Prague – Minkyung Kim, a Korean international relations student at Anglo-AmericanUniversity, brushed her dark, thin hair away from her sweaty forehead after her first running practice. Her eyes seemed to signal weariness and her face gave away a disappointed smile.
“I have never practiced any form of running before,” she said. “It was really hard to follow the rest of the group.” Uni Run’s first practice in February was a challenge for her. “For me it is really hard to wake up early on Friday mornings after an exhausted week of school, but I have now decided to run more frequently.”
Uni Run is an AAU student club co-organized with the University of New York in Prague and the public business school Vysoká škola ekonomická v Praze, where students have the opportunity to get in shape, challenge themselves, meet students from other universities, build community and run for a cause.
“The organizers could have chosen a route that was more suitable for a first run,” said AAU international relations student Diana Lundholm. “It was quite challenging running up to Prague Castle due to the big amount of uphills.” She added that the practice may have been too hard for first-time runners, which might scare off some students.
Marcel Kudlac, an AAU business student, noted that some runners were left behind. “Not everyone completed the whole 5k through Prague Castle,” he said.
Elizabeth Novacek, organizer for AAU, agreed that they underestimated the varying abilities of runners at the first practice, but they have now established three groups at different levels based on participants’ individual pace.
The organizers of the emphasize that the participants do not need to be a runner to attend. “We have a nobody-left policy,” said Zdenek Kolman, organizer from VSE. “Everyone is welcome to join even if you only can walk, and regardless of your physical shape.”
The Uni Run team wants to be more than a student club focused on community-building and getting into shape – they also want to run for various causes. The club supported the event Run ‘N’ Dip for Syria on March 22, organized by Amnesty International. Each participant had a red heart-shaped balloon that symbolized #WithSyria, a social media campaign on instagram and twitter to promote higher acceptance rates of Syrian refugees to EU countries. The run was 5.5 kilometers long with an optional dip in the Vltava River on Střelecký Ostrov. The club also plans to cooperate with the Czech NGO Svetlo pro Svet to help improve the lives of the blind in Sub-Sahara Africa.
“Uni Run wishes to bring a deeper aspect into the club by being a supportive, fun community where the participants have the opportunity to be global citizens by joining our monthly humanitarian runs,” said Novacek.
Persuading people to turn out isn’t always easy. Some students have difficulty waking up in the morning; others consider Friday their day off and want to do other things; and some are just not motivated to exercise.
“Many students in Prague are international, and sometimes it is not so easy to get to know new people in a foreign country,” said Novacek. We are trying to build a community away from home.” Uni Run is intended to offer students a bonding experience.
The club is open to all university students, faculty and staff, and practices are every Friday at 11am. Follow their Facebook group for locations and updates.