Nuun is a product that I’ve used and loved for years. As I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with my running, I have also decided to put myself out there by applying to serve as an ambassador for my favorite products. I mean, why not? I recommend these products on a regular basis, so why not get even more involved in the running community by serving as an ambassador for my favorite brands? I was over the moon excited when Nuun selected me to serve on Team Nuun. Me?! As a Team Nuun member, I had the opportunity to apply to run a Ragnar Trail Relay in Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia International Horse Park. I honestly never thought I’d be picked. Before I applied, I checked with my husband. I started the conversation like this, “Hey, I probably won’t be picked, but I’d like to apply to run for Team Nuun at a Ragnar Trail Relay in Atlanta, Georgia. What do you think?” His response was, “Sure. You know you’ll be picked, right?” I’m not sure how he knew, without a doubt, that I’d be picked when I, myself, thought that it was a long shot, but he was right. I was picked. This meant I’d be doing two 200 mile relay races within two weeks of each other out of town. Oops. Sort of bad timing. My poor husband would be stuck as Mr. Mom for two of the five weekends in April. Sorry, David. I owe him big time. Now that I knew I was going to Georgia, I contacted my friend Dyana who now lives in Sevierville, Tennessee. Her new home is about four hours from Atlanta. We hatched a plan for her to drive to Atlanta the day I arrived for a lunch date and a few hours of hanging out before I needed to check in with my team. My friend is caring for her mother with Parkinson’s Disease and, while she is thoroughly enjoying her time with her mother in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, she was happy to get away and take a short trip to Atlanta. Dyana is a friend like no other. I miss her dearly and it was so great to see her. Next it was time to meet my team at a restaurant for our team dinner. I met 14 other people all at once and it’s amazing how easily we were able to talk to each other within moments of meeting one another. This is yet again a testament to how powerful the bond is within the running community. Runners are connected through their love of the run and this never ceases to amaze me. After dinner we went to the campsite and I turned in early. It was a bit chilly for me in the tent, and that coupled with the boisterous group in the tent behind us, prevented me from getting a great night’s sleep, but I’d say I got a good night’s sleep. Friday morning I woke early and went on a short run around Ragnar Village. The village was quiet, as runners were just beginning to emerge from their tents and get ready for their run time start. Our teams wouldn’t start running until 4:30 p.m., so my day was spent cheering on other runners and getting to know my team. Friday evening and all of Saturday are quite a blur. Basically it entailed waiting at the starting line for the previous runners to pass the baton, cheering teammates on, keeping each other company, resting in the tent, and stuffing our faces. We were afforded little to no amounts of sleep, leaving us weary and light headed, but we had new friends and community by our sides. We enjoyed each other and worked together to do something epic. An overnight relay race is completely a team effort. The amount of support I received from my teammates is what kept me going. Really, an overnight relay race is a microcosm of the larger running community. Runners support other runners by cheering them on and letting them know that struggling is normal and expected. I am a big believer in making memories through physical activity. An overnight relay race is all about togetherness through activity. I find that overnight relay races offer a sense of community that no other race offers. Additionally, I guess I kind of like to temporarily deprive myself of sleep, hygiene, and some of my sanity.
When my beloved hometown marathon, the Chevron Houston Marathon, advertised that they were accepting applications for marathon ambassadorship, I promptly began work on my application. Anyone who knows me knows that I love all things Houston, running, and the Chevron Houston Marathon. There is something so magical about the way the entire city of Houston, the fourth largest city in the U.S., comes together on marathon weekend. I feel a part of something so much bigger than myself on marathon weekend. I feel connected to my city and to my fellow runners. It’s really an inexplicable feeling I have on race weekend. The best way I can describe it is that it’s magic.
So, I poured myself into the application process. I carefully considered each portion of the application and thoroughly enjoyed contemplating each question. The questions on the application reflected ideas that I often ponder and write about. Things like, what inspires me to run, what are my main running goals, what is it about the Chevron Marathon weekend that appeals to me, how important is the running community to me, etc. These questions are at the core of why we all run, aren’t they? For, the split times, form, breathing, foot strike, heart rate, etc. is the actual running and we pay close attention to those things in an effort to improve, certainly, but that’s not what keeps runners running, is it? No. It’s the community, It’s how we are inspired. It’s our desire to inspire others. It’s the overwhelming sense of togetherness we feel on race day. It’s our desire to improve ourselves. It’s the satisfaction we feel when we accomplish our goals. It’s the feeling of being fit, strong, and capable. It’s the mental toughness we gain from doing hard things. It’s the satisfaction of pushing past where we thought our limits were. It’s our desire to cheer others on, for we know how hard running is. It’s the way we tear up when we think about running. Excuse me for a moment, I need a tissue.
