Novos go the distance for a Marathon in a Month

By Jim DeLa

It’s pretty well established that, generally speaking, the more active you are, the healthier you will be.

But sometimes, the motivation’s just not there; not to mention the end of the semester and holidays makes it hard to stay in a routine.

During November, more than 100 students, faculty and staff at New College of Florida and the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee participated in a friendly competition called Marathon in a Month.

New College student Austin Venhaus received a certificate from the Counseling and wellness Center for logging more than 300 miles of walking, running and biking last month.
New College student Austin Venhaus received a certificate from the Counseling and wellness Center for logging more than 300 miles of walking, running and biking last month.

Robyn Manning-Samuels, health education coordinator at the Counseling and Wellness Center, says it was a simple concept. Participants kept track of how far they walked, ran, biked, etc., each day. They entered their numbers in a shared spreadsheet where they could see everyone’s progress, with the goal of reaching a marathon distance — 26.2 miles — in 30 days.

She says it’s a fun way to set manageable goals. “It can be really helpful for people who don’t move very much.” Also, exercising in isolation is not the best route to success. “It’s easier when you have friends do it with you.”

Manning-Samuels said the Florida Department of Health recommends people walk an average of 10,000 steps a day. “That’s about 3 miles,” making 26 miles in a month a reachable goal for most people.

“There’s no downside,” she observed, noting people can be active anywhere. “You can choose your own adventure.”

Many participants went beyond the 26.2 miles. Sharon Alcock, associate director of new student recruitment, posted 28.94 miles during the 31 days of the event. “I thought that the challenge was a good motivator for me to walk as much as I could during each day,” she said. “I try as much as possible to take small breaks away from my office to get in a quick walk around campus.”

New College’s Title IX coordinator, Rebecca Sarver, logged 33.75 miles. “I’m an avid worker-outer,” she said, and was a runner and triathlete when she was younger. But after two knee surgeries as a teenager, distance running was difficult.

“Marathon in a Month inspired me to make sure I was getting at least a few miles of running in every few days,” continued Sarver. “It helped me to put into perspective how much movement I really am getting outside of the gym. This also made me proud of doing 2-3 miles and being able to track it, instead of feeling kind of crappy for not having put in 4-5 like I used to when my knee wasn’t as damaged.”

Manning-Samuels said the timing of the competition was deliberate. “We wanted to do this mid-semester. There’s an energy slump right after fall break and before Thanksgiving. We wanted an opportunity to reinvigorate people to get them through that slump.”

Kristi Fecteau, office manager for the Division of Social Sciences, logged 85.92 miles. “I did it because, since I wear an Apple watch, it’s easy to track my steps and miles. Also, I did it for the competition, to beat USF,” she said. “I do try to walk for exercise, but have been kinda slacky lately.”

But it was Austin Venhaus, a Chemistry AOC thesis student and avid runner, who led all New College participants with a whopping 306.02 miles. “For the Marathon in a Month, I logged about 40 miles of it as cycling. The rest of it was from walking and running,” he said. When he’s in training mode, he tries to run about 50-80 miles per week, although, “I’m lucky if I can even hit 20 a week since it is my last semester, and I am in the full swing of things.”

Manning-Samuels said over the course of the competition, New College had 43 participants and USFSM had 61. “I’m so excited to see that.” She also said even though the official competition is over, the spreadsheet will remain available for people to continue to log in their miles. “And I’ll have a new one up next semester,” she said.

— Jim DeLa is the digital communications coordinator at New College of Florida.


Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre bay front campus is home to more than 800 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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