Lori Koban, left, UMF Mathematics professor, and fellow runner Morgan Leso, school counselor and UMF alumna, prior to the COVID pandemic. Contributed photo

FARMINGTON — When Lori Koban, a math professor at the University of Maine at Farmington, had to start working from home last March, she was happy to still be helping her students, but like many people, she was concerned about the negative impacts it would have on her physical, mental and emotional health.

She decided to do something big, and hosted two virtual marathons in 2020. She is repeating her success next month, April 12-18.

The “Goodbye COVID Marathon Week” will be held precisely one year after Koban’s first marathon week, and she welcomes anyone to participate. Starting Saturday, April 3, go to fb.me/e/3ux8OJ7CQ to join the Facebook event. Those who aren’t Facebook users can email [email protected].

“I teach actuarial science at UMF where students can learn to become actuaries who help businesses manage risk,” said Koban, according to a news release from the university. “Two years ago, I knew I had to make some personal changes of my own when my life insurance company determined my health status wasn’t up to par. One thing I did was start running, and I didn’t want COVID to derail my progress.”

In April 2020, she started a COVID-19 Marathon Week event for anyone who wanted to join. The goal was to purposefully move forward 26.2 miles in seven days. She knew how much running was helping her, and she wanted to share the idea with others to help them find purpose and healthy activity during that stressful time.

Each morning she put a short running-oriented video on her Facebook event page, and under it every participant logged their mileage for that day. She hoped 10 people would participate. To her surprise, 95 people joined from Farmington and around the state, as well as from Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut and North Carolina.

“I was thrilled,” said Koban. “I am not the typical runner that most people think of. I run intervals, currently running five minutes, walking one minute, and a 13-minute mile means I’m having a really good day. I just wanted to encourage people to move, whether it be running or walking or interval running or speed walking, and experience the benefits.”

The event was so successful, Koban created a three-week “COVID Marathon 1-2-3” event to help propel participants through the pandemic phases in the state of Maine, one phase during each of May, June and July. Everyone who completed the event had their names entered into a drawing for fun prizes.

“Lori’s COVID marathon provided just the motivation I needed to do something outside my comfort zone,” said Morgan Leso, school counselor and UMF alumna. “Having a personal goal, such as completing a marathon, helped me concentrate on doing something challenging instead of focusing on things I can’t control. Participating with so many people supporting each other was such a community effort. Her marathon challenge underscored the fact that we are all in this together.”

“This has been a wonderful experience,” said Koban. “It created a community and support system for so many different people going through the same challenging time. There will likely be more Marathon Weeks in the future, but I plan on them having no ties to COVID-19.”