On a late Friday afternoon, I meet Professor Evans in his office at UW - Eau Claire. He sits behind a mountain of books and paperwork - a setting that is typical for college professors with high volumes of students and coursework to grade. Mathew Evans is a professor of physics, astronomy, and marathons. If you're anything like me, you're probably surprised that a class on marathons even exists - but it does, and it's extremely popular at UW - Eau Claire and in the Eau Claire community. The class is going on its fourth year as a credited university course and is currently attended by one hundred UW - Eau Claire students and fifty members of the Eau Claire community. Professor Evans is passionate about the learning outcomes in this class and you'll be surprised to learn that the class is about more than just running.
Professor Evans personal interest in marathons began after he ran his first marathon at Grandma's Marathon when he was just 18 years old. Until he ran Grandma's Marathon, he had never run more than thirteen miles in his life (a feat he does not encourage by the way). His inspiration to run marathons comes from his family, as he signed up for Grandma's Marathon with his brothers. It now serves as one of the few occasions where his family is able to all get together. His running career is characteristically defined by its relation to the friends and family that he gets to run with. As for his professional career, Professor Evans has been teaching at UWEC since 1999, and tells me, "if you've had a job for a really long time, at some point you start looking around and saying, 'what else can I do?' " This question prompted him to create a class that is different from any of the physics classes he teaches and any class that is available at UWEC. Professor Evans believes that his marathon class is so unique because the class doesn't adhere to his own standards. Students in Evans marathon class adhere to the goals that they set for themselves - the only requirement is that each student must participate in either the full marathon or the half-marathon. As for times and training, those goals are set by the students themselves.
The goal-oriented initiative of the class not only applies to marathons but also real-life situations. Professor Evans teaches students how to train and prepare for marathons, but he also teaches his students about "adulting." Students learn to manage not only their own personal health but also the goals they set for themselves. Managing goals is a skill that Professor Evans believes can be utilized in any capacity. Professor Evans excitedly explains to me, "we have people who are trying to break three hours in the marathon, and we have people who are trying to break six hours, and what excited me is that both of those people are achieving goals that are incredible." His students learn how to make conscious decisions to progress towards their goals and Evans believes this is an invaluable skill to possess. He looks forward to the longevity of the class and its increasing popularity at the university and amongst the Eau Claire community.
Evans is also looking forward to watching his students cross the finish line this coming weekend and will be rooting every single one of them on. He tells me that watching his students cross the finish line and accomplishing the goals they have worked towards all semester is his favorite part of the Eau Claire Marathon. If you're attending the upcoming race, make sure to join Professor Evans in cheering for his students who will all be appropriately outfitted in "Worlds Okayest Runner" shirts - you can't miss them!