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Austin’s Runners Flock Together in Varied Fall Marathon Training Groups

By our very nature, we runners tend to be solitary folks, largely absorbed in our own individual pursuits, races and training. We aren’t joiners as much as do’ers.

If this stereotype is true, Austin’s legions of runners must not have read the memo. Because, here in the ATX, marathoners flock together in training groups in unprecedented numbers. Of the approximately 6-8000 Central Texans who will run either the 3M Half Marathon on January 19th or the Austin Marathon/Half Marathon on February 16th , at least half are part of one organized training group or another.

In other running cities, the running clubs dominate the training and social network. Here, the main marathon influence comes from the training groups that prepare everyone from the raw beginners to the sub-3-hour marathoners for the fall and winter marathon season. With some of the training groups, the social outlets are almost as important as the long runs.

The sheer number of training groups (and the number of coaches) in Austin is astounding. A partial list includes Austin and Round Rock Fit, Al’s Ship of Fools, Galloway Austin, Gilbert’s Gazelles and the biggest by far, Rogue Training Systems. Also, several of the best running stores in the area such as Luke’s Locker, Hill Country Running and Texas Running Company also offer their own training programs. In addition, there are a few ad hoc groups such as Team Mac (Mac Allen’s group) scattered around the Austin area as well as several personal coaches.

Each group offers a little something different and caters to a  certain running demographic, but the common purpose of all the groups is camaraderie, structured training schedules, speed workouts and hydration support on long runs. Most of the groups are just getting started for the fall semester, but some training groups meet year ‘round and target major events such as the Chicago Marathon, Boston or New York.

One common goal of all the training groups is the Austin Marathon  and or Half. Those training groups are just getting started so there’s still time to join one.

Here’s a runner’s guide at several of most prominent marathon training groups:

Rogue Training Systems: www.roguerunning.com

The largest, most sophisticated and organized of all the Austin-area training groups, Rogue has a wide network of coaches, training locations and different levels of workouts. Rogue, which was started up in 2008 by Ruth England, Steve Sisson and Carolyn Mangold, has grown from a RunTex off-shoot into one of the best training programs around which serves everyone from the pure beginner to advanced marathoners trying to win their age group.

Rogue utilizes more than 30 certified coaches who customize training schedules for 2500 runners enrolled in one of its 50 different programs. For the fall, more than 800 runners will be in one of Rogue’s marathon training programs that are geared for one of the major fall races (Dallas, San Antonio or Houston) as well as  the Austin Marathon or half.

“We offer training programs for every different level of runner,” says Ruth England who heads Rogue. “I think the greatest advantage we have is flexibility in our schedules. Regardless of your schedule, there’s always a group for you. Plus, we have different locations for our training groups. To maintain the quality of our coaching, we also limit each class to 30 runners.”

Rogue has some of the best coaches in Austin, including Warren Brown, Amy Anderson, Chris McClung, Erik Stanley, Phil Carmical, Allison Macsas and Carmen Troncoso.

Even though Rogue offers cycling, trail running and triathlon training, the guts of what it does are the marathon training programs. An early group already began in July, but most of the 24-week marathon training groups begin on September 1st, but some don’t get underway for another week or two. But even if you’re late, you can still register and there’s plenty of time left to get ready for the marathon. Most training groups meet twice a week, but some of the advanced groups meet three times.

Long runs: Saturday or Sunday.
Basic cost: $56 a month (for 24-week marathon training program).
For more info, call Alison Macsas@ 512/493-0920 or email her (allison@roguerunning.com).

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Gilbert’s Gazelles: www.gilbertsgazelles.com

Another RunTex spin-off, Gilbert’s Gazelles is owned, coached and managed by Gilbert Tuhabonye, the charismatic, genocide-surviving, former international runner from Burundi (by way of Abilene Christian). The Gazelles are not the size of Rogue, but fanatical in their devotion to Tuhabonye and his cousin and coach, Bernard Manirakiza who lead most workouts. And for anybody who might be intimidated, Gilbert is one of the most approachable guys around.

