Saint Catharine College Clock Tower photo

(Half) Marathon man

In a little under a decade, Dr. Rob Slocum has logged a minimum of 1,690 miles on his feet.

Most on campus know Slocum as the dean of the School of Arts & Sciences at St. Catharine College. He has a little secret: he’s the half-marathon man.

Slocum has trained for and completed 129 half-marathons (13.1 miles) since his first one in 2004. He’s seen several new places along the way, too.

Racing has taken Slocum and his wife, Victoria, across the United States. His favorite races, he said, were the Boston Half-Marathon, a race on Tybee Island in Georgia and a race under the full moon from Grafton to Sheboygan, Wis.

“It’s just taken us all kinds of places,” Slocum said. “In Atlanta we ran past Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. King was and in Little Rock, a school which was part of the civil rights movement. We ran past where Elvis recorded in Memphis. We ran past the Mississippi River and past federal buildings in D.C. and just a lot of places that we wouldn’t have seen and we’re seeing it close up.”

In Tuscon, Ariz., he ran a point-to-point race in the desert.

“We ran in and it was dark when we got there and the sun came up over the desert. It was just incredibly beautiful,” Slocum said.

The dean said he began running as part of conditioning for tennis when he was in high school.

Slocum was the assistant tennis pro at a tennis shop and said he would run on the golf course after the golfers had left for the day.

“It was more like flying than flying,” Slocum said. “Flying is more like sitting down and being in a cramped dentist’s office.”

The act helped draw his body and soul together, he said, while also serving as a healthy activity.

Slocum said he ran his first competitive race in his third year of law school.

Competitive races such as 5Ks (3.1 miles) and 10Ks (6.2 miles) were becoming popular at that time, Slocum said.

“It was fun. It was just great,” he said. “It was an opportunity to run in a new space with an incentive to do your best and whether you got a ribbon or didn’t get a ribbon, it was just an outstanding opportunity to be out there.”

Eventually, Slocum would work his way up to half-marathon distance. He did his first half-marathon and then didn’t do another for six or eight months.

Discovering the different locations a half-marathon could take him, he was hooked.

“A race on oceanfront in Georgia is totally different from a race through the mountains in North Carolina or Washington state,” he said. “A race in Kansas in winter with wind is different from a race in summer time when it’s hot and humid and muggy and hilly.”

By running those races, Slocum said he comes away with an amazing sense of place.

“I feel like I’ve gone to cities where I’ve never been before but come away with a knowledge of the place that people who’ve lived there for years, they wouldn’t have because of this direct kind of experience of place,” he said.

After nearly 130 half-marathons, it seems Slocum has found his niche. He averages one race per month, except in the hottest part of the summer, he said.

While he doesn’t expect to be a Sports Illustrated cover model, he and his wife have been featured in Runner’s World in a special edition about half-marathons.

“We had a little postage stamp size picture of us after a race,” Slocum said.

Running has helped him relate to student-athletes on campus, he said, as well as develop his spirituality.

“It helped me to discover a confidence and creativity and an ability to integrate,” Slocum said. “When I say integrate, I mean integrate feeling sensations, thinking sensations. It’s very personal. It’s what you’re doing with your body, not just observing it. You’re in the middle of it. You physically experience space. If the space is bumpy, you feel bumpiness. If the weather is cold, you feel that it’s cold. If it’s a hill, you discover that there really is a hill in that location. It’s not as flat as you thought it was driving over it in a car.”

Slocum and his wife live in Danville, Ky. He’s also an Episcopal priest and assists on Sundays in congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of Lexington. He has a Ph. D in systematic theology.

Founded in the Dominican tradition in 1931 and sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Peace, St. Catharine College, a Catholic Dominican college inspired by its founders, welcomes all to the challenging pursuit of truth, preparing them to become critical thinkers, ethical leaders and engaged citizens.