St. Olaf College | News

Oles compete in St. Olaf marathon, virtually

Bryony Hawgood ‘20
Bryony Hawgood ‘20 goes for a run in the St. Olaf Natural Lands as part of the virtual marathon.

The Ole community is coming together from miles apart — by tracking our miles. The St. Olaf virtual marathon is one way that students, staff, and faculty are staying relaxed and focused during a topsy turvy spring.

With gyms and exercise classes suspended in Minnesota and across the country, not to mention on the Hill, Director of Intramural and Club Sports Ryan Townzen was eager to give Oles a new way to stay active. Looking to provide some friendly competition and a method to relieve stress, the virtual marathon was born. The goal of the virtual marathon is for participants to run, walk, bike, or bear crawl 26.2 miles (or more!) between March 18 and April 5 from wherever they are.

The response to the virtual marathon has been overwhelming. There are currently 173 participants, with five to eight new Oles joining every day. So far, Oles have run or walked a cumulative 3,929 miles and biked a cumulative 898 miles. With several days to go, Townzen hopes that all participants’ miles will add up to over 200 full marathons. 

“One thing I have taken away from this is that our community wants to stay active and is very competitive,” Townzen says. “For instance, last weekend, there were 150 new entries. On Monday morning around 9:30 am, I was about halfway through updating the entries when I got emails from two different people asking if we received their submissions because they did not seem to be updated online. That just shows how engaged some of our participants are.”

Ben Alcorn ’20Getting outside and being active on a regular basis is something that helps keep me sane in these strange times.

Sofi Serio ‘23 is one of those engaged participants and has found that having a goal to work towards helps her stay motivated. “The marathon felt daunting at first,” says Serio. “However, I’ve found that although sometimes it’s challenging to get out of the house, running and biking consistently hasn’t really been all that hard. I can record every effort, no matter how slow my mile times are. That is extremely rewarding. The best part has been realizing that I can, in fact, run and bike 26.2 miles in a few weeks!”

Sofi Serio ‘23
Sofi Serio ‘23 snaps a selfie on her run in the Boise foothills in Boise, Idaho.

The virtual marathon also helps athletes like skier Ben Alcorn ‘20 stay accountable to an intense training regimen during off season. “It’s nice to have some goals to work towards to prepare for future citizen ski races like the Birkie. And getting outside and being active on a regular basis is something that helps keep me sane in these strange times,” says Alcorn. 

Julian Muñoz ‘23 feels similarly. He decided to participate in the virtual marathon to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but the marathon has also provided a welcome respite. “What I have enjoyed the most is getting outside to smell the fresh air, clear my head, and enjoy nature.”

Bryony Hawgood ’20Currently we might be running solo but that doesn’t mean people have to feel alone.

Many participants cited the therapeutic benefits of exercise and getting outside — especially during a time when we are spending much more time indoors than normal.

Cross country runner Bryony Hawgood ‘20 is no stranger to long-distance running and has found that running consistently has a way of putting things into perspective. “No matter how bad it gets, running is something I can always turn to for relief. As long as I have my shoes and some open space, no one can take running away from me,” she says. “I think for many people, including myself, running is like a form of meditation that allows one to switch off and relax, which is especially helpful with everything that is currently going on.”

Hawgood was so inspired by the virtual marathon that she created her own event, the “Wherever you are” Half Marathon. “Currently we might be running solo but that doesn’t mean people have to feel alone,” she says.

The virtual marathon is a reminder that, despite distance, you are not alone and we are all in this together. 

If you are interested in participating in the virtual marathon, register and begin tracking your 26.2 miles today!