While some students are traveling to Chicago this weekend to watch the Fighting Irish take on the Miami at Soldier Field, Saint Mary’s senior Alyssa Vinluan is going to the city for her own athletic competition. Vinluan will run 26.2 miles Sunday when she races in the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. This will be Vinlaun’s first marathon, which she has been training for since June 1. Despite months of training, running and planning for Sunday, she has only been running for just over a year. “I only started running in July of 2011,” she said. “That is when I ran my first mile. I started to sign up for 5Ks and 10Ks, and then I did the Holy Half.” Despite making a commitment in only January to run the Chicago Marathon, Vinlaun said running a marathon has been a life-long goal. “I have always wanted to do a marathon, but it was something I never thought I could actually do,” she said. Vinluan’s inspiration to run a marathon came almost a year ago. Her older brother Gilbert, who has run five Chicago Marathons and participated in an IronMan competition, was visiting for Christmas and Vinluan said she was discussing with him her “new passion for running.” “He was like, ‘Then you should sign up for the Chicago Marathon,’ and so in January, I registered for the race and committed to it,” she said. Vinluan said her brother’s experiences with running and the Marathon have been a convenient and needed means of support. “We’re not running [the race] together because he’s a much faster runner than I am,” she said. “But I knew I’d have somebody there with me the whole time, and that has been a big help.” Vinluan has been emailing and texting her brother for advice, and the two update each other on their training runs. In addition to the support of her brother, she said her boyfriend and friends have been constant sources of encouragement for her throughout her months of training. “[Senior] Dani Haydell, who is on the Saint Mary’s cross country team has done some of my runs with me,” she said. “And my boyfriend, Brier, who did track and field when he went to Notre Dame, also did some runs with me. Also, my family has been really encouraging and helpful.” In addition to the intense training and constant self-discipline needed to prepare for the Chicago Marathon, Vinluan has also raised money for a charity, Opportunity Enterprises. Based out of her hometown of Valparaiso, Ind., Opportunity Enterprises is an organization that supports people with multiple disabilities. The funds from the marathon will support the organization’s early intervention program, All About Kids. “I am proud to be running and raising money for such an amazing program,” she said. “The support of my family and friends in helping me reach my fundraising goal is the best part [of my marathon experience.]” Despite the support from her loved ones and her excellent experiences with Opportunity Enterprises, Vinluan said there have been some obstacles to her training and final goal. “Training in June, July and August ⎯ that was no problem because it was summer,” she said. “But once school started and I had to manage training with classes, Dance Marathon, my job at the writing center and my other responsibilities, it was difficult. It took a lot to make me go out and run 10 miles on a Wednesday.” However, Vinluan said she is excited to participate in her first marathon and is eager for the family time that will follow the race. “My boyfriend flew in from California and will be waiting for me at the finish line,” she said.