While most students were relaxing over the Martin Luther King Day long weekend, some members of the Rice community were doing just the opposite. That Sunday, some Rice students competed in the 45th running of the Houston Marathon, a 26.2-mile endurance run through the streets of the city. A couple of the students earned top finishes and qualified for further marathons.

According to McMurtry College sophomore Tullie St. John, who was participating in his third marathon, there was a simple reason he wanted to spend his long weekend at the marathon.

“I don’t know,” St. John said. “I like running.”

For the runners, the preparation for the marathon began long before race day. Will Rice College sophomore David Cai, who was running his first marathon, began following a strict training regimen but soon changed his plans.

“I bought a book called the Jack Daniels training plan that gives plans for training for all kinds of races,” Cai said. “The plan was to follow that beginning in the summer, but I injured myself too frequently. Eventually I just started running about 50 miles a week, then gradually ramping it up.”

Baker College sophomore Madison Nasteff said she faced similar struggles training for her first marathon.

“I didn’t train as much as I wanted,” Nasteff said. “I was running two to three times a week during the school year, then I only started training really hard when I got home for winter break.”

Despite the difficulties in training, the runners were excited for race day. On a warm, humid January day, the runners took off at 7 a.m. According to Will Rice senior Jennifer Dawkins, who ran the half-marathon, the environment along the route made the running easy.

“I was running a lot faster than I thought I would,” Dawkins said. “There is so much energy. Everyone is cheering, people are running with you and saying funny things. I saw a surprising amount of signs that said, ‘You run better than our government.’”

The support could only take the runners so far. After the first few miles, the runners had to rely on mental will and physical ability. St. John said the difficulty of the run set in quickly.

“The first eight to 10 miles are pretty easy, but then after that, around the halfway point, you start to realize you’re running a marathon,” St. John said. “Your body starts to hate you and things start hurting.”

Nasteff said the most difficult part was the final stretch.

“I kicked up the pace a little bit at the end and that was tough on my body,” Nasteff said. “Then, when I could almost see the finish line, it started pouring. The finish was kind of cold after that.”

All four runners said they were satisfied with their times. Nasteff finished in 3:48. She was selected randomly from all sub-four hour female finishers to go on an all-expenses paid trip to run the Athens Marathon in November. Cai finished in 2:54, and the sub-three hour time qualified him for the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, he said he will not run due to conflicts with the end of the semester. St. John beat his personal record by 10 minutes, and Dawkins placed third in her age group in the half marathon.

St. John said reaching the finish is his favorite part of the race.

“There’s nothing like crossing the finish line of a marathon,” St. John said. “You’ve just run 26.2 miles and everyone’s there and they’re cheering, it’s a beautiful experience.”