H-Town Run Tourist: Houston Favorite

Get your exercise on and your culture on at Hermann Park

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Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com. Follow her on Twitter @jovanabernathy. Instagram @TourismGymHtx. Facebook @TourismGymHtx

I was taking a drive through Hermann Park the other day. It gave me so many memories. When I waited tables in Rice Village, I would sneak in extra mileage and hill training on my breaks. I wanted to see how much I could do without being late to work. As a matter of fact, I have had a lot of personal memories at Hermann Park. Chances are, you have too. If not, here are a few reasons to visit Hermann Park to make a few memories of your own.

Sam Houston Statue

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But first, a little Hermann History.

Hermann Park is a hub for exercise, hard- core training, golf and culture that sees 6 million Houstonians and tourists a year. 105 years ago, a real estate investor named George Hermann deeded the city of Houston the land that has become 445 acres of green space that is now the Hermann Park that we know and love. Here is a fun fact: Did you know that in 1922, the Hermann Park Golf Course became the first public golf course to welcome all races?

*Cited from the Hermann Park original website.

Rodents of Unusual Size

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Abundant foliage and wildlife.

Take a walk through the Japanese Flower Gardens and you will see all of the trees and lily pads in the water. If you continue walking, you will walk into families of ducks and geese. Your run may begin here with the geese chasing you. Stay away from their goslings. They won't tell you twice. And they do have facial recognition. During spring, you will see not one, not two, but over a hundred turtles. You may also see some nutria swimming in the pond as well. I don't know why I'm not more afraid of these Rodents of Unusual Size. I guess, I respect how they just do them and not get all up in mine. That's pretty cool.

Run around the golf course on the cinder path.

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Get your exercise on.

So, obviously, we are talking about a park. When I think park, the first thing I think of is exercise. When I was training for the 2008 Houston Marathon with Kenyan Way, we used Hermann Park for extra mileage that was easy to calculate and it was a great way to get from the Museum District to Rice University. Those were some long days, but worth it. You can definitely enjoy a 4-5 mile run or a walk around the golf course, the refection pool, and through the Japanese Gardens. The best thing is not only is the scenery ever-changing, but its all on the luxurious cushion of the cinder path that is oh so good on your joints. There is also workout equipment in the park as well as a full-on weight room in the community center.

McGovern Centennial Gardens

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Picture worthy landmarks.

Of course, there are some amazing wildlife and foliage in Hermann Park, but there are some amazing picture worthy landmarks as well. Jesse Jones Reflection Pond and Mecom Fountain come straight to mind. Jesse Jones Reflection Pond is also great for a picnic lunch and a good book as well as sprint running with a slow rising hill. The Pyramid at McGovern Centennial Gardens offers a great photo opportunity and some great hill running. Just make sure that no one else is there. Of course, there is the Sam Houston Statue that caused a lot of controversy in the last couple of years. I'm going to say it. Remember, this is coming from a black woman and said with love. Who wasn't racist and owned slaves back then? That is what they did. You can't just rip up Houston and Texas history because of this. Regardless of the man's political stance, this statue is part of Houston history and should be left alone. I will continue to take pictures by it and that is that.

Treat yourself right at Miller Outdoor Theatre

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Miller. Outdoor. Theatre.

Enough said. One of my first expressions of self love and care as an adult was at Miller Outdoor Theatre. I brought a picnic meal complete with pate and cheeses along with a blanket to the hill at Miller. I was determined to enjoy my own company while enjoying some culture. It took some getting used to, but it was the first time that I had a great time by myself. We are done being existential. Today, you can still enjoy performances that range from Shakespeare to