So, I submitted my application, and I waited. And waited. And waited. In reality I only had to wait about a month, but it certainly felt like an eternity. The website informed me that I’d be notified one way or the other on April 11th. Good. I had an explicit endpoint to my waiting. I marked the date on my calendar and I tried not to fixate on it. Until the 11th, however. On the 11th I checked my email a record amount of times. I just couldn’t stop myself. I busied myself with my work and I pushed the application out of my mind whenever it entered that space. Then, lo and behold, the email came. I nervously opened it and was thrilled to learn that I had been selected to serve as a 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador. Me! They picked me! Words cannot express how excited I am. It is also worth mentioning here that I applied last year and was rejected. The rejection letter was very well written, I must say, and it urged me to try again the following year. Which is what I did. I also took a careful look at what makes a good ambassador. I saw, very quickly, that I simply wasn’t ready to serve as an ambassador for the 2016 season. I hadn’t immersed myself into the running community yet. So, I set out to do just that. I put all of my thoughts into writing and started this blog. I followed other runners’ journeys through social media and immediately gained inspiration and motivation from them. I became a part of the running community and words cannot express how fortunate I am to have found the running community. Had I not been rejected ambassadorship in 2016 would I be this connected with my running community? I think not.
As an ambassador, I am most excited about becoming even more involved in the Houston running community. I get so much inspiration and motivation from my running connections on social media. The local Houston runners that I am connected with through social media are particularly special to me, as we take part in many of the same races and we feel privileged to run our hometown Chevron Houston Marathon. I look forward to making even more running connections through my ambassador platform. The running connections I have made over the last year are truly what help motivate me during the training season and throughout the entire year. I have said it many times in the past, and I am certain I will continue to say it on a regular basis, but the running community is simply the best. Runners are the most positive, encouraging people on the planet. Runners help other runners up when they’ve fallen, for we know, all too well, what it feels like to fall.
So, it is with great enthusiasm that I wholeheartedly accept my position as a 2017 Chevron Houston Marathon Ambassador.
This weekend I ran a 200 mile relay with wonderful people who started out as strangers and became friends. The Texas Independence Relay is a “200 mile journey [that] traces the route of Sam Houston and the Texian army, beginning in historic Gonzales (home of the Come & Take It skirmish) to the site of the storied final battle for Texas’ Independence at the San Jacinto Monument.” The race consists of 40 relay legs of various lengths, totaling 200 miles.
I found my team through my running club’s Facebook page. As I’ve gotten more and more comfortable with my running, I find myself wanting to stretch myself even more. The notion of a relay race across Texas really appealed to me. So, I joined the Texas Roadkill Search Team. Brothers John and Jack Barfoot are captains of Texas Roadkill Search Team I and Texas Roadkill Search Team II, respectively. Team I had 13 members and Team II had 11 members. I was on Team II. Each team split their members between two vans. I was in Team II’s van 1. This meant our van started the relay with legs 1-6.
Jack ran our first leg, passed off to Stuart, who passed off to me for the third leg. The third leg of the run was entirely on dirt, well more like a rocky, road. 5.35 miles of running to the middle of Nowhere, Texas … God’s country. At this point we were in Shiner, the cleanest city in Texas. Shiner is special to me not only because my husband and I love Shiner beer, but also because we participate in the Shiner Beer Run each year. This particular run is important to me because it marks my progress as a runner. The inagural 5k & Half Marathon in 2013 was one of my first 5K races. I went back in 2014 & 2015 for the Half Marathon and I plan on going each year to come. The race is a sort of “racecation” for us and we love it. We like to stay in Gonzales and then we spend race day in Shiner. Is there a better way to spend a weekend? I think not.
I started this 5.35 mile third leg at 9:11 a.m. The sun really started to come out during this leg and I was glad I had my sunglasses on. Everyone thought it was so funny that my sunglasses perfectly matched my running outfit. I told them it was honestly just a coincidence that I owned sunglasses the exact same shade of mint green as my running clothes, but I vowed to try to make this my “thing” from here on out. I mean, why not? It’s always fun to find something fun to relate to my running. This leg of the relay stands out to me because this is where a fellow Houston runner and instafriend cheered me on while he waited on his own teammate. This made me tear up and once again remember why I run. It’s that … it’s that instant connection that exists between runners. It’s the understanding that we need to build each other up and cheer each other on. We are all better when we support each other. The running community is the best.
Next up was Moulton, Flatonia, and Schulenburg for legs four through nine. Our sixth runner passed the baton off to the first runner of the second van for legs 7-10 and we went on to Schulenburg to grab a nice sit-down lunch at Frank’s Restaurant. I had a delicious chicken fried chicken steak, mashed potatoes, and salad. I was so hungry and it really hit the spot.
Next we took the baton back from van 2 for legs 11-16. My teammates ran through Weimar and Borden. Then it was time for another one of my legs. Leg 14 in Columbus. This 6.72 mile leg started at 5:46 p.m. I ran by the Pride of Columbus, Columbus High School, downtown residences, and ended my journey in the commercial district of Columbus. Nothing particularly stands out to me about this leg as I sit back and reflect on it. This was the halfway point for me. I had run two of my four legs. I was dreading how I’d manage to sleep in the van for our two hour sleep break. Would I be able to fall asleep? Stay asleep? What if I needed to pee in the middle of the night? Once I opened the van door all of the lights would come on. “Oh well,” I told myself as I finished my run. I’ll worry about all of that later.
Next we ran through Altair, Eagle Lake, Wallis and Orchard. This is the point where we passed the legs off to our second van of runners and we had the opportunity to grab a quick bite of fast food, park our van near our baton exchange station, and catch a couple of hours of shuteye before leg 23 in Simonton. It was hard to really sleep in the van, but it was nice to at least stretch out and rest our bodies. The alarm clock went off before we knew it, though, and it was time for our first runner to don his head lamp and safety vest. Oh, and if you’re curious, I didn’t have to pee in the middle of our sleep. I woke up, if what I was doing could actually be called sleeping, most happy about that, I must admit. But I digress. We would be running in the dark, in the wee hours of the morning, on little to no sleep. This was going to be a challenge. We got our acts together; however, and drove the van to leg 23 so our first runner could start. At this point we shared a lot of laughs. By this time in our journey we had gotten to know each other pretty well and that, coupled with the fact that we were sleep deprived, made for some hilarious conversations. Legs 23 and 24 went smoothly and then it was time for my leg, leg 25 in Fulshear. I began this 4.73 mile leg at 3:15 a.m. This is where I knew I was in suburbia moving towards Houston. This leg ran through a new subdivsion and finished at a newer elementary school there on the outskirts of Katy.
The next couple of legs took us through George Bush Park as the sun came up. After leg 27 we stopped for breakfast at a Panera Bread and I’m pretty sure the guys working there thought we were bums. Before we left the restaurant I was excited to use an actual toilet. It had been porta cans and bushes for me for two days, so an actual toilet was such a treat. I guess I was kind of bum-like at that point.
By 12:28 p.m. it was time for my 3.74 mile leg 36. My last leg. This took me through a Houston neighborhood and a pedestrian bridge over the busy I-45 interstate and finished at Chavez High School. I struggled in this leg. I was tired from lack of sleep and all of the running. During my leg I came upon a woman and ran beside her. I told her that she was doing a great job of pacing me. She told me to pass her, as I had worked hard to get there beside her. I told her that I wanted to run with her, not pass her, because I was struggling. She told me that she’s never been a leader in a run and I said, “well, you are right now.” We ran together for the last mile and I gave her a big hug once we’d passed off to our teammates. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the running community is simply the best.
Legs 37 through 39 flew by taking us closer to our finish line at the San Jacinto Monument. Our final runner completed leg 40 and we were there to greet her and run with her for the last half mile to the finish line. There we received our medals, took pictures, and glowed in the glory of our accomplishment.
200 glorious miles from Gonzales to Houston. What an adventure for a nearly 40 year old librarian, a man in his late 50s, a 19 year old college kid, a 25 year old newlywed teacher, a 22 year old graduate student, and a nearly 40 year old man. Our van held teammates of varied ages and stages of their lives. I had delightful conversations with each and every one of them and I am so happy I had this awesome experience.