Students, faculty and staff, as well as alumni from Gannon University, John Carroll University, Notre Dame College and University of Michigan gathered in Grosse Isle, Mich., on March 26 for the annual Rock CF Race with the Living Person group.
Started by the Rev. H. Paul Kim, a Korean Catholic priest, over 10 years ago, the Living Person offers a 5K run/walk, half marathon relay or a half marathon each year in support of cystic fibrosis research. Unlike other events of its kind, the Living Person is not a competition, but rather an opportunity for participants to gather as a community and connect both physically and spiritually.
This year, Gannon was represented by 12 undergraduate students, three graduate students, seven faculty and staff members and three alumni who traveled alongside 100 participants from other universities to St. Thomas Lutheran Church, where lodging was offered just two minutes from the starting line.
While staying at the church, attendees were invited to write a reflection on their lives, faith and the challenges of running, as well as to attend a prayer service where they received a race number and T-shirt.
James E. Menkhaus, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Gannon’s theology department, said that the title “Living Person” draws on a quote from St. Irenaeus, which teaches us that one way to glorify God is to take care of our bodies, to be fit and to challenge ourselves beyond our perceived limitations.
“The name of the race comes from a quote by St. Irenaeus, which states that ‘The Glory of God is the living man, fully alive,’” Menkhaus said. “The Living Person group believes that challenging ourselves in mind, body and spirit can make us more fully alive and more of who God calls us to be.”
After founding this movement over 10 years ago, Kim later returned to Korea to continue his ministry. The Living Person group has since grown to include over 100 men and women who are inspired and dedicated to improving their overall quality of life.
Menkhaus, who arrived at Gannon in 2013, said that he has personally experienced the growth in popularity of this program.
“When I arrived at Gannon, two students joined me for the race,” Menkhaus said. “This number eventually became eight, then 20, and now a group of 25 students joins me every year.
“This year, many of the people in the Living Person group ran their first race or first half marathon, demonstrating the power of teamwork, community and faith when trying to overcome obstacles and challenges.”
Among the students from Gannon who participated in the Living Person run were sophomore Daniela Alban and senior Katie Ellsworth, who both weighed in on the impact of this event.
“Throughout all of my training I had to ask myself why I was doing a half marathon to begin with,” Alban said. “When the day came, I realized that being a living person means something beyond myself; it means welcoming a community of people you didn’t even know you were a part of and racing alongside them while working for the strength of each other.”
Ellsworth was also moved by the event.
“My time racing felt very alive, as I usually do races alone,” Ellsworth said. “I had such a strong sense of community as I saw the Living Person shirts run by. I felt so committed to this group of people that I had the pleasure to run with.”
For more information on the Living Person, or to sign up to participate in future events, visit www.thelivingperson.com/rockcf or contact Menkhaus at firstname.lastname@example.org.