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SpotLight: Campus School Marathon Team

Running for a Good Cause

For The Heights

Published: Monday, November 15, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

Some travel to Appalachia to build houses for the impoverished. Others spend four hours per week tutoring, serving food, or mentoring youths in Boston. For those with a less traditional idea of service, though, a group meets each weekend on Sunday morning to run up to 20 miles.

Following the Jesuit tradition of "men and women for others," Boston College students always seem to find ways to meld service with their personal strengths and passions. Since 1970, students have committed themselves to assisting the Campus School, an on-campus institution that provides support and education to physically and mentally handicapped individuals. Many undergraduates choose to volunteer at the Campus School through tutoring or "buddy" programs, but some have found a different way to show their support.

The Campus School Volunteers Marathon Team runs the Boston Marathon every year to raise money for the school. Around 200 students join this group annually, and they train both individually and as a unit. These runners follow a training schedule consisting of short runs done individually, and long runs usually tackled as a group. They use the word short here, though, in the same relative way that one would refer to a sub-6-foot-5 basketball player, as these runs can be anything from three to nine miles. For the long runs, the group meets in front of the Campus School before taking off, constantly thinking not just of the race, but also of the cause driving them to compete.

Though their contact with the institution is less direct than those volunteers who work in the school itself, their impact is by no means smaller. The funds raised by runners have gone toward therapeutic programs for the Campus School students, and every year, around $50,000 is collected for this cause. "What has kept me coming back each year is seeing the difference our fundraising makes in the classrooms … to improve the students' learning experience," says Morgan Panzenhagen, committee officer and CSON '11. The money is collected through individual fundraising, and almost all runners exceed the $150 minimum collection. The committee as a whole also raises funds by reaching out to companies such as Under Armour, New Balance, and Powerade. Though corporate sponsorships and donations have been harder to come by in the current economic climate, this is clearly not a group that quits easily. No, training for Heartbreak Hill certainly requires an iron sense of purpose.

The training may be tough, but the the thought of who they are running for keeps volunteers going.

"I felt that running for charity gave me a purpose," Panzenhagen said. "There were some mornings that I didn't feel like waking up early or days that I didn't feel like running, but remembering why I was running it and who it was helping always got me through and motivated me to do the training."

Given that group training starts in mid-November and the marathon is not until April, a majority of the preparation takes place during Boston's coldest months. While the average student struggles to get out of bed and trek to class on those cold winter mornings, Campus School marathoners are meeting before the sun rises and running for what could be hours.

Though the training is long and difficult, the spirit, tradition, and energy of the Boston Marathon certainly make their efforts worthwhile, volunteers said. Widely considered the top marathon in the world, the Marathon has continued longer than any annual race of its kind. "The marathon was probably one of the top feelings of my life," says Kevin Truitte, A&S '13, His experience in Boston inspired him to run two more marathons that year. Typical runners face a difficult qualification process to run in Boston, and 18-34 year olds must have times of three hours and 10 minutes for men, and three hours and 40 minutes for women. However, by running for charity, all interested BC students can participate in this historic and selective event with no prerequisites. While some team members have attained those times and are official marathon participants, most are unofficial. The fact that they do not have a number or an official time, though, is no deterrent. After all, their incentive is the cause, not the credit.

Volunteers said that training for the Marathon gave them a way to meet like-minded people whileworking toward a common purpose. "Being a freshman, it was a great way to meet new people through the weekly runs," says Truitte, referencing his first time running last year. He asserted that he was glad to find a community of people who shared his joint passions for running and service.

"Having a group to run with makes it so much easier," Panzenhagen agreed. "I've met a lot of great friends through training."

To most, 26.2 miles is incomprehensible. To push the body to such extremes may seem excessive, but these students think that they have found the perfect balance. Through the Campus School Volunteers Marathon Team, participants change the lives of other students, as well as themselves. They get the contentment that comes with helping others, and have a strong sense of achievement after running a distance that many would think too far for even a taxi or the T. Yes, their way of giving back is unconventional, but they wouldn't have it any other way.

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