After finishing the San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon on Sunday and dawdling around in the Alamodome parking lot socializing for an hour or so, I jogged back to my hotel, backtracking along the course. I’ve always secretly hated these guys who finish a race way ahead and seem to be taunting me by doing their cool downs on the course while I’m still struggling to the finish.
On Sunday, I was that guy.
As I jogged ever so slowly back toward the hotel, I stopped to cheer the top marathoners in their final mile as thousands of half marathoners were still making their way to the finish outside the Alamodome.
On my jog back, the marathoners were far and few between, but there were still hordes and hordes of half marathoners. Around the nine-mile mark, the crowd of runners was still so thick, it was nearly impossible to get across the street. All were half marathoners and almost all of them were walking or very, very slowly shuffling their feet, more than 2 ½ hours into the race with three miles still to go.
This is the reality of San Antonio: Thousand and thousands of participants, but most are going so slowly (even walking slowly), I hesitate to call them runners.
But, as I watched them—many, I assumed, doing their first race–valiantly push forward on worn-out legs, I thought: Who cares?
I mean, who cares whether they are real runners, whatever the heck that might mean? Who cares whether they walked every single step of the way? Who cares if some of them were barely moving and still had another 45 minutes to go? Who cares if many of these same half marathoners finished an hour after the top marathoners did?
Actually, I do care.
Actually, I think it’s great. Actually, I think it’s incredible that plenty of people who didn’t even know what a marathon (or half) was a few years ago are now “doing” one. It doesn’t matter to me whether they’re running at six-minute pace or walking the entire thing. What matters to me is these same people are moving. Which is probably something they had never before done.
The San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll might not be the greatest race in Texas. It’s easy to quibble with its high entry fees, the nonstop promotions, the upsells and the corporate feel the race has, but Rock ‘n’ Roll has become transformational. Since the inaugural race in 2008, Rock ‘n’ Roll has help energize one of the fattest, least healthy cities in America into one where a marathon is at least on the radar screens of many otherwise sedentary people who would never have believed they could finish something like this.
Running is now flourishing in San Antonio which has not even been a blip on the running landscape. Running stores, training groups and races have sprouted up all over town (kinda like Austin). Not everyone’s running the race, but the enthusiasm for Rock ‘n’ Roll means they actually have more volunteers than are needed.
When I went to the first San Antonio organizational meetings in 2007, most of the civic leaders who showed up for it had no idea what a marathon was, what it entailed or how far it even is. Or, most importantly, none had a clue what Rock ‘n’ Roll could mean to their city.
They know now.
O More Rock ‘n’ Roll. It’s pretty hard to get a handle on San Antonio’s actual numbers (they have been in decline after several hot years), but race organizers said that trend was reversed as 25,000 folks ran in at least one of the several races with most of them in the half marathon. I doubt they had 25,000, but it was announced that city officials and the Competitor Group have agreed to a new five-year deal which will keep Rock ‘n’ Roll in San Antonio at least through 2020 with an option for two more years.
O Only one runner scored an Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers in the San Antonio Half who didn’t already have one: Lauren Smith (1:14:52) of Lake Jackson. Kellyn Taylor of Flagstaff (1:13:19) already had one. None of the men without qualifiers even came close.
O At the 33rd California International Marathon in Sacramento, a remarkable 101 women broke three hours, but it’s unlikely anyone was happier than Anita Quirino of San Antonio who PR’ed in 2:42:06 to punch her ticket to the Olympic Marathon Trials in Los Angeles. Austinite Nora Colligan also PR’ed in 2:44:21, but just missed the “B” qualifier by 22 seconds. Liza Hunter Galvan of San Antonio, 46, finished in 2:48:29 to place second among the masters women with Donna Mills-Honarvar, also of San Antonio, placing sixth among the 40+ women in 2:55:53. Amy Baker of Austin had been injured going into Sacramento and knew she wasn’t healthy to go for a Trials qualifier. She put up a good fight, but had to drop out at 15 miles with cramping issues.
O Bryan Morton of Austin PR’ed in Sacramento in 2:30:01 (good for 37th) but expressed some disappointment as he fell short of getting a Trials qualifier. Jeff Sadler was also shooting for a Trials qualifier and was in 11th place (on 2:16 pace) through 19 miles but the wheels—dehydration demons–came off in the final 10-K and he gutted out a 2:39:02.
O There have been frequent Meb Keflezighi sightings on the Butler/Lady Bird Lake trail the past week. The New York City and Boston marathons champ has been all over Texas with appearances at The Running Event, Rogue Equipment (last Thursday night) and he was on the San Antonio course on Sunday cheering on the marathoners and half marathoners in the home stretch to the finish. Next up for the San Diego resident is the 45th Dallas Marathon on Sunday where he’ll team with Becky Wade (of Houston but a Dallas native) in the Duo to Rio Relay. Some of the other duos of note running Dallas are former Olympians Abdi Abdirahman and Deena Kastor, Luke Pusedra and Annie Bersagel and Jared Ward and Desi Linden. All have qualified for the Olympic Marathon Trials and are using Dallas a tune up.
O BTW: The Running Event will be shifted to Orlando next December in what is just a temporary move because of a date conflict with the Austin Convention Center.
O After 38 years of existence, Running Times Magazine has hit the wall. Rodale, which has owned Running Times for eight years, has pulled the plug on the bi-monthly which will cease after the January/February issue. RT has struggled with circulation and profitability for years, especially in the shadows of Rodale-owned Runner’s World. The Running Times numbers are just too small for a company like Rodale to care about, especially at a time when Rodale is pumping all available dollars into an e-commerce, lifestyle site.
O Ultramarathoner par excellence Paul Terranova celebrated his 42nd birthday by finishing 26th (second masters) at The North Face 50-Miler in the Bay Area (the Marin headlands) last weekend in 7:22. Typical Terranova, he showed off by doing push ups at the finish. Wally Fairchild of Austin completed it in 10:28, while R. Muzaffer Musai did it in 10:39 and Brandon Batiansila completed it in 11:04. Kim Batiansila finished the 50 in 11:51. Wesley Trueblood of San Antonio ran the accompanying marathon in 4:10.
O If you run in the Vern’s No Frills series up in Round Rock, you can reuse your race number over and over again. If you don’t have a specific race number and want one (1-999), you can buy one at their bib auction, starting at $5. This whole thing ends with the last Vern’s No Frills race of the year on December 19th. The series, which began in 2009, has raised $10,000 for the Williamson County Parks and Rec and Berry Springs Park. The bidding wars have so far raised another $370 for the parks. To bid on a number, you have to show up for the race next Saturday (December 19th).
O On our coverage of the FloTrack Beer Mile World Champs, forgot to mention Elvira Montes. The 81-year-old grandmother from Ft. Worth had a huge cheering section (her daughter Renee lives here) as she pounded four beers to lower her own age group world record to 20:24.
O Austinite Rio Reina (of the Running Reinas from San Antonio) has officially left our fair city for Seattle. A sales manager for Implus, Rio moved to the Pacific Northwest so he can actually live in his territory. He’ll be missed.
O What I’m listening to this morning: “Without A Net,” yet another awesome live album by the Grateful Dead (circa 1990). Its surviving members are celebrating their 50th anniversary this week since its first gig as The Dead in Palo Alto, California.
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