Run for Texas

 

Although we live in Maine, far from Harvey’s path of devastation, we have close family and friends living in Houston. As the days of destruction unfolded while Harvey bore down on Texas, I found myself completely wrapped up in the events.  I eagerly awaited the emails from family recounting their experiences. Facebook posts marking family friends as safe were a relief.  Unbelievably, all of our family and friends escaped significant flooding to their homes. However, the impact of Harvey’s wrath continues for countless others.

One of the interesting outcomes from our quest to run a race in every state is that when we hear a reference to a place we have visited we have visual and experiential memories of the location. This is true for Houston.  Amelia, Mike, and I ran the Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon a few years ago.

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We were treated to wonderful southern hospitality by all of our Houston family and friends and had an opportunity to experience the city, which we loved.

When this article from Runner’s World magazine showed up in my email yesterday I eagerly scanned it for ways to help people affected by Harvey.  The article is packed with information and links to ways to contribute to the recovery efforts.

The Run for Texas virtual 5K or 10K idea caught my eye. If I signed up for every virtual race offer I get each week I’d be running a marathon.  The promise of another medal for running at home has never tempted me to participate. However, this run felt different. The description states that 100% of the race funds from this event will go to the American Red Cross and the Texas Diaper Bank.  I clicked the link and signed up.  I was pleased to see there is an option to make an additional contribution beyond the $5.00 entry fee.  I printed out my race bib, although opted not to wear it on my morning run.  I think our neighbors already think we are a bit crazy so the sight of me running past with a piece of computer paper pinned to my shirt would probably have solidified their conclusion.

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The skies were filled with dark clouds as I started out.  The now insignificant dregs of Tropical Storm Harvey were due to reach us later in the day.

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I went past the familiar sights along my route and used this quiet time to focus on the cause for this run.

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Although I’m not in a position to physically volunteer to help out in Texas, running this virtual race did help me feel like I was “doing something”. Of course, me running 3.1 miles doesn’t make any tangible difference but pairing that with my donation to the cause somehow felt more significant.

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I’m probably the only runner not using a Garmin to track my running but I liked having this visual of my run as I crossed the finish line (AKA stopped running at my mailbox).

Our good friend, Terry (who also happens to be Amelia’s mother-in-law) is a Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo volunteer.  She forwarded an email from this organization which provided additional links to ways to help with the Harvey relief efforts.  I chose the Houston SPCA. As a family with our own small menagerie, the photos of animals caught up in this horrendous event were especially poignant. When we listened to stories of people needing to evacuate their homes we imagined what that might be like if we faced a similar situation. Thoughts of how we would deal with our dogs, cats, and pony made the scenario extra scary and daunting.

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Returning from my run I felt pleased to have taken action to begin making my small contributions to help those impacted by this historic event.

I’m glad we know people in Houston who most importantly are safe but who will also be able to provide us with personal insight into how we can continue to make meaningful contributions to the recovery efforts as time goes on.

Here are some links to just a few of the ways to help:

Run for Texas

Runner’s World: Here’s How Runners Can Help With the Hurricane Harvey Relief Efforts

Houston SPCA

American Red Cross

Have you considered making a contribution to help out with Harvey recovery?

Have you ever done a virtual race?

Texas!

After weeks of training on snowy roads

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in single digit temperatures,

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clad in our special winter running gear,

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with our bodies covered in snow and our faces numb from the wind

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we were rewarded with 13.1 miles of running in nearly perfect racing conditions.

The Houston Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon provided this much needed respite from our extra intense Maine winter.  Mike and I chose this race for our Texas race because it gave us a wonderful opportunity to visit with great friends, Bill and Terry (who also happen to be Amelia’s in-laws), another dear friend, Rebecca, and my cousin, Janet, and her husband, John.  As an added bonus, Amelia signed up to run the race, too.  When Mike and I have traveled to new states to do races, we have often traveled by ourselves.  Having family and friends to visit on this trip truly made it much more enjoyable.

We flew into Houston

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 and immediately understood why they say “everything is bigger in Texas”.

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Stepping out of the airport into the sunny 70 degree weather started the thawing process. We traveled to Bill and Terry’s lovely home and eagerly ventured out for a walk, daringly leaving our boots and coats behind!

