Courtesy of Sean Theriault
The clock flashes 3:30 a.m. While the rest of the world is fast asleep, Sean Theriault is already out the door with his running shoes on, beginning his miles for the day. 12 hours later, Theriault will livestream to teach American Government 310L with Bethany Albertson, where their love of running will most likely come up in conversation, as it does most days.
“When my run is done, I’m ready to tackle the day,” Theriault said. “Step away from the table. Step away from other people. It gives you a sense of clarity that is really helpful.”
UT government professors Theriault and Albertson both began running when they started their Ph.D. programs and said they quickly fell in love with the sport. Now, as co-teachers of GOV 310L, they encourage their students to run through extra credit opportunities and mandatory tasks, which could include participating in the Longhorn Run on April 23.
Theriault and Albertson offer eight community engagement assignments in the course, such as visiting the state capitol or talking to a grandparent about politics. Students must complete six of the assignments for course credit and may receive extra credit for the remaining two. So far, Theriault said 310 of their students have signed up for the most physically intensive assignment of the semester — The Longhorn Run.
Theriault and Albertson said they not only encourage students to run so they can share their enthusiasm for the sport, but also because they care about the well-being of their students.
“I feel bad that I’m such a big advocate for running with the full recognition that some people, for whatever reason, just can’t participate,” Theriault said. “But for the vast majority of people who can participate, I want to encourage them to start instilling good habits now. We know that when you take care of your body, your body takes care of you.”
Albertson said while she and Theriault have different running styles and techniques, she hopes those differences encourage students to run, regardless of varying skill and interest levels.
“Sean offers one vision of running, which is very dedicated, but there is a whole world of running.” Albertson said. “My side of it is pretty populated too, which is much slower, much more relaxed. I like students to see that there’s no right way to engage in this habit.”
Biomedical engineering senior Mahdi Sadr said he does not consider himself to be a runner. However, after hearing about the Longhorn Run in government class and receiving encouragement from Theriaut, Sadr wanted to sign up.
“I went to (Theriault’s) office hours, and I talked to him. ‘I want to do this run, but when I run, after a couple minutes my knees start hurting,’” Sadr said. ”He was like, ‘You can do this. This is what I would advise.’ His enthusiasm got me to sign up, as well as the extra credit.”
Theriault and Albertson said while running, they’ve experienced great success, clarity and many runner’s highs. By encouraging students to get involved with the Longhorn Run, Theriault and Albertson said they hope to spread the healthy habits and great joys that running has brought them.
“I fly a lot around the country and sometimes around the world even, and I’ll never check my bag that has my sneakers in it,” Theriault said. “I have no idea where my plane is going to get held up or (if) the luggage isn’t going to make it. But, if I have my sneakers, I’m gonna get through the day because I know I’ll be able to go for a run.”