As a season of giving begins, Virginia Tech's Department of Recreational Sports has found a way to embed a new tradition that blends physical exercise, the expression of gratitude, and Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

The second-annual Thankful Three-Miler on Nov. 14 drew 158 members of the Virginia Tech community to the Buford Meredith Cross Country Course. For most, it stood as an opportunity to move in a three-mile fun run/walk. For many, it also stood as their entry to participating in an in-person running event.

“Watching students, staff, community members, and even a few dogs come together in person for movement and reflection, that made me grateful,” said Kelly McPherson, event coordinator for Rec Sports. “Also, being witness to people completing their first ever running event and finding success. That makes me smile!”

As part of this event, Rec Sports partnered with VT Engage to collect nonperishable food items for The Market, a resource designed to provide food assistance to students who have a hard time obtaining regular, healthy meals. More than 2,000 items were collected and delivered in truckloads to the Market, growing from the 300 items donated in last year’s inaugural event.

“The Thankful Three Miler was a great event because it gave me something to look forward to during a stressful time of the year,” said participant and Student Affairs employee Mary Desmond. “It allowed me to focus on my well-being - giving me an excellent opportunity to get in tune with my body, and enjoy the beautiful Blacksburg weather while being supported by my loved ones.”

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In the event’s second iteration, many elements felt back to “normal” compared to the inaugural run, which required many COVID-19 mitigation strategies such as staggered start times and a registration cap.

“It felt amazing to run with people again," said Desmond. “I had really missed that sense of belonging that you get when you run in a common route with others - it's like a little pilgrimage.”

To enhance the feelings of gratitude, motivational signs were placed along the route along with volunteers who cheered for participants along the way.

“I am always grateful for the generosity of Coach Dave Cianelli for allowing us to use the cross country course for this event,” said McPherson. “It is a gorgeous venue that not a lot of people have been to, and it is a beautiful place for both movement and grateful reflection. Also, the Corps of Cadets shows up in great numbers to volunteer on the course. The Thankful Three-Miler couldn’t be successful without their humble dedication to serve.”

To learn more about the Thankful Three-Miler and other Recreational Sports programs and events, please visit their website.

Runners along a course
Runners receive - and give - encouragement along the course of the Thankful Three-Miler. Photo by Will Trent for Virginia Tech
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