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River Run: Learning on common ground

The students in Clark Ensz's class at Wichita State will soon be headed on a variety of paths, but on Saturday they all will be running toward the same finish line.

Ensz has been teaching the River Run Training Class, and his students will be a part of more than 6,000 runners expected to compete Saturday at the 34th annual River Run through downtown Wichita, Old Town and along the Arkansas River. The 10K run begins at Broadway and Douglas at 8 a.m.; the two mile race begins at 9:40.

The class final: Participate in the 10K, along with about 2,000 other runners.

"We have so many different kinds of people taking part, new runners, old runners, teachers, it doesn't matter," said Ensz, who is directing his 31st River Run. "I think that's a big part of why running is so popular. It's a contest with yourself rather than the other 2,000 people running. For 15-20 people, they think they will be up front... everyone else is running for themselves."

John Bird and Erin Waggoner are engineering majors headed to train with NASA Dryden in Edwards, Calif., for the summer.

Running has always been important to Bird and Waggoner. Even in the toughest semester for an engineering major — what Waggoner described as "the gauntlet" — running was still important. Waggoner said she is learning how to properly train for longer races and triathlons.

"Running is very stress-relieving to me and I knew this was going to be a pretty stressful semester, so I made room for running, at least a couple times a week," Waggoner said.

Bird ran cross country in high school and has been hooked ever since.

"I used to not like it, I never ran more than a mile in my life before high school, and I showed up and ran four miles the first day... I got hooked and haven't stopped since," Bird said.

For Austin Tedder, who is headed for Navy nuclear school, the class and the final have helped prepare for the future.

Tedder has already surpassed his goal of 1 1/2 miles in 13 minutes, 30 seconds, by more than two minutes.

"It's been a blast," Tedder said. "I'm getting ready for basic training and needed to get in physical shape and it's just been a blast."

Josh Blanchard, a WSU bowler and member of the 2010 Intercollegiate Team Champions — and the Bowling Writers Association of America's College Bowler of the Year — wasn't ever a runner before joining the class.

But Blanchard said the preparation for the River Run has helped him improve his stamina on the bowling lanes, which will help when he turns professional later this year.

"The class has definitely helped," Blanchard said. "My endurance, I feel so much better. I can bowl longer and I'm not feel tired. I'm really excited to get out there."