Running for an A: How I Ran My First Marathon for College Credit
Running my first marathon was a unique experience. Not only was I running to accomplish my lifelong goal of completing a marathon, but I was also running to receive college credit in a marathon training course.
I am a college student at the University of Minnesota, and this past spring semester, I decided to take a three-credit course called Marathon Training. The expectations of this course were exactly what it sounds like – to train for and run a marathon. I signed up for this course because I began to run more in college and knew that I was at the best point in my life to run a marathon. I had the time in my academic schedule, the fitness, and the motivation. I also knew that by signing up for this course, I wouldn’t be going at it alone, but instead would have a group of classmates around me with the same pursuit.
The Course Structure
Before the fall semester ended, everyone who signed up for the course was required to attend an informational meeting and complete a 2-mile time trial. At this initial meeting, I was surprised by 1) how many students had signed up for the course, and 2) the wide spectrum of types of runners that had signed up.
Some students had run marathons in the past and signed up for the course because they wanted to learn how to train better. Others had never run before, and this would be their first time training for and running any sort of race. I found myself right around the middle of the pack, having a good amount of experience running and a few races under my belt, but itching to complete my first full marathon. Our instructor then provided us with three options for training plans (beginner, intermediate & advanced) to complete over winter break so that we would all start the course at the beginning of the semester with around the same amount of base training.
Related: How to Pick a Marathon Training Plan
Marathon Training for Credit
When the semester started, we completed another 2-mile time trial along with physiological testing (underwater weighing and Vo2 max testing), and then we got right to training. Our training plan was set up where we would do speed training once a week as a class on Wednesdays, long runs on Sundays, and then expected to complete 2-3 shorter runs during the week on our own.
We also had classroom instruction on Mondays where our instructor would talk through topics such as aerobic vs. anaerobic training, marathon psychology, nutrition and hydration, and running mechanics. We were expected to keep a running log and had a few other assignments for the class here and there, but 60% of our grade was made up of the training itself, with 20% for attendance on class training days, and 40% for completing the marathon at the end of the 15 weeks.
April 29, 2017, was the big day: our “final exam” at the Run for the Lakes Marathon. The whole semester led up to this day, but our instructors prepared us well. They reminded us to trust our training and to just go out there and have fun. Although many of us set personal time goals, we weren’t being graded on how fast we finished the marathon. Our only priority that day was to finish the race.
Related: Do You Run to Win or Run to Finish?
What I Learned Completing My First Marathon
Although unlike any other college course, Marathon Training was still challenging (not an “easy A”), but the setup and structure of the course allowed me to train for and complete my first marathon in, I believe, the smoothest way possible. Like anyone who trains and runs their first marathon, I learned a lot about myself and about running.
I learned that training for a race as demanding as the marathon really changes every aspect of your life, down to your sleep and eating habits, and even your other commitments outside of training. Throughout the semester, I had to make some sacrifices in order to ensure that I would be as successful as possible in my training.
I also learned that I enjoy running with others. Before this course, I usually ran by myself, maybe with one other person once in a while. But after training and completing long runs as a class, I found myself adapting to running in small groups with people at my same pace. Knowing that all of my classmates were completing this run together motivated me and helped me to keep going.
Finally, completing this course and running my first marathon strengthened the belief that I have had ever since I began running: everyone can run and everyone should run (or at least try it)! Experiencing this great accomplishment as part of a class, and seeing my fellow classmates complete the marathon along with me has motivated me to encourage others to run and experience completing a marathon (or any race) for themselves.
Your First Marathon
What brought you to completing your first marathon? Was it college credit? A convincing friend? A life change? Share your stories in the comments below!