(Commentary): They will run -- and run around -- the university

by Bill Moor

It wasn’t exactly an “After you” push, but John Affleck-Graves made sure that the Rev. John I. Jenkins crossed the finish line before him in the Sunburst marathon earlier this summer.p. “Hey, he’s my boss,” Affleck-Graves says with a smile.p. While Affleck-Graves recently became the executive vice president of Notre Dame, Jenkins, a vice president and associate provost, will step up to president next June.p. If they can only run the university as smoothly as they run together.p. “John is a great person to run with,” Jenkins says. “He is constantly talking and encouraging while also solving the world’s problems. He can keep you going.”p. But in the final miles of their Sunburst marathon, Affleck-Graves looked over at his buddy-boss and decided it was time to zip his lips.p. “There comes the point when another runner can sense that you might be feeling a little stronger and it can be really annoying if you keep talking to him,” Affleck-Graves admits. “At mile 17 or 18, I knew John didn’t want to be talking about budgetary goals.”p. The two Notre Dame leaders also had run together in the Chicago marathon last fall. “But after 20 miles, I knew it would be better if I left John alone,” Affleck-Graves says. “So I went off on my own pace.”p. That was Jenkins’ first marathon.p. Affleck-Graves, a South African native and three years older than Jenkins at 53, has run 95 marathons in all — his fastest in 2:52. He also has run in two 56-mile endurance runs back in his homeland.p. “I definitely enjoy the training more than I do the actual racing,” Affleck-Graves admits. “I know I will do at least five more marathons and plan to make the Sunburst my 100th next June.”p. Jenkins may join Affleck-Graves for that one, too.p. “But John is a much more disciplined runner than I am,” Jenkins says. “I’m a fair-weather runner. I would rather swim in the winter than run.”p. Even so, Jenkins tries to get in about 30 to 35 miles of running each week — mostly on campus. Affleck-Graves usually runs between 40 and 50.p. “Since 1987, when I came to Notre Dame, I have run between 2,000 and 2,200 miles each year,” he says. “But I’m a Clydesdale, pounding the pavement in a way that everybody can hear me.”p. Affleck-Graves, who has two grown daughters with his wife, Rita, grew up playing rugby and cricket and didn’t even start running until he was 30.p. “I had gotten overweight at that time,” he admits.p. “And now, he doesn’t have an ounce of body fat on him,” Jenkins adds.p. Jenkins, a graduate of Notre Dame and Oxford University, was a top-notch swimmer while growing up in Nebraska.p. “He is actually a much better athlete than I am,” Affleck-Graves says. “John is a racehorse. I’m a plodder.”p. A plodder who has broken three hours in the marathon.p. They will continue to train together whenever they get a chance and talk over sports and politics and how to run the university while they are on the run.p. Are they the most dedicated runners in the Notre Dame hierarchy?p. “We have a lot of people out here who run,” Jenkins says. “Last summer, (athletic director) Kevin White ran 10 miles for 100 consecutive days for a charity.”p. And the Rev. Edward A. (Monk) Malloy, the university’s current president, has done his share of running while staying in shape for his beloved basketball.p. ‘We could never whip Monk," Affleck-Graves says.p. Both Jenkins and Affleck-Graves try hard to withhold their good-natured smiles.p. A runner’s high obviously is a healthy thing to have.

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