The year was 1999, and my neighbor Sheree wanted to put together a five-person relay team to run the Austin Marathon (then the Motorola Marathon). She recruited four of us from the neighborhood and we met to determine which sections went to which runners.
In the ekiden relay, there are two 5Ks, two 10Ks, and the last final leg, which comes to around 8 or so miles. As the only person remotely interested in running longer than a 10K, I drew the honor of finishing.
It changed my life.
Afterward, as we all relaxed in a hot tub, celebrating our successful team effort, Sheree passed out certificates of accomplishments (did I mention she’s an amazing motivator?). The one she gave me: “Most Likely to Run a Marathon One Day.”
I blame (or credit, depending on the day) Sheree for what happened next: my lifelong love affair with long-distance running. Completely motivated after my big relay finish, I checked the upcoming calendar to find that the 2001 Austin Marathon fell on my birthday.
It was fate; I had to run it.
Completing Austin’s Marathon
Since then, I’ve completed many Austin Marathon (and half marathons). It’s the scene of my personal best (half and full marathon PR), and for three years, I had the honor and pleasure of being one of the 5:00 pace group leaders. It’s always nice to be a part of the marathon, even when I’m not running. This year, I’m volunteering in the hospitality suite, brushing elbows with race-related folks and super fast athletes. #heaven
New at the 2015 Freescale Austin Marathon
I attended last Friday’s media preview where John Conley, head of Conley Sports, which directs the marathon and half marathon, provided important info about the event as well as all the fun stuff that surrounds the races.
Shifting the Start Line: While the current loop course has been essentially in place since 2010 (barring minor adjustments), this year’s revisions eliminate the beginning loop around the Capitol. Instead of five turns in the first mile, runners will start on the south side of the Capitol at approximately Congress and 3rd Street, climbing steadily uphill until reaching the first turn at Mile 3. With construction finished on various downtown projects, “the time was right to reclaim Congress Avenue,” said Conley; 2015’s course is virtually identical to that of 2007.
Support on UT Campus: That stretch near Darrell K Royal — Texas Memorial Stadium, within earshot of the finish, used to be a complete dead zone, devoid of fans and support, a veritable marathon spectator wasteland. But this year, for the first time, The University of Texas Alumni Center will be an official cheer zone and water stop. That’s approximately Mile 25, so there’s plenty of time to get your horns up!
A Different Sea of Orange: The marathon’s sponsor, Freescale, will have a sea of orange-clad employees on the course. Some 250 will take part in the STEM pep rally (there’s a robot race at 8:45 a.m. at the finish line, with robots constructed by students from four student groups: Westlake High School, Westwood High School, the Liberal Arts & Science Academy, and Girls Scouts of Texas ), work as volunteers on the course, and help with the “Internet of Tomorrow” truck.
More Firsts from Conley Sports: As part of the many things that the race directors due to provide for runners’ safety, this year’s medical support includes an infectious disease protocol. There’s continued emphasis on green practices — everything from medals made from scrapped and recycled semiconductor materials donated by Freescale to eliminating plastic water jugs (some 8,000 1-gallon containers) by way of using “Water Monsters” and the city’s water supply.
Entertainment News: This year’s Marathon Marketplace at the Palmer Event Center has live music from 2–7 p.m. featuring local musicians, including Mandy Rowan and even a band from Freescale (Lightbug).
And did you know that, naturally, the Austin Marathon was the first in the US to incorporate food trucks in the finish area? This year includes Juice Austin, One Taco, Lucky Lab Coffee, and Burro Cheese Kitchen. On the course, the Live Music Capital of the World will have more than 30 bands on the course. And entertainment includes the return of the Mime.
Don’t Beat Ben: This is a great campaign launched by the Austin Gives Miles program. (I’d like to think that my “Pass Me! Challenge” during the 2013-2014 AFM ARC Distance Challenge put the idea in their heads.)
Basically, Ben Roberts, a local recreational runner, will start dead last. For every marathon runner that Roberts passes, Conley Sports will donate $1 to The Children’s Heart Foundation Texas Chapter, the winning charity from the 29 worthy charities featured in Austin Gives Miles.
Handy Links for the 2015 Austin Marathon