Economics professor hosts running office hours at 7 a.m.

Lee Coppock invites students to join him on his morning run in an effort to get to know his students better


Some of Coppock's students during last Friday's running office hours.

Courtesy Annie Veldman

Office hours are seemingly always exactly at the same time as every other student obligation. To ensure his students still get a chance to see if him if this happens, Economics Prof. Lee Coppock hosts his office hours while running six miles in 45 minutes at 7 a.m. — least a few times a semester, that is.

“We talk very little econ,” Coppock said. “I have regular office hours for that. Running office hours was just a catchy name for it, but I like to get to know the students better. I have over a thousand students, and I don’t get to know them.”

The topics range from economics and majors to life at the University, out-of-school activities and sharing backgrounds. The runs are meant to be as inclusive as possible — starting out at a slower pace around Central Grounds for students who want to attend but don’t necessarily want to run the intended six miles.

“There were a bunch of non-runners,” first-year College student Phineas Alexander said about last Friday’s run. “It was totally inclusive … Some people dropped off, but we just kept running. It was very cool.”

The runs are filled with chitchat, as students talk amongst each other and Coppock cycles through everyone so he gets a chance to meet each student. After a slower mile or two, the run continues over to JPJ, Barracks and the Law School, down roads second-year College student Caleb Ahn said he’d never seen before.

“I almost intended to drop out around the 30-minute mark, like ‘This is enough running,’” Ahn said. “But, because of those roads, I had no idea how to get back home, so I kept it up. It’s definitely one of the highlights of my second year.”

When Coppock proposed the running office hours in his classes, he said his invitation was met with laughter and a number of looks around as students tried to figure out if he was serious or not. First-year student Annie Veldman was one of the students who decided to find out for herself.

“Everyone was laughing when he proposed it, and when he said how fast he usually goes, there was even more laughter that made me think that no one was going to go,” Veldman said. “I decided to go … It was a really good chance to be in a different environment. You get used to seeing a professor in a suit everyday, and then [you] see him in real life.”

Ever since Coppock started his running office hours about six to eight years ago, famous runners such as NCAA miler Henry Winn, Rio Olympian Robby Andrews and American-record miler Alan Webb have joined in. With the addition of veteran marathon-runner James Ryan returning to the University as president next year, Coppock hopes they can convince him to come, too. But in the end, he said, he started it for him and his students.

“I tried it for fun, and students really liked it,” Coppock said. “They act more informal than from behind a desk in my office. It’s hard to know what students really appreciate, but I’ve heard that when new students tour, the U-Guides talk about [the runs], so I figured I’d keep it up.”

Ahn was one of the prospective University students who heard about the running office hours while on a tour of the school — thinking he would never go on the runs. Two years later, he was running alongside Coppock and 15 other students.

“I completely forget about it after that tour,” Ahn said. “But then I’m in his econ class this semester … I feel like I have to do it because it’s like one of those infamous, mythical things at U.Va. — one of the allure of cool things here. It was a unique opportunity … very characteristic of U.Va.” 

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