Professor's idea turns into college-wide challenge to tackle mini-marathon

February 24, 2011

Kristen Wilde (from left), Wanda Stevens and Corrie Whisner train on the track inside Lambert Fieldhouse for the OneAmerica Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon. Nearly 100 people from the College of Health and Human Sciences will be participating in training for the mini-marathon. (Purdue University/Mark Simons)

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Sometimes a good idea, a healthy idea, steamrolls into something bigger. Such was the case when Wayne Campbell, professor of foods and nutrition, started asking colleagues and students within his department if they'd be interested in running or walking the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon the first Saturday in May.

A starting group of seven became 10, ballooned to 20, and doubled to some 40 people, all connected to the department. Now, the college-wide initiative has gathered nearly 100 people who will have opportunities to get body assessment tests, form training groups and download tips and training programs from a newly developed website.

A veteran of three Indianapolis Mini-Marathons and a total of five half marathons (that's 13.1 miles), Campbell enjoyed the camaraderie of a small training group several years ago before his first run in Indianapolis. After he and his wife signed up for this year's race around last Thanksgiving, he decided he would spread the word to gather another group.
"I started, almost as a lark really, to encourage other people to sign up. I went into people's offices and twisted some arms," Campbell says. "There were two things that helped it along. As I was meeting people face to face, they really responded. And I got enough people to sign up as walkers."

When Christine Ladisch, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS), heard about Campbell's successful recruits within his own department she encouraged him to spread the word throughout the college. They found another 40 or so who had already signed up for the race, which is no longer accepting entries.

The training programs Campbell compiled are based on 12-week schedules, so runners and walkers are already getting their miles in. There are also specialized programs for novice, intermediate and seasoned walkers and runners, Campbell says.

With 35,000 registered participants, the (officially titled) OneAmerica Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon is the largest half marathon in the nation. Not everyone signed up for the HHS challenge is planning on participating in the race; some are just in it for the training. For those racing in May, Campbell is offering to measure body composition and aerobic fitness levels both early in the training and just before the race.
There have been Purdue classes offered in the past that trained students for marathons, but this is the first college-wide initiative to encourage students, faculty and staff to train for a race.

For Campbell, it's a pursuit that goes hand in hand with the philosophical approach to his teaching and research. "I'm interested in how to use nutrition and exercise for successful aging," he says.
As February creeps to March, nearly 100 people from the new HHS community, all with their own goals for aging successfully, are braving the early morning streets on a training course to build their bodies up enough to help them go the distance.