Three first-year Burrell College medical students participated in the El Paso Texas Michelob Ultra half and full marathons earlier this month. Cody Bartlett, Lucas Ciulla, and Sherri Hong motivated each other to dust off their running shoes and enter the race, a long-standing event held every February. An impressive feat for any person, these students have done so while balancing a rigorous course schedule and lengthy lists of extracurriculars.

Sherri and Lucas participated in the half marathon, while Cody ran the full 26.2 race. Both long-distance runs traverse through downtown and central El Paso on a route riddled with heavy inclines, making it one of the more difficult race routes in the Southwest. “I was motivated by my friends to enter the race and I thought that signing up would help hold me accountable to continue to maintain good health even when my schedule got busy,” says Lucas.

Despite their strenuous responsibilities as medical students, they managed to find the time to prepare for the race in between studying, labs, lectures, and exams. “With a major test the day after the half marathon I didn’t think that I had the time or the ability to do a half marathon,” explains Sherri. However, they each managed to pull it off, squeezing in miles wherever they could. “I ran about five times a week,” says Cody. “I made time either by going on a run right after class or before the recorded lectures came available online.”

As future health care providers and current student doctors, wellness is extremely important to all three runners. “Wellness is not only important for physical health but also maintaining good mental health which is both essential for being a successful medical student,” Lucas emphasizes. Cody echoes this sentiment as well, adding, “Studying for hours on end with no break just builds stress, getting outside every day can help relieve some stress and improve your performance as a medical student.”

As members of the Burrell College family, all three have been supported by members of our faculty and staff to maintain their physical, mental, and emotional health during their academic pursuits. “Miley [Grandjean], Stephanie [Trujillo], Dr. Ortega, and Dr. Ontiveros always remind me to take breaks and to exercise,” says Sherri. “I have a tendency to not let myself take breaks or try to focus on school, so their reminders always help me remember.” Cody echoes this sentiment, adding, “Burrell has a great program with the educational specialists where you can talk about your well-being, daily schedule, overall happiness, and more and I think it helps to talk about those things when you feel like you’re going through a slump.”

 

On race day, our students felt a range of emotions, from excitement to anxiety about the long trek ahead of them. Those feelings soon dissipated as they began pounding the pavement and logging miles in. During the race, knowledge from their studies floated to the forefront. “During the race, I had heartburn around mile 1,” recounts Sherri. “Since we are in the GI unit we’ve been talking about GERD so for the first mile I was literally going through the physiology of acid reflex and what was going in my body.” Lucas even distracted himself from his achy feet by recounting the lectures of the last week.

After they finally completed their runs, Sherri, Lucas, and Cody felt a well-earned sense of accomplishment and relief. They each celebrated by sharing delicious food with their friends and resting their tired soles. The three have plans to continue their fitness journeys through exercise and possibly running more races in the future.