School of Physical Education and Tourism Management partnership helps power Monumental Marathon

  • Nov. 2, 2016


INDIANAPOLIS -- More than 17,000 people will be involved in the CNO Financial Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in some capacity Nov. 5. Several hundred of them will be from the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Students from the school will help "run" the event, both as training partners for children from Indianapolis Public Schools and as volunteers to manage the marathon and the Monumental Health and Fitness Expo.

The school and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon began working together four years ago, first with the Monumental Kids Movement, educating youth in Indianapolis Public Schools about health and fitness. Today, students majoring in sports management or in tourism, conventions and events management also work in behind-the-scenes roles and help to ensure smooth execution of the marathon and the fitness expo. This engages nearly every student in the mega-event, regardless of their academic focus.

Already, first-year students have dedicated time to maintaining the marathon's warehouse. During the summer, students in the bridge program sorted boxes, counted medals and completed tasks that, while lacking the glamour associated with a world-class marathon, are vital to its success.

Nov. 5, more freshmen will serve at "Ask Me" stations dedicated to answering visitors' questions about the races, the expo and the city. Still more will assist with registration, some of which was driven by students studying sports sales, as well as packet pick-up and finish-line management.

The School of Physical Education and Tourism Management's involvement with the marathon event is an intentional effort to provide students with experience, connections and an opportunity to consider different paths as they progress through IUPUI and into the professional realm.

"Most of our tourism and convention management students want to go into events, so this helps them see the whole trajectory of an event, from several months before and checking in a couple of times throughout the semester. Then they're actually part of the event itself," said Laura Masterson, director of student success. "They see many of the moving pieces."

Sports management students, who may have begun their studies with dreams of working for the Indianapolis Colts or Indiana Pacers, experience other career possibilities, said Masterson: "It gives them some wider exposure to what their options may be, especially if they want to stay in Indianapolis."

The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon staff gets a motivated and educated volunteer force studying exactly what the marathon group is trying to accomplish.

"It's something that they have an interest in, whether they're on the kinesiology side and it's all about movement and the science of it, or if they are part of sports administration and it's that whole concept of doing a sports event. On the event-planning side, it's a major event," said Michael Sprinkle, a visiting lecturer in the Department of Tourism, Conventions and Event Management who teaches some of the introductory courses and learning communities volunteering with the marathon. "There are really good avenues to plug it in and make it applicable to all of our students."

The school's partnership with the marathon organizer also pairs IUPUI with more than 1,000 Indianapolis Public Schools students in kindergarten through middle school over the course of six weeks to run, play games and promote general physical activity as part of the Monumental Kids Movement. Led by IPS teachers, the school's kinesiology students assist with lessons on nutrition as well.

While the partnership with IPS comes to a head at the marathon's five-kilometer race, a more lasting impact arises from the intangible lessons and relationships developed over the entire course of the training.

"The IPS kids get mentors," said Allison Plopper, a lecturer and director of the IUPUI Physically Active Residential Communities and Schools program. "(It's good for them) having not a teacher, but an older kid, show up each week, and getting treated like everyone else."

It's also a chance for IUPUI students, many of whom come from more privileged backgrounds, to work with people in less-advantaged situations and to experience their city. Approximately 60 percent of the School of Physical Education and Tourism Management's first-year students live on campus. Working with IPS and running in the 5K help them to see areas of Indianapolis they might not otherwise experience while living in the IUPUI "bubble," as Plopper calls it.

The experience allows the school to impress upon students its culture of civic-mindedness from day one. First-year students learn how important it is to be involved in the community -- not only in a charitable sense, but also for their own development.

"That's the thing about service learning," said Plopper, who explained that their duties with IPS students include everything from tying shoes to teaching about a balanced diet. "That's how life happens. It teaches them adaptability."

"These are all freshmen," said Masterson. "When they come into orientation, we tell them, 'You're going to be involved in a major community event in your first semester.'"

The Monumental Health and Fitness Expo will take place Nov. 3-4 at the Indiana Convention Center. The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon begins at 8 a.m. Nov. 5.

Students volunteer in many capacities at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

Students volunteer in many capacities at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.

Print Quality Photo

Becky Hart