Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Earning Legacy Status at Chevron Houston

I've now run the Chevron Houston Aramco Half Marathon ten times! This qualifies me for Legacy Status! I'll never reach legacy status for full marathons since I'm no longer able to finish that distance within the time limits, but am happy to have reached this milestone with the half marathon.

The first time I ran the Houston marathon (26.2 miles) was in 2002. I was never a runner until the year leading up to that year's marathon. I cheered a friend at the 2001 marathon and saw the inspiration I needed to salve the grief of losing my husband. I trained for, and then ran the 2002 marathon, raising money for American Cancer Society (ACS). Over the next few years I continued to raise money for ACS through my running.

News article appearing in Houston Chronicle, 2003 (click here to enlarge).

Over the years since my first marathon, I've witnessed all of the changes that have taken place in the sponsorship and management of this race. The first year I ran it, the race was sponsored by Compaq and was called the Compaq Houston Marathon. The next year the sponsorship changed to Hewlett Packard. This began what I would consider the "dark" years of this race, when purse money dried up and the world-class elite runners stayed away.

2002 Compaq Marathon. Near mile 25 on Allen Parkway. Note the near
absence of any spectators. It's totally different today!

2003 HP Marathon, at mile 18.
2004 HP Marathon, mile 21

When Chevron took over as corporate sponsor, purse money returned - big money - and the world-class elite and Olympic runners returned. The race grew in size to the point that getting registered for the race meant sitting at the computer as soon as registration opened and attempting to get registered before the race sold out. This sometimes meant hitting the 'send' button repeatedly as the website was overloaded with runners trying to register. The race sold out within hours! The start of the Chevron sponsorship era coincided with my retirement from work and, at the same time, my decision to stop running full marathons.

It was in these early Chevron sponsorship years that I felt the race event had 'sold its soul' in order to attract the elites. All of the race event's efforts and promotion went toward catering to the elite runners, at the expense of the thousands of everyday runners like me. It seemed to be all about filling up the field, not about making the race experience itself enjoyable for the  'weekend warrior' runners. No doubt this was to attract the elites back to Houston after several 'no purse' years.

The demand for registrations became so great that the race went to a lottery system of entry. For the next few years, I was lucky to get in all but one year. The last year of the lottery, I had reached 5+ year early registration status which granted me early guaranteed registration. The next year they did away with the lottery. By that point there were so many other races to choose from, including an excellent full/half marathon held in nearby Baton Rouge on the same weekend, that the demand to get into Houston had eased up enough that, while the field does fill up every year, it's not a frenzy in the first few hours when registration first opens. This increased competition for runners' money and time was no doubt the reason the registration crush had eased, and for eliminating the lottery system.

But then something changed. It was noticeable immediately, and seemed to coincide with the major change to the race route. Gone was the dreadful start across Elysian Viaduct and through the depressing and shabby 5th Ward neighborhood of Houston. Gone was the sterile, near North Side section and then into the Heights, and gone were the dreadful out-and-back 4 miles on Montrose. The change to safer, more up-scale neighborhoods has meant large numbers of spectators now line the race route.

Chevron Houston Aramco Half Marathon route (data from my Garmin GPS watch)
Old portion of the route is in green.
Now the route departs downtown straight down Congress Street to Washington Ave. It's a start route that's along wide, open streets, through the revitalized Market Square Park area. It totally eliminates the stretch through The Heights, instead including a big section through the River Oaks neighborhoods, down to the Rice Village area and then over to the Museum District.

With this greatly improved route, the miles just seem to fly by. The last two miles down Allen Parkway are one giant party along the median, with all the local running clubs and their tents set up, the cheering, the beer! It's become a much better "user friendly" race than it ever was in those years when I was just becoming a runner.

The race organization got much better. Start corrals were instituted, the finish line organization was much more logical, and race swag greatly improved. The post-race feast for the finishers, put on by HEB inside George R. Brown convention center, is one of the biggest and best in the country.

Welcoming the runners to GRB in 2017

So here I am, in 2017, finishing my 10th Half Marathon, which qualifies me for Legacy status. It will give me guaranteed registration every year, a special racing bib, and other perks. As long as I'm still able, I'll always hold this weekend in January open for this race!

Packet pickup for Chevron Houston races

I drove to GRB convention center on Friday to pick up my race packet, shop the plentiful vendors, and then grabbed a Starbucks at the Hilton next door. The next day I packed my running things, grabbed a Subway sandwich to take with me, then drove back into town to the hotel where I've stayed for the last two Houston marathons.

Visiting the Route 66 Marathon staff at the Chevron Houston marathon expo

Really cool autograph wall at the expo

I got up the next morning, had breakfast in my room of Cheerios and a banana, then walked the mile to get to my corral at Preston and Caroline. It was a short wait before our corral was released to cross the start line. The weather was warm and very muggy, and the stark contrast between the weather and my shorts and short-sleeve shirt this weekend to the low 20's temps and layers of clothing in last weekend's race was comical.

Finisher medal for 2017 Chevron Houston Aramco Half Marathon

12 miles later, as I entered downtown, it began to rain....heavily! I couldn't look up because the rain was hitting my face so hard, and when I did try to peek ahead to check my progress, the rain was so heavy that visibility was only a block or two. Rain was pouring off the bill of my running hat as I crossed the finish line and walked through the chute to claim my finisher medal and work my way into the GRB to claim my very nice finisher shirt. The A/C was turned on full blast inside the GRB. Wet clothes, cold A/C = instant goose bumps! I thought about going through the food line but I was getting very cold and beginning to shiver a little. So I blew off the fabulous food just to get back outside where it was a little warmer.

I hurried to my hotel room, grabbed my bag, and headed to the car, driving home in my soaking wet running clothes. But it sure felt good to sit down, get warm and know that I was done and on my way home.

Another half marathon done! This makes 97 life-time half marathons, my 10th half marathon with Chevron Houston marathon. I am now a Chevron Houston Legacy runner!



2 comments:

  1. Wow! Congrats on the legacy status and running that many half marathons. What shall you do to celebrate when you make it to # 100?

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