“Runners come to me for PRs,” says Tuhabonye. “But everyone is welcome. When you join the Gazelles, we talk about what goals you want to accomplish and then we help you reach them.”

The Gazelles are the most competitive group in Austin and many of the workouts, according to Tuhabonye, are “demanding and spirited but that’s what my runners want”.

Broken into seven different training groups, the Gazelles number about 300 runners, ranging from first-timers to some of the top age-group runners and triathletes in town. The Gazelles have four coaches who write workouts and plan long runs. On the long runs, a different route is used each Saturday and there is Gatorade and water in coolers at announced spots all along the route.

Most Gazelles meet three times a week for group workouts, typically on Monday (hills and pace work), Wednesday (speed and drills) and Saturday (long runs). Other than the early-morning start for Saturday long runs, the groups either meet at 5:45 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. From August-December and January-May, a special group for stay-at-home moms meets Monday and Wednesday mid-mornings or Tuesday and Thursday.

The Gazelles now meet at three different locations for workouts: Circle C or the nearby Arbor Trails, Far West, and a downtown location, usually Texas Running Company at 5th Street, near Lamar.

Training is year-round, but the winter marathon training groups that begin in September lasts for 18-20 weeks.

“We go to races together and always support each other,” says Tuhabonye. “The Gazelles is more like a family than just someplace to train.”

Long runs: Saturday.
Basic cost: $70 monthly or $275 for five months.
For more info, call Michael Madison 512/589-1310 or email Michael@gilbertsgazelles.

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Galloway Austin: www.galloway.com

In its eighth year, Galloway Austin is a marathon training program, primarily for the beginner. Designed by famed coach and one-time Olympian Jeff Galloway, his 17-28 week program for San Antonio Rock ‘n’ Roll began in July, but the Austin Marathon program begins in mid-August with as little as three miles of running which gradually inches up a mile at a time. For the true beginners who are just getting started, the program takes them from zero miles (just walking) to five-mile runs in 10 weeks and then begins marathon training.

There are dozens of Galloway Training groups all over the country and the foundation of each one is the run/walk. That is, every long run is interspersed with regular walk breaks.

“The walk breaks are great for beginners,” says Will Carlson who directs the Galloway program in Austin, “because they allow you to stretch out your longs run and also help you recover quicker.”

The walk breaks vary from runner to runner, but as each runner becomes fitter the walk breaks get shorter and the running goes longer. In the marathon itself, most Galloway runners will run for five minutes, followed by a one-minute walk break.

Galloway Austin has about 200 runners in five different groups and there are 15 coaches. The groups meet just once a week for the long runs, but a weekly schedule is emailed.

“Even though some of the groups started in July,” says Carlson, “you can join us anytime. For more info, call 653-9103 or email Will directly at carlsonwill@prodigy.net.

Long runs: Saturday or Sunday.
Cost: $159 for new runners; $99 if continuing.

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Twenty-Six Two Marathon Club

One of the fastest growing training groups in town is this “club” which was founded by Paul Carmona in 2004 with just five members. For the first few years, Twenty-Six—a non-profit–was mostly a small group of women, but it has grown to over 100 runners (male and female) and is open to anyone who has run at least one marathon. But, some first-time marathoners are welcome to join.

Marathon training usually lasts for 24 weeks. Training for the Austin Marathon begins on August 31st with are a variety of training groups, targeting different races. The groups usually meet twice a week, once for an evening workout and then either Saturday or Sunday morning for long runs. Carmona, a highly experienced marathoner and Ironman triathlete, is the only coach for Twenty-Six and he is there for almost all workouts.

Long runs: Saturday or Sunday, meeting either at Tetra Fitness on West 6th or at The Rock.
Cost: $100 for members; $150 for non-members, plus prepayment of $26.20 club dues. Half-marathon training is free to members and non-members.
Info: Contact Carmona at paulruns@gmail.com.

