Physics Faculty and Staff Find Freedom in Running During Quarantine


A group of runners from the Department of Physics are using exercise for a temporary escape during quarantine. The runners represent the scope of the department — from faculty to accounting — but they all agree exercise does wonders for both their physical and mental health.

“Running has been my escape from the house,” said Jennifer Larson, a graduate student with a marathon to her name. “I get to spend time alone, stretch my legs and breathe fresh air. It maintains that consistency in my life that makes life feel a little more normal.”

The passion for running goes all the way to the top in the Department of Physics. Department Chair Eduardo Mucciolo, Ph.D., said he was a poor soccer player growing up in Brazil, but he could hold his own as a long distance runner. The skills he picked up from his college days on the track and field team have followed him throughout his professional career.

“I love the sense of freedom that you feel when running long distance,” Mucciolo said.

For some in the Department of Physics, running is a team sport. Accounting Specialist Leida Vera Nater stays motivated and competitive by running with her husband. Nater enjoys running because it requires little more than a good pair of shoes to get started.

“There is no limit as to when you can run; it can be done at any time,” she said.

The physical benefits of running are also worth pursuing. Pegasus Professor Josh Colwell, Ph.D., entered the running game after a series of parabolic flights with NASA revealed his lack of fitness.

“After a third of the flight, I was physically exhausted and I got sick,” recalled Colwell, who specializes in studying space. “I knew that I had other opportunities to fly on it, so I was determined to be in better shape.”

While Colwell still keeps his 15-mile average alive during quarantine, he does miss running with his Track Shack training group. Two other faculty members, Jacquelyn Chini, Ph.D., and Joseph Donoghue, Ph.D., are long-time runners who enjoy the physical and social benefits of running.

“Running is a thing that you do not have to be in a special place to do. Sometimes I run at home with my son in his stroller and with another faculty member, Adrienne Dove, so that we can catch up while also giving my husband a break from parenting,” Chini said.

While field research and working in a lab has been replaced with sitting at home for now, Mucciolo said his morning runs make it easier.

“Running around the neighborhood is the only time now when I go out of the house. It’s a good time to think on a research problem or some issue in the department,” Mucciolo said.
“Spending the day sitting in front of the computer doesn’t feel so bad afterward.”

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