Entering its seventh year, the annual Dean of Students Half Marathon Challenge will again be a part of the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, which will take place on Sunday, Dec. 7.

Throughout the week, those who participate in the challenge gather for runs, which steadily increase in length as the race approaches. Students, faculty, staff, parents and alumni are all welcome to participate.

“I’ve seen runners form friendships with people they hadn’t met before. Everyone has the same goal, which is to reach a milestone of 13.1 miles,” said David Tuttle, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students. “We eat together after training runs, go to different parts of town and have a pasta dinner the night before. We bond really well.”

Both experienced and first-time runners take part in the half marathon every year.

“I ran cross country in high school, but I knew I wouldn’t have time for it in college. Running with the dean was a great opportunity to keep up with my running,” said Paige Roth, a senior. “It’s a nice way to meet people off your hall really quickly and a casual setting to get to know some of the university’s faculty, staff and alumni.”

This year will be Roth’s fourth year to participate in the challenge. Like Roth, many students return each year, and some even come back as alumni. First years also make up a large portion of the runners.

“I would encourage everyone to give it a shot. You meet all sorts of people and get to share different experiences with them. It is a great way to find running buddies, stay in shape and start new goals for yourself when you first come to college,” said Lucas Poliak, a senior.

Tuttle created the challenge in 2008 to share his love of running with students and other faculty members, forming a community centered around achieving a common goal.

“It is so much fun and really rewarding for people who do it. It is especially fun since we run through campus on race day,” Tuttle said.

Students who participate in the runs join a unique community that can be particularly beneficial to their first year on campus.

“Through the running challenge, I met an upperclassman who told me about a volunteering program that I never would have found out about otherwise,” Poliak said. “The runs allow you to connect with so many different types of people right off the bat.”

Roth said she thinks this kind of close interaction might be hard to come across at a larger school.

“Not many people would have the opportunity to get to know the dean and other faculty members in this way,” Roth said.

First years are encouraged to come out for runs and to sign up for the race. Training runs will start the week after Labor Day, and those who want to sign up for the challenge can email Tuttle at dtuttle@trinity.edu.