Students choose to attend Baylor College of Medicine so they can get high-quality training in science and medicine, but students may also come away with training in another area that they didn’t expect: running.
A running club, the BCM Harriers, started by Dr. Kazuhiro Oka, associate professor of molecular and cellular biology, is open to all Baylor students in the medical school, graduate school and School of Allied Health Sciences, with promises of readying them for at least a half marathon. It’s no joke, either – seven students participated in the Chevron Houston Marathon or Houston Half Marathon just this year.
Their success is due in part to the training led by Rice University track coach, Jon Warren. Oka enlisted Warren’s services when he started the club in 2013.
“If you are healthy but cannot run 1 mile, we guarantee to bring you to the 2:30 half marathon finish line within 2 years,” Oka said. “This is not an empty promise. A student who could not run 1 mile without stopping, finished the full marathon in 2 years. Our philosophy is to set a goal and make it happen.”
The club meets every Tuesday at the Rice track from October through May. Training moves to Buffalo Bayou from June to September for hill training. There are other perks besides access to a world class track coach. Students also can get free muscle activation therapy once a month at the Rice track, and they have access to a nutritional advisor and Baylor sports medicine physicians.
Membership for BCM Harriers is free, but students are required to join the Houston Area Road Runners Association, which offers connections to the broader Houston running community.
Students in the club love the access to professional training and the challenges and connections it provides.
“I joined BCM Harriers shortly after coming to Baylor,” said first-year medical student Daniel O’Conor. ‘I love the club because it’s an opportunity to challenge myself and has gotten me connected with the running community at BCM and throughout Houston. It’s much easier to get in a good workout when you have friends to push you along.”
O’Conor was involved in running before joining the BCM club, but he credits his training by Warren for allowing him to complete the Houston Marathon in his personal-best time.
Graduate student Jonathan Mercado seconds that. “My favorite thing about the club is definitely the Tuesday track workouts. While they can be difficult, I find enjoyment in being able to shut my brain off to just focus on the task in front of me,” said Mercado, who ran the half marathon in January. “My second favorite thing about the group is the connections you develop with the rest of the Houston and Texas running community through social media, newsletters and more. I spent my teenage and college years in the Austin running community, and it is a great feeling to be involved with a local running community again.”
But not everyone in the club is an experienced runner. Medical student Kristi Fu described herself as a novice when she joined and enjoys being around others with varying levels of experience, drawing motivation from all. Fu completed the half marathon in January.
BCM Harriers members also find encouragement from club founder Oka. He has participated in more than a dozen marathons as well as ultramarathons, even though he said doesn’t actually like running, just the challenge of it and the feeling of accomplishment when it’s over.
“Through running, you can learn a lot about determination. You set a goal, and then you set out to achieve it. That is something that students who join also can apply to their education and their life,” Oka said.
Students who completed the Houston full or half marathon in January 2018 include Daniel O’Conor, Stephen Wolff, Emily Thomas, Eric Goethe, Bo Rydze, Jonathan Mercado and Kristi Fu.
Student recruitment for the club starts in September, but interested students can contact Kazuhiro Oka.
-By Dana Benson