Wednesday, January 20, 2016

One Race Closer to Legacy Status

My next relatively short-term goal: Attain Legacy Status with the Chevron Houston/Aramco Half Marathon.

It's an honor bestowed on runners who are loyal to this wonderful Houston event, and it's recognized by the race directors in several ways. First and foremost, the legacy runners are guaranteed entry into the event, no matter what. Even if the race goes back to lottery system. Even if the race is sold out. Nice benefit!

Legacy runners' names are listed at their website and in the program book published each year and placed in the race packets. And Legacy runners are given special race bibs to recognize their status on race day, making it a nice race souvenir to keep afterward. Ten finishes earns that status.

This year's Aramco Half Marathon will be my ninth. My full marathons don't count; Legacy status is for either the Half or the Full and no mix-and-match allowed. Of course, if I hadn't skipped Houston that one year in order to run the Louisiana Half Marathon, I'd be qualifying for Legacy status with this year's event.

So here we go....Aramco Houston Half Marathon #9!

Welcome sign for the expo

Packet pick-up at the Houston expo is always exciting. It is one of the biggest race expo's in the country, Lots of vendors selling running clothes, shoes, and related gear. Representatives from lots of other races there to promote their upcoming events. Some of our iconic local food companies, like Mahatma Rice and H.E.B. Grocery Stores there giving out free food samples. It all puts me into visual and aural overload!

No lines at packet pickup. Timing is everything

Friday afternoon I drove into downtown, parked easily in one of the $10 surface lots and walked the short two blocks to the expo. The packet pickup area was nearly empty, as I knew it would be on mid-afternoon on the first day. There is always an initial crush of people standing in line for the 11 AM start of the expo - folks trying to get it done on their lunch hour - and then the crowd dissipates mid-afternoon and picks back up again after 4 PM as folks leave work early to get their packets late afternoon and early evening.
Very cool mural made up of runner names

Cool Houston Skyline mural, made using the names of all the runners in this year's event.

The mural of runner names, sponsored by Dick's Sporting Goods

Within an hour I was ready to leave for home.


The next afternoon I packed a small bag with my running gear and my knitting and headed back downtown, stopping first at Subway sandwich shop and picking up a sandwich and snacks for dinner that evening. I checked into my favorite hotel within very easy walking distance of the start and finish, and settled in for the evening with my dinner in front of football games on TV.

The next morning - race day morning - was cold, colder than usual for this event.  Temps were in the high 30's with "feels like" temps in the low 30's. As I've aged and as I've become a slower runner, I feel the cold much more than ever. I wore two long sleeve shirts plus a singlet over that, thinking that three lightweight layers were better than two heavier layers. And if I got too warm, I reasoned, I could removed the outer long sleeve shirt and tie it around my waist.

Waiting in my corral for the race to start...very cold at the start

I was never too warm. The combo of three lightweight layers was perfect.  I removed my gloves around mile 6 or 7 but was otherwise comfortable for the entire distance of 13.1 miles.

I love this event! I have stuck with it since 2002 through its ups and downs, its corporate sponsor changes, its low period when participation was dropping, through it's lottery entry period when the event surged in popularity after Chevron took it over, instituted purse money and began attracting the truly international elite runners. The lottery entry requirement was dropped a year ago and the entire Houston running community rejoiced. The event still sells out, but not in minutes like it used to, prior to instituting the lottery system. In the last few years, the number of events that runners can choose from has soared, and runners have more choices which is no doubt easing the crush to register for Houston's well-established race event.

This race is one of my top favorites for so many reasons. It's so well-organized and supported in the community. The route, now that it's been changed to include a start which much better handles the number of runners, includes a much better first few miles from a runner and spectator point of view.

Thousands of spectators the entire way, dozens of portapotties at every mile and with no waiting lines, more than sufficient water and sports drink served by enthusiastic volunteers, and more music along the route than that for-profit racing franchise that touts having rock and roll music along the race course.

The half marathon route, data from my Garmin GPS watch

I love how the route now takes us down Washington St, then to Montrose, then down W. Gray which is lined with cheering hordes. Then through the lovely River Oaks district, down Shepherd, and then down Bissonnet through Rice University district and the Museum District and around the beautiful Mecom fountain. Gorgeous!

Somewhere along the route

The miles went by quickly and soon I found myself turning onto Allen Parkway at mile 11 with crowds cheering and the gorgeous Houston skyline ahead of me. These last 2 miles of the race are like no other race I've ever done.  Boston is like this, probably NYC, maybe Chicago, but Houston has every other race I've ever done beat by a mile when it comes to crowd support along this stretch of the race course. Running clubs set up their canopies along this route, and it's packed with cheering supporters! Hash House Harriers are always there and this year, for the first time, I actually took a cup of beer from them!

Then I was across the finish line and receiving my finisher's medal. Another perfect race day!

This is the only race event that I participate in that gives every entrant an event shirt with their race bib but then also gives them a very high quality (no sponsor graffiti on it) finisher shirt after crossing the finish line.  And the post-race food is to die for! Hot breakfast served by volunteers, including eggs, pancakes, waffles, sausage, bacon, pastries, fruit, yogurt. So much food!! Even better, a sit-down area with tables and chairs is provided for the runners, a real rarity indeed!


As I walked out of the convention center and headed toward my hotel to grab my bag and check out, I heard my name and turned to see a long-time running friend from my early days with the Clear Lake Fit running club. She had also just finished and was also walking back to the same hotel with her husband. We had a nice chat as we walked along. It was so good to see her again!

Houston Aramco Half Marathon #9 is now done. Just one more year and I'll attain Legacy status. And I'm already registered for next year!

1 comment:

  1. Great job and running, and in the cold too, brrr.

    I am now feeling positively fat and lazy from lack of exercise due to our over-wet winter. sigh. Come on spring.