David Tuttle, dean of students, initiated a challenge 10 years ago to unite students, faculty, staff and alumni, as well as to promote health, strength and community. The challenge occurs annually and the number of participants increases each year.
Tuttle began the challenge after another program he had started, Run with the Dean, started to lose participants. Just like the newer half-marathon program, Run with the Dean also promoted unity amongst all parts of the Trinity community.
“It was just another way to engage with students. I’m always trying to find different ways to connect with different people based on their interests and mine,” Tuttle said.
Around 120 to 150 people sign up to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Antonio Half-Marathon with the dean every year, but ultimately, only around 80 people from that original group actually run. Participants can choose to train with Tuttle or on their own, depending on what best fits their schedule.
“There are some people who will train regularly with us, and then other people I’ll never see until marathon week. They might train on their own, but they still follow along because I send out weekly notes and things like that, and we have a Facebook page and a schedule that we follow,” Tuttle said.
The training schedule is most intense on weekends and gradually increases in mileage as race day nears. Starting with three to four miles for the first week, the group ultimately reaches 11 miles the week before the race.
“People will always say they want to train during the week, but schedules are so different that once we get into the semester, we’ll do one or two runs during the week, and I’ll always mix it up,” Tuttle said. “Usually it’s in the evenings and usually it’s different days, so if someone always has a Tuesday class they don’t always miss the Tuesday run, so we’ll run on a Wednesday, and those are shorter.”
Although the challenge may seem intimidating for those who aren’t experienced runners, Tuttle suggests that the training schedule allows enough time for improvement; all that is needed is the drive to reach the goal.
“If you can run a little, you can run a lot; you just have to do it more. That’s what I try to tell people. You start building up the mileage. The weekend runs are really to get time spent on your feet,” Tuttle said. “Unless you’re an elite runner, and you’re really practicing and trying to improve pace and things like that you just have to get used to being out there. By doing it in increments, anybody can do it.”
Enrique Garcia, a junior that joined the challenge during his first year at Trinity, initially had hesitations.
“Before college, I always liked running; however, I could never get myself past that four-mile barrier. I wanted to come up with a way to meet other people who experience that same problem and to get past it,” Garcia said.
Garcia isn’t alone with his doubts. Luckily, the program provides an atmosphere of encouragement for those who feel incapable of reaching their goal.
“I’ve tried to recommend it to friends in the past that I think would be great, but they usually put themselves down because they have the same doubts that I had,” Garcia said. “The dean takes in runners from many different spectrums: fast, slow, experienced, inexperienced. He’s patient with all of us to make sure we’re together. He gets you through it.”
The challenge welcomes all participants, regardless of experience or age. Many people join to cross the challenge off of their bucket list, as well as to gain more experience running. This year, the group welcomes their 500th runner.
“We have had people who have never run more than one or two miles before complete it, and we’ve had people who’ve done it because they want to change their lifestyle and exercise more, maybe lose a little weight, people that just do it for the challenge. I’ve seen all kinds of people do it,” Tuttle said.
Along with reassuring students of their capability to complete the challenge, Tuttle also tries to make the training process more enjoyable by creating themed runs.
“We’ll try to do fun things to make it interesting and to keep people having fun with it. We’ve done things like the iPod shuffle run, where we traded our music with other people. The last long run we do, we do at Woodlawn lake, and we all drive up there, and we do a taco breakfast after that. We have someone who comes in from Fleet Feet who talks to the students about shoes and running gear and things like that. We have our Halloween hill hell run, where we do some hills over by the zoo just to get us used to them,” Tuttle said.
Tuttle sees the challenge as more than just a physical experience. Within running distance from Trinity, participants pass both wealthy neighborhoods and poorer neighborhoods. This drastic difference sparked the idea to include a food drive with the race. The food drive was started in honor of Kayla Mire, class of 2010, a former Trinity student who supported the homeless and passed away in 2010.
“Within running distance of campus, there’s just this wide disparity of socioeconomic conditions out there … it’s so close that you can run and see a mansion and see a shelter and see the difference. Hopefully that inspires people to participate in the food drive. I ask the runners to each, if they’re able, to donate 13 food items or 13 Tiger Bucks because it’s a 13-mile run,” Tuttle said.
Although a majority of the participants are students, many members of faculty and staff, as well as alumni, join Tuttle’s challenge.
“One day, he asked if I’d be interested in training for a half-marathon, and I thought he was crazy. It was uplifting to know that I could do it. I had never thought about doing it. I was hesitant about it, but he convinced me that I was able to do it. He can be pretty compelling,” said Peter Kelly-Zion, professor of engineering science and one of the faculty members that has joined Tuttle.
Kelly-Zion has participated in every half-marathon since the conception of the challenge, and although he didn’t start as an experienced runner, the training helped him gain confidence.
“The difficulty changes. It was kind of physical and emotional, mental, but after I did it once, the mental training was easier,” Kelly-Zion said.
Students can find more information about joining the running group on Trinity’s website, or by emailing Dean Tuttle at email@example.com.