U of M marathon training class is not for quitters

Early and outside is one of the last scenarios you'd expect to find college students in on a Sunday. In a marathon training class at the University of Minnesota, students partake in long runs while many of their peers are still asleep. Their ultimate task: Finish the Eau Claire Marathon.

Instructor Stacy Ingraham said this is the program's seventh year. The first year attracted 38 students, and now, they have 105. (They can't handle more than 110, so they're essentially full.)

"There were times when we would get the map sent to us on Wednesday before a long run and we'd study it. I would look at it and think, ‘What am I doing?' because the route looked so long and I would have some doubt about it," junior Sophie Pulice said.

Senior Marcus Carrigan said he and his classmates might gripe about waking up at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday, but there's a plus side.

"After finishing the long run, there's a new connection that so few people have at the U of M," he said. "It's a great way to meet people not in your major and of all different ages, too."

While students may learn a little about themselves, the school is learning a little about runners. The instructors have 11 research publications under their belts -- anything from psychological factors to body weight changes in men and women.

Meanwhile, the Eau Claire Marathon is happy to have these young faces to help promote the race.

About 20 percent of the students drop out right off the bat -- perhaps because it does take incredible commitment. Only one Sunday miss is allowed, and it must be excused.

"You know, welcome to real life, you don't get to snooze when you're supposed to be at work at 8. So it's non-negotiable," Ingraham said.

Barring a medical emergency, students have to finish the marathon to pass the class -- but Ingraham says it's worth it.

"It is incredibly rewarding. Standing at the finish line watching 100 students that you've had something to do with, this changes their lives. Not sure we're here for any other reason than to improve life for other people," she said.

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