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Chico State faculty, staff hit the ground running

Alisa Thorsen

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Journalism professor Michael Griffin runs the Waldo 100K in Oregon. “Running trails is not just exercise,” Griffin said. “It is a therapeutic lifestyle.” Photo courtesy of Michael Griffin.

For many people, running the mile in high school physical education class was enough for a lifetime.

But for some Chico State employees, running is not just a hobby — it’s a way of life.

Outside of the classroom, many professors participate in intensive marathon training in their spare time. Some enjoy leisurely runs, while others train intensely for long-distance marathon races.

Kenneth Chapman, the interim associate dean and professor of marketing, is an avid runner and has been competing in a variety of events for more than 25 years.

Chapman trains for these events by doing long, rugged runs in Upper Bidwell Park and other scenic routes.

“Running on trails gives me a chance to unwind in nature and appreciate pushing myself,” Chapman said. “Dealing with the controlled chaos that comes with running down a trail is all good fun that keeps me young at heart.”

Melissa Stearns, program manager of the Chico State research foundation, views running as therapeutic, she said.

“There is just something about the events and respecting yourself,” Stearns said. “You just need to embrace that. Everyone should run.”

Stearns will be participating in the Boston Marathon for the third time this year.

Stearns first competed in 2013, when she crossed the finish line only fifteen minutes before bombs were detonated in the terrorist attack that killed three and injured hundreds.

Last year, she contracted a stomach flu the night before, she said, hurting her performance in the race.

Her motto this year — “No bombs. No bugs. Boston or bust,” she said.

Some Chico State faculty get their adrenaline rush from events like triathlons, which are comprised of swimming, cycling and distance running.

James Mensching, professor in business information systems department, participates in marathons as well as cycling, triathlon, running, cross-country skiing, and canoe racing.

He was on the 1972 U.S. Olympic track cycling team and considers cycling to be his favorite event, he said. However, he has also competed in more than 200 marathons.

Training to accommodate the physical toll that triathlons take on the body can be difficult. Although he is one of the older competitors during events, he still does difficult training during the week, he said.

“I will run the equivalent of nine miles a day or bike 45 miles a day or swim two miles a day.” Mensching said. “I absolutely love competing, even though at my age I’m in the back of the pack. It really motivates you to press that much harder.”

Journalism professor Michael Griffin competes in long races all over California and Oregon. He is referred to as “the true ultramarathon runner” by his friend and training buddy Chapman.

Griffin is currently training for a 50-mile race in April that has a 10,500-foot elevation change and a 100-mile race in July on the Tahoe Rim Trail with a 20,000-foot elevation change, he said.

Running trails is not just exercise, Griffin said. It is a therapeutic lifestyle.

Running has become much more than a workout for some Chico State employees. Some look at running as a meditative, empowering and accomplished way of life.

“I actually think better when I’m moving,” Griffin said, “so I try to work out problems, prep for classes, think about goals, daydream and talk to God.”

Alisa Thorsen can be reached at [email protected] or @alisathorsen on Twitter.

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Chico State faculty, staff hit the ground running