“Honestly, the best advice is you aren’t training to run a half-marathon, you’re training to finish one,” said senior Ben Sigmon, an electrical engineering major.
Tuscaloosa’s Half Marathon, the third largest in the state, will start 8 a.m. Saturday, March 8 on the corner of Jack Warner Parkway and 28th Avenue. All money from the race will benefit ReadBAMARead and the Kiwanis Club of Greater Tuscaloosa.
“If you can run ten miles, on the day of the race you can use adrenaline to run the rest,” Sigmon said.
Training starts at four miles and works its way up to the tough finale, 13.1 miles of non-stop running. On the day of the race, participants are surrounded by competitors and friends. The unofficial UA Honors Running Club gathers Sundays for group runs around Tuscaloosa areas near campus. Members also follow a routine and run on their own several times a week. Each couple of weeks the group adds another mile and everyone gradually slows down or speeds up to their own pace.
“Honors college students are students who push themselves, physically and academically. You have something that’s challenging, but you also have a small, close-knit community,” said senior Josh Moon, a chemical engineering major. “It’s the exercise counterpart to the Honors College.”
Last year was the club’s first year doing Tuscaloosa’s Half Marathon, which funded tornado relief support. Since part of the official route on March 8 consists of what they run during practice, there won’t be too many surprises for the group.
Although a lot of people might ask why anyone would ever run a half marathon—especially a busy student—it’s proven that cardio can drastically decrease stress. Moon said fresh air can be relaxing. Not only can it help students stay in shape, but it also allows them to get to know other similar students in the Honors College.
It also allows students who ran in high school to retain an outlet for their physical energy. Moon hopes to beat his time from last year, one hour and 34 minutes, by at least four minutes. Sigmon, on the other hand, simply hopes for an injury-free finish. Last year, he was forced to walk the last portion of the race due to an injury, but he wants to finish this one without any walking.
The training program that the group uses provides a general outline for the months leading up to the half-marathon. It alternates between building up miles in longer runs and spending days cross training, which involves biking, swimming or stretching.
Sigmon said one of the most powerful experiences since he started running was continuously accomplishing things he didn’t think he could do. During his first season training last year, he developed a “huge mental stigma” at the eight mile mark. Because had never run that far before, he was forced to push himself even harder to complete it. Last year, Sigmon trained only three months before competing in his first half marathon.
“It’s really interesting how pushing yourself to do something you never thought you could can do expands your perspective on what you can actually do,” Sigmon said.
Both Sigmon and Moon ran a marathon last semester, so this will be their second. They said the hype and encouragement they experienced last time the day of the race was empowering and pushed them to finish. Hundreds of local Tuscaloosa people and friends cheered them on, and they expect the same crowd for the upcoming Tuscaloosa Half Marathon.
“Even if you haven’t run before, we train everyone and have a 100% success rate if you follow the program, and stay involved athletically,” said junior Katie Lily Jernigan, a new college and chemistry double major.
Jernigan has been part of the Honors College running group since freshman year and this will be her fourth marathon. She said the party-like environment at the end is what she looks forward to—along with a giant, guilt-free meal afterwards.
Both Honors and non-honors University of Alabama students are invited to join the group, whether for training for a half marathon or just getting to know some people while getting in a little exercise.