Three Catholic University Students Run the Marine Corps Marathon

From Left to Right: Gerard Rode, Nellie Adams, and Sophie Rychalski . Courtesy of Instagram

By Katie Van Lew

On Sunday, October 27, 2019, 30,000 runners participated in the 45th Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. Dubbed the “People’s Marathon,” the marathon does not offer monetary rewards, but instead honors the runners. The course begins between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, and continues through the nation’s capital, finishing atat the Marine Corps War Memorial. Among the participants, three Catholic University students conquered this admirable and strenuous feat. 

Junior management major Sophie Rychalski began her competitive running career in October 2013, as a freshman in high school, with her first race “The Get Your Rear in Gear” 5k. Initially, she had conflicting feelings about running, but ultimately grew to love the sport. 

At age six, Rychalski was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that causes joints to swell. 

“My dad motivates and the fact that I have arthritis motivates me as well,” Rychalski said. “Like, why can’t I do it? Because even though I have it, it’s not going to stop me. It’s something I truly enjoy doing.” 

Rychalski has run 31 of her 34 total career races with her father. During her freshman year of college, she had a revival for her passion for running. Since then, Rychalski has run three marathons before the age of 21. Of her 34 races, Rychalski has run the Marine Corps Marathon twice, as well as the Rock and Roll Marathon in D.C.

During the off-season of marathon training, which extends from March to July, Rychalski incorporates diverse forms of cardio into her training program. During the week, she mixes her daily running routine with rowing, elliptical, or the stair stepper machine. During her marathon training season, which begins in July, Rychalski will run 10 to 12 miles on Saturday, and then bike on Sunday. Throughout the week during her “on-season” she commits to a routine of a few 5ks, while incorporating cross-training. 

Junior psychology and brain science major, Gerard Rode, started his running career initially as training for Virginia Military Institute. Instead, he decided to come to Catholic University, where he is pursuing a degree in psychology and brain science with the hopes of doing neuroscience research. During his college career, Rode continued to run, and uses the sport as a healthy coping mechanism for the stress of academic life. This past March, Rode ran the Marine Corps 1775k half marathon in Prince William Forest, Virginia, which is a qualifying race for the Civil Corps Marathon held this past October. To train for the marathon, Rode based his training off a 25-week program that scientifically broke down the training into various factors such as the mileage run per week and the amount of sweat lost. Rode utilized all the aspects of campus for his training, such as running the loop around the Catholic University campus, the Basilica stairs, and the O’Boyle stairs in preparation for the hills during the race. By race day, Rode was ready to tackle his first marathon. 

“It downpoured the entire race. I was a little nervous but I had so much adrenaline pumping through me that I was just so happy to be there,” Rode said. “Everybody was so different. There were obese people running, little kids, old people, wounded veterans with missing limbs, parents pushing their kids in strollers because their kid has a disease or disorder and they are raising money for that disease or disorder. It felt empowering to run next to all these different types of people, especially since there were about 40,000 runners.” 

Despite the marathon ending two weeks ago, Rode is already anticipating his next race, a Spartan run. After that, Rode hopes to run another marathon next year. 

Junior theology major Nellie Adams, from Boston, Massachusetts, also ran the Marine Corps Marathon. During her freshman year at Catholic, Adams ran two half marathons: The Navy Air Force Half Marathon and The National Women’s Half Marathon. By sophomore year, Adams put her name in the Marine Corps Lottery and earned a bib to run the race in October. By June 1, 2019, Adams was training full time, running upwards of 55 miles a week, incorporated with cross training. A member of the Catholic University Diving team, she uses aquatic sports such as swimming and diving to lessen the stress on her joints. In September 2019, Adams injured herself during a triathlon. As a result, she cut her training down to 30-35 miles per week to fully recover in time for the Marine Corps Marathon. 

“I just love running. I like the way it makes me feel. It’s super empowering,” said Adams. “It’s a very pure natural sport. They say the cavemen probably did running and the ancient Greeks and the Romans, and everyone who has just been running forever. It’s so easy to do and it’s just such a good feeling. It’s so refreshing. It doesn’t matter how fast or far you run, it’s just that i did something, I accomplished something.” 

Upon completing the Marine Corps Marathon, Adams hopes to run the Boston Marathon in 2021.

For people who want to run a marathon but are hesitant, Adams says, “Never tell yourself you can’t do it because you can do it. The pain is very temporary and it’s all about your mental place. If you tell yourself you can, and you tell yourself that you are going to run one mile more, you are going to be able to do it. Just hype yourself up and get yourself going and you will go far and as fast as you need to. It’s just you and the road.”

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