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The Secret Life of a Research Administrator | Tyler Tulloch

By SRAI News posted 11-10-2021 03:14 PM


The Secret Life of a Research Administrator | Tyler Tulloch

“The Secret Life of a Research Administrator” column is meant to facilitate more personal connections between SRAI members through the Catalyst newsletter. If you would like to share with the community or know of someone who will, please submit your article here. 

Do you ever feel like you’re going around in circles trying to get people to meet deadlines or adhere to policies? Do you ever feel like there are innumerable twists, turns, hills, and valleys that you must navigate to get the right answer? Sometimes research administration can feel like an endless loop of those twists, turns, hills, and valleys and yet we often find ourselves crossing the finish line at some point (and repeatedly) to get that proposal or report submitted, or that award successfully negotiated.  And as a research administrator at Michigan State University, I can certainly attest to that. As if those endless loops were not enough, I managed to find a hobby that also involves loops. 

On November 2, 2019 I lined up at 8am for the 12 hour Ultra Bird Race held in a small county park in West Olive, Michigan. Over the next twelve hours I would try to run as many 5K loops as possible by 8pm. The 5K loop consisted of trails winding through hard wood and pine forest, with a couple sections in low lying swampy areas to keep things interesting. On the first loop I managed to slip and submerge my right foot in a rather large puddle. Thankfully, due to planning and a great group of friends, I had dry shoes and everything else I needed to stay focused and motivated on moving for 12 hours. Around 7:53 pm I crossed the finished line for the last and 20th time, covering a total of 100K or 62 miles. 

As the uncertainty of COVID-19 continued into the summer of 2020, many races were being cancelled or shifted to virtual formats (run the distance you signed up for wherever you want). One such race was the Martian Invasion of Races. Due to some misunderstood emails on my part, I found myself in the position of needing to run a marathon with about two weeks’ notice if I wanted to earn my race T-shirt and finisher’s medal… and I really wanted the T-shirt. With little time to plan and the need to keep race nutrition simple, I decided to run the marathon on a track. Getting to the track in time to finish the marathon before work required starting my run at 4am. After about 105 laps the run was finished; thank goodness for GPS watches!

In June of 2021, I embarked on my biggest challenge yet; the Forbidden Forest 30 Hour Race in Stratford, Connecticut. The goal: run a 2.22 mile loop consisting of wooded trails with lots of rocks, roots, and trails (synonymous with Northeast trail running) as many times as I could in 30 hours. Unfortunately, I ended up dropping from the race after completing 24 loops for a total of about 53.5 miles in roughly 12 hours due to some discomfort that felt out of the norm and something that I just couldn’t fix through stretching or other means. While in the moment I was disappointed for dropping from the race much earlier than I had wanted to, I later came to terms that it was probably a smart decision to call it quits to avoid causing a long-term injury. 

Of course, running just isn’t all about running in a circle, over and over, for hours on end. Exploring parks and trails, wherever I might be, has often provided me with awe-inspiring views and a greater appreciation for public lands.  Every twist, turn, hill, and valley provides a new view and gets you closer to the finish line. 

My favorite places to run/hike (so far):

  • Marquette, Michigan
  • North Country Trail & Manistee River Trail Loop in Manistee County, Michigan
  • White Mountains National Forest, New Hampshire
  • Acadia National Park, Maine

Running and research administration share many similarities, and I’ve found that lessons I learn in one can often carry over into the other. Running provides me with a personal challenge and no run is the same (except for maybe that loop I just ran a dozen times). Every run provides an experience to take in the environment through new sights, sounds, and smells. Running is not only good for me physically but also mentally, helping to release the stress from a particularly hard day. On trail runs you might not see a single person out on the trails, sometimes you might startle the wildlife (sorry to many deer and a porcupine), and sometimes the wildlife might startle you (I’m looking at you bears and snakes). After every run though I’ve always come away grateful to have gone out on the trails, even for just one loop. Whatever your mode might be, taking time for yourself to spend in nature is well worth it.

If you want to explore getting into running, or getting back into running, there’s no better way than to find a group of people that share your hobby…and runners tend to be some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve ever met! I would recommend checking out local running stores as they tend to have regularly scheduled group runs, find a group through Facebook or MeetUp, or post on your organization’s intranet or social media page. Find me on Strava, LinkedIn or reach out on SRAI’s Connect. I’m always up to talk shop on running!

Authored by Tyler Tulloch, Grant Services Manager
Michigan State University
SRAI Catalyst Committee