One of the aspects of traveling that we love is having the opportunity to see regional architecture, landscaping, and sights. Finding palm trees lining the spiffy retail area virtually around the corner from their quiet neighborhood was really unexpected.

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Bill and Terry took us to Central Market which is a short stroll from their home. We enviously surveyed the vast array of fresh produce, meat, fish, bread, cheese, wine, beer, and so much more that the market offers.

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 We bought a local beer and some Texas grapefruit to bring home to Hannah.

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 Dinner was at the renowned Goode Company where we enjoyed some authentic Texas BBQ.  This photo isn’t too great but the food certainly was!

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The next evening we were enjoying a glass of wine in the living room when four tuxedo-clad men walked into the house and announced that they were there to serenade Amelia with love songs!  Her husband, Matt, had arranged this special Valentine’s Day gift.  It was a charming experience to listen to this a capella quartet sing beautiful songs just feet from us. Afterward we were treated to some of Bill’s exquisite cooking as we savored a delectable Mexican dinner.

Our race was the next day.  Amelia, Mike, and I couldn’t stop commenting on how novel it was to be outside dressed in only shorts and a shirt.  The weather was perfect for our half marathon.  Cloudy skies and low 60 temps were just what we had dreamed of as we had pounded the pavement slogged along on snowy roads in Maine while training for this event.

The half marathon course was a double loop which was mostly flat.  The only hills occurred when the road dipped under overpasses.  There were several bands along the route which made for a festive run.  We loved being able to see Amelia three times when she ran past us on the other side of the course. She looked awesome each time we saw her which was especially terrific since it was her first race after coming back from a serious injury after running a marathon.

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Bill and Terry had biked to the course and cheered us on each time we ran past.  This was such an added treat since we are almost always running in areas where we don’t know anyone. They even took pictures!

It looks like I’m praying but I was actually just clapping.

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Here Mike has apparently abandoned me and has taken up with some other women!

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One of the perks of this race is that you can download all of the professional photos for free. This is one they took of Mike.

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Amelia finished first and took some photos of us as we neared the finish line.

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Amelia had a great race, missing a PR by just a few seconds.  Our race started out strong but I faded near the end of the race. Mike gallantly slowed his pace and stuck with me till the finish.  We nabbed our spiffy spinning guitar medals

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and headed to the food and beer tents with out little “good for one beer” ticket that had came with our race bib.  BUT they were out of beer!  How could that happen?? It seemed that everyone would be guaranteed their token (literally) beer with the ticket system.  Alas, this was not to be.

Although I was not thrilled with my run, we did get a snazzy shirt

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a bonus hat,

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and the especially terrific treat of having Amelia with us.

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Later that day we were greeted with more Texas hospitality when we arrived at Janet and John’s beautiful home on the outskirts of Houston.  They more than made up for the missing race beer by providing us with a vast array of new beers to sample.  Dinner was an “epicurean triumph” to use our grandfather’s famous phrase.  Once again, having a chance to visit with family added a wonderful new dimension to our racing quest.

A visit to the St. Arnold Brewery the next day continued to compensate us for our missed race beer. We signed up for the tour which includes tokens to sample four of their numerous beers.

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Although all of their beers were fantastic, Janet and I enjoyed their Weedwacker brew, Amelia loved the seasonal Spring Bock, and Mike and John seemed to be especially fond of Ale Wagger Brown.  St. Arnold Brewery donates a portion of their proceeds from Ale Wagger sales to local animal rescue organizations.

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We flew home on Fat Tuesday which was highlighted by our gate attendant’s attire.

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Our flight was delayed several hours due to weather-related issues but we were generously compensated with vouchers for use on a future flight.  This was a perfect way to end the trip to our nineteenth quest state as we look forward to our next adventure.

Where should we run next?

State: Texas

Quest Race#: 19

Race: Rhythm and Blues Half Marathon

Date Run: February 15, 2015

The Bottom Line: It was worth training in tough conditions for the reward of running in a warm climate.  But the truly best part of running in Texas was having a chance to visit with family and friends!