With classes, extracurriculars, a global pandemic and 26.2 miles to overcome, a group of LMU students did it all and developed an inseparable bond along the way.
Thirteen female LMU students ran their first marathon through Adidas’ Project Twenty:Six two weeks ago, on March 8. The all-female program provided students with months of holistic training to prepare them for the L.A. Marathon and created a close and empowering community of women.
“Adidas Project Twenty:Six was the most life-changing experience I have ever gone through,” said Emma Backshall, a freshman health and human sciences major from Danville, California. “This project taught me the power of how strong women really are, especially when we work together and have each other’s backs.”
Project Twenty:Six paired 13 coaches from Adidas Runners L.A. with 13 students at LMU. Adidas provided the students with not only physical training but also nutritional and mental health guidance. With the help of this support network, every student was able to complete the marathon.
“Crossing that finish line was a feeling I can’t explain,” said Backshall. “Adidas Runners and the a26 girls helped me through personal battles and helped me grow so much physically and mentally … I couldn’t be more grateful for this experience.”
This project, while training students to run a marathon, also provided an opportunity for those who are not part of LMU track and field to run with a team of students who all had the same goal.
“It definitely helped having a team to help push and motivate you throughout all the long runs, because we all had never done something like this before, so it was a really supportive environment,” said Alexandra Christophilis, a freshman communication studies major from Seattle, Washington and the project captain for Project Twenty:Six. Christophilis is also a design intern at the Loyolan.
Despite concern about large crowds with the COVID-19 pandemic, the race was able to go on with protective measures such as hand sanitizer stations and encouragement to practice social distancing. The marathon, known as Stadium to the Sea, started at Dodger Stadium and went through Chinatown, Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and ended at Santa Monica.
“You’re literally going past all the biggest landmarks in L.A. within one run, which was insane because people will come to L.A. to try and do that in a week, and we did it in like four hours,” said Christophilis.
Christophilis set several personal goals for herself, including not stopping during the race and finishing it in under four hours, and is proud that she accomplished all of them. Most importantly, she created strong bonds with her Project Twenty:Six teammates and coaches.
“I’ve really gotten to know these girls, [and] I consider them all some of my best friends now,” said Christophilis.
Backshall and Christophilis agreed that Project Twenty:Six provided a life-changing experience for everyone involved and gave them a community they will always be a part of.
“[Through Project Twenty:Six] I not only made new friends, but I made a new family,” said Backshall.