Tulane runners ready to roll at weekend’s half marathon

February 20, 2013 9:00 AM

Johanna Gretschel

In the wee hours of Sunday morning (Feb. 24), Colleen Loughlin will warm up, stretch and prepare to race in the Rock ’n’ Roll New Orleans Half-Marathon against her running idol, Shalane Flanagan. But while Flanagan, an American record-holder, will compete against an all-star crew of world-beaters for the crown, Loughlin and other Tulane students are running to fulfill personal goals and beat stress.

Runners at a race

On Sunday (Feb. 24), runners from around the world as well as some Tulane students will compete in a half-marathon and a full marathon on a course that winds through New Orleans. (Photo from Masterfile)

The Rock ’n’ Roll race series offers runners the choice of the half-marathon, 13.1 miles, or full marathon, 26.2 miles. Loughlin, a junior in the architecture program, competes in the half. Her best effort came as a first-year student, when she was a member of Tulane’s varsity cross country team. She retired from the team last year to focus on studies, but still enjoys competing.

“I run into motivational challenges sometimes,” Loughlin admits. “If I’m frustrated or stressed with schoolwork, I just want to take the rest of the day to chill.”

Roland LeBlanc, co-owner of local specialty running store Louisiana Running Co., 4153 Canal St., extols the benefits of running for college students. “Running and exercising is a great release for stress because your mind isn't focused on the stress, your body is focused on producing energy. It's a dynamic release, rather than a static release, compared to studying.”

But even the thrill of endorphins can wear off without company, as Loughlin can attest. “Having teammates keeps you more accountable.”

First-year student Haley Nicolino understands the importance of running buddies. She meets with the Tulane Running Club a few mornings every week to stay motivated for R’n’R training. Nicolino’s original workout partner, her mother, is flying down for Sunday’s race. Last year, the pair met their goal of breaking two hours in the Long Island Half Marathon, and Nicolino looks forward to running under 1:45 this year.

“I’m very regimented and I really like staying healthy, so it’s easy to stick with a routine,” Nicolino says.

Johanna Gretschel received a bachelor’s degree with an English major from Tulane in 2012, and she is in the master’s degree program.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu