MU runners unite for Lakefront Marathon, “Claws vs Paws” Challenge

Golden Eagles take on teams from UWM, CUW in friendly challenge

Marquette Running Club in 2014. Photo by Dan Reiner/

Dan Reiner,

When 3,500 runners from across the U.S. head to the starting line at Sunday’s Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon, there will be a lot of blue and gold.

Approximately 90 students, faculty, staff and alumni are registered to run for Marquette’s marathon team as part of the 4th Annual “Claws vs. Paws” University Challenge. The Golden Eagles will face off against the Concordia University-Wisconsin Falcons and the UW-Milwaukee Panthers in the 26.2-mile throw-down for a trophy and bragging rights and to determine which team ‘runs’ the city.

This is Marquette’s first official year in the challenge after University President Michael Lovell brought the tradition over from UWM, where he served as chancellor.

Marquette Running Club President Xander Jacobson, who ran the Lakefront Marathon last year, says being able to run with so many familiar faces will make things easier.

“I am looking forward to being able to run alongside those who I have trained with for the past few years in order to accomplish such a daunting goal,” Jacobson said.

Lovell has spearheaded a running culture in his short time at Marquette, including his Run with the President Facebook group, which has more than 250 members. Members from that group, Marquette Running Club, Marquette Triathlon Club and other runners make up the Marquette marathon team.

Over the summer, the Lovell’s group and MU Running Club published training schedules that any runner could follow. The groups invited runners to train together and share personal experiences in advance of the marathon.

“One of my favorite aspects of this experience is how it breaks down artificial barriers between students, faculty and staff,” said Tim Cigelske, communication specialist in Marquette’s Office of Marketing and Communication and member of the running club. “You really get to meet and know a variety of people across campus.”

Running a marathon is nothing new for Cigelske, who will run his seventh on Sunday. For others, like former women’s soccer goalie and current graduate student Sofie Schunk, marathon training is a learning experience. She has often led the group workouts and found that no matter the ability, every marathoner has the same goal.

“All of us feel ready,” Schunk said. “We have a few different paces – those going for the win, those looking for a (personal record) and those just trying to finish.”

Schunk has an ambitious goal of finishing the race in under three hours. Others are trying to qualify for the 2016 Boston Marathon. In the end, the race is a community event in which all runners will try to run their best. That community will come together for a pre-race pasta dinner Saturday evening and a post-race social at the Annex on Tuesday, welcome to all Marquette, UWM and CUW runners to share marathon stories. A trophy is just an added bonus.

“I’d compare the post-race party to an ‘easy run’ where everyone is on the same page, conversing with one another about their own story,” Schunk said. “Each person has a say, no matter what (their) pace. It’s all about the camaraderie.”