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Hill Country Running

Conveniently located at one of two stores—one is on Lamar, just steps away from the Hike and Bike Trail and the other is in North Austin, off Parmer—the HCR marathon programs are designed primarily for either San Antonio or Austin marathons.

Both programs began in mid-July, but are still open and free. Approximately 300 runners trained with HCR last year for Austin or San Antonio and just as many are training this year. Groups meet twice a week at either store: Thursday nights for a quality workout and Sunday mornings for a long run.

HCR employs 10 coaches for its marathon programs, including store owners Jamie Cleveland and Andrea Fisher.

Long runs: Sunday.
Contact: Either store for info (512/294-2866 or 512/716-0967) or email Jamie@hillcountryrunning.com or aaron.greer@hillcountryrunning.

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Austin Runners Club

The oldest running club in town, the ARC has long had its own training groups for the Austin Marathon and Half-Marathon (February 16th). Training for both races starts up on August 6th, but anyone can join at any time. And no, you don’t need to be an ARC member to participate. All training programs are free.

Approximately 100 runners are training for Austin this fall with ARC coaches Jeff Burrus or Al Cummings. The group meet three times a week: Tuesday and Thursday evenings at O Henry Middle School (2610 W. 10th Street) and Saturday mornings at the zero mile marker on  the Hike and Bike Trail (just west of the South 1st Street Bridge) for long runs.

Long runs: Saturday.
For info: contact Al Cummings (acummings@texasbar.com) or 512/924-5151.

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Tri Zones Training: www.trizones.com

One of the smaller groups in town, Tri Zones is an outgrowth of a triathlon training program which has expanded to include the marathon and the half. About 50-50 runners meet twice a week at Murchison School (off Far West) in north Austin on Wednesday for marathon training or Small Middle School in south Austin on Tuesday, under the direction of Tracy Nelson.

Now in its 10th year, TriZones is mostly women who like to incorporate a lot of cross-training into their marathon training. “We have plenty of first-time marathoners,” says Nelson, “but before they start marathon training, we like them to be able to do an eight-mile run.”

TriZones training for the marathon or half doesn’t get underway until late September as many of the athletes are still fit from triathlon training. “We’re mostly mid to back-of-the-packers,” says Nelson. “We aren’t quite as hard core as some of the other training groups and we try to emphasize fun and community Our small size allows us to do individual coaching and we focus a lot on technique and cross-training.”

Long runs: Saturday.
Cost: $200.
For info: Contact Tracy Nelson at 512/331-4686.

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Austin and Round Rock Fit: www.Austinfit.com; www.Roundrockfit.com

A member of USA Fit (as is Round Rock Fit), Austin Fit has about 500 runners enrolled in its various programs for either the Austin Marathon or half and Round Rock Fit has another 400. The Austin groups are sponsored by Luke’s Locker which manages all the operational support, including coaching and schedules.

Both Austin and Round Rock groups cater to beginning runners and walkers—although they are not limited to first-timers. Some train to walk the entire marathon.

The Austin Fit training for the marathon and half begin August 17th, culminating with the races on February 16th. The Austin group meets at Luke’s, just off the trail at Lamar, while the Rock Rock group meets at Old Settler’s Park.

Austin Fit has approximately 60 volunteer coaches, including walking  coaches, who work with a variety of training groups. The fee for Austin and Round Rock Fit is $110 for the 26-week training program which includes a training schedule, seminars and two workouts a week. It’s $85 for returning runners.

“We are training runners of all levels,” says Jennifer Harney who heads the Austin Fit coaching programs for Luke’s. “We welcome everyone who wants to train for either the marathon or half and provide everything a runner needs.”

Long runs: Saturday.
Costs: $90.
For info: Contact Jennifer Harney (jenniferharney@lukeslocker.com or call her at the store (512/482-8676).  For Round Rock Fit, email Cat Misti (rrfit26@AOL.com).