13.1 Miles of Gratitude and Sweat

Author: Emma Fleming

Now that I have regained some feeling in my legs, I write to share with you my experience running 13.1 miles of the Holy Half Marathon. In its eleventh consecutive year, the Holy Half Marathon is one of the greatest traditions at the University of Notre Dame. According to their website, “Runners take pride not only in training for and completing a 13.1-mile race, but also in making a difference to South Bend on behalf of the University.” This year, the race supported La Casa de Amistad and St. Margaret’s House, two amazing centers in the community.


St. Margaret’s House is a day center, committed to aiding the lives of women and children by “providing individual attention to their immediate needs, breaking the bonds of isolation and helping them acquire skills to better their lives." La Casa de Amistad is a community center that seeks “to empower the Latino/Hispanic community within Michiana by providing educational, cultural and advocacy services in a welcoming, bilingual environment." Having volunteered at La Casa de Amistad, I was inspired to run with their mission in my heart, one that I also fully support. Seeking to maintain the cultural vibrancy of the Latino/Hispano community, La Casa welcomes all as family—offering a variety of services from youth tutoring programs to adult ENL classes for citizenship. Throughout my time at Notre Dame, I was welcomed into the La Casa family and honored to work with students in after-school programs. How could I not sign up to run!?

The thing is I, Emma Fleming, am NOT a runner. I grew up swimming and playing water polo. If I was running, it was in a sport where I was going for a ball, like soccer, driven by my intense competitive nature…not by a love to propel my body forward for the sake of working my way through a course. Nevertheless, for La Casa and my own personal ND Bucket List, I thought, ‘This year is the year!’ I did not, however, realize how my schedule would not allow for adequate training. What Notre Dame student truly has an hour+ to run every day? (Note: I probably should have more free time, but God has given me many opportunities to fill my days with great things…so I take those opportunities…is that so wrong?) I attempted to stick to a “Half Marathon Training Guide” but things like choir practice, play rehearsal, work, homework, and trying to get an adequate amount of sleep got in the way. So, I arrived at the start line with some training under my belt, but definitely not the right amount….greatttt.

The first couple of miles were difficult. It was below freezing temperatures and my body was asking me, “Emma, why are we moving right now? Get back into bed. It’s warmer there!” I had to push past my brain, telling me that the rational thing to do was to stop moving your body, and finish the race, mile by mile. Thankfully, I physically did not get hurt while running! At about mile 4, I realized that I had too many layers on and luckily saw a friend cheering along the course. Seeing her, I threw my coats at her, spitting out a quick “Thank you!” and kept running. Now, I was down to my La Casa shirt as my outer-most layer—and it was just the extra fuel I needed to complete the race.

Until I started “training,” I never understood people when they explained that at a certain point, you don’t even realize you’re running—achieving a complete mind-body disconnection and enjoying the journey. My mind always actively told me to stop, and my body did the same. However, around mile 7, I achieved that mystical place. I was enjoying myself! What?! Believe me when I say that this is shocking! But if this blog entry serves to do anything (besides promote these two amazing organizations and a stellar event), it should remind you that you can do anything you set your mind to. Yes, that’s an extreme cliché. But truly, you can.

From this experience, I learned to enjoy running and checked off the Holy Half on my bucket list, with the t-shirt and medal to prove it. However, the t-shirt that really matters to me is my La Casa running shirt, given to me by the Director of the center before the race. This shirt reminds me that the South Bend community has become my classroom during my time here at Notre Dame, providing me with challenging and wonderful lessons. It reminds me that my learning bears fruit in the relationships I build outside campus, sharing the knowledge I have gained with the world. When my educational journey leads me to communities like La Casa de Amistad, one of love and support, I consider it an amazing privilege to encourage their mission. With this in mind, I will happily keep running.