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.