Trying something new

Blugold football athlete takes a stab at distance running

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Photo by Meghan Hosel

Although race day didn’t go exactly as planned for junior Jalen Thomas, he said he’s learned the value of training, persistence and community.

Editor’s note:Hosely serves as the Media Relations Intern for the Blugold Mile

While junior Jalen Thomas is conditioned for sports such as football, he thought he would try something that worked his slow twitch muscle fibers a little more.

Something like running the Eau Claire Half Marathon.

Thomas was first introduced to the idea in January, when he attended Blu’s Organizations Bash for the Black Student Alliance. Nathan Schaffer, coordinator of the Blugold Mile, approached Thomas and told him about the half and full marathon.

“Me and Nathan talked, and he said, ‘You should run it,’” Thomas said. “He really convinced me to run it, so I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to run the half.’”

Preparing for the big day

Although Thomas decided to run a 13.1-mile course in January, he didn’t officially sign up until sometime in February, and training didn’t start until after spring break.

Thomas said once he got serious about training, he turned to a friend who gave him a training plan for the weeks leading up to May 1. The goal, he said, was to run 8 miles, and walk 5 in no particular order, to complete the half.

With training underway, Thomas said he found it hard to stick with the plan. Thomas is a defensive tackle on the football team, and he just so happened to start training around the same time the spring season started for football.

Time management soon became an important element to his training.

“I was trying to fit in running times different than my football practice schedule,” Thomas said. “We started going six days a week for football, so trying to fit in running was very hard to do. I would run on Sundays when I had time.”

Thomas said he always used football as his motivation during build-up runs. If he wasn’t allowed to quit on the field, Thomas said, then he wasn’t allowed to quit during the race.

Post-race

Although Thomas was directed toward the marathon route rather than a more traditional route, he said he still completed his goal, which was running and walking a total of 13.1 miles. Despite the mix-up, Thomas said he still learned a lot on race day.

The biggest issue for Thomas, he said, was having the mentality to run. During the race, he mainly felt pain in his feet, which led him to walk more than he planned on.

Even with the setbacks, Thomas felt inspired throughout the race.

“When you’re out there running, you feed off people’s motivation,” Thomas said. “The runners around you, and the community members supporting you, that really drives you.”

However, the community members weren’t the only people who motivated Thomas to continue running. His inspiration originally came from his mother, who has run a handful of 5k races.

Although Sherri Thomas couldn’t be in Eau Claire to watch her son this past Sunday, she was supportive of his decision from day one.

“I’m extremely proud of him as my son, period,” Sherri Thomas said. “He knows what he wants and he goes after it. I tell him all the time I’m proud of him; not just for running, but for who he is.”

As far as Thomas’ future goes for running, he said he might not want to run half marathons any more. But since he was able to run 13.1 miles, he thinks he might have a future running with his mom by his side at 5k races.