, everyone should train for a marathon. Or try for something way out of their reach that they never thought could be possible.”
Lots of people dream of running a marathon and yet far fewer run one, but this is precisely what the “talented and dedicated” students in Flynn’s course knew they would be required to accomplish when they enrolled.
Economics major and junior Aaron Groshans, a runner who has run up to 19 miles in a stretch and a former high school soccer player is one of the course participants. Groshans says, “I have always wanted to complete a marathon, as my father was an avid runner and my uncle competed multiple times in the Boston Marathon. And I wanted to prove to myself that I had the diligence and mental strength to overcome a feat of 26.2 miles. Dr. Flynn is an excellent instructor and has provided us with very useful insights regarding the science behind exercise, running, and how we can achieve optimal performance during competitions.”
Roberts, a runner throughout high school, said she ran in her first years at the College, but did not challenge herself or seek out new races to run or people to run with. When she heard about the class, she felt it was exactly what she needed. “I have always had the thought in the back of my head that one day I’d run a marathon, but never saw myself training alone and running the marathon alone. This class has given me the opportunity to be mentored and make friends with other people that love to run too.”
Flynn, a professor in the College’s School of Education, Health, and Human Performance and a runner himself, though currently injured and prevented from running, says of his students, “This has been a very enthusiastic and cohesive group that has great camaraderie. They have been quite dedicated to their training and take their classwork seriously. I expect to get at least one Boston qualifier out of this group, which is pretty rare, since this is a difficult metric to achieve for any runner let alone a first time marathon runner.” Flynn is a veteran of 11 marathons – two them being the Boston Marathon.
The group has jokingly taken to calling themselves “CofC Marathon Team.” Because of the class, Groshans had increased confidence in himself and has a new self-perception, “I now view any obstacle or feat as something that I can and will accomplish. I perceive myself now as much more driven and focused then prior to taking this course.”
Roberts says, “Overall this class is a blast! I have met true running partners and friends. You really get to know a lot about a person after you are running hours with them each day. Tuesdays and Thursdays are now my favorite days of the week because I get to run with my friends and let the stresses of the day melt away as we run down to the Battery and back. This class has also changed my self-perception, because I am actually accomplishing step by step one of my lifetime goals!”
Students in the class have what to some might be a grueling schedule. According to Flynn, “students attend twice weekly lectures, participate in lab testing sessions, take two exams, write two lab reports, and have a problem-based learning assignment / paper due at semesters’ end. On top of this they train twice per week after lecture and at least twice additional on their own, leading up to about a 20 mile run.
“I cannot believe how far this class has taken me in my running ability,” says Roberts. “Last weekend I ran my all-time high of 16 miles, and soon I will be running 19 miles. These 19 miles will be my last long run before the marathon. The other 7.2 miles needed to run a marathon are on faith and guts that I can finish.”
Groshans values the knowledge gained in class. “The right of kind shoe makes all the difference. Running in a shoe that your body is not adapted to can cause serious injuries, and I experienced this first-hand at the beginning of the course in January. I switched to a shoe that corrected the mistake I had made and now I am injury-free.”
With the added knowledge and endurance, there is no doubt that the students in Flynn’s course are all winners at this point.
Watch a video from the 2011 sport physiology course.
For more information about Flynn’s course or the College’s Department of Health and Human Performance can contact Flynn via e-mail FlynnMG@cofc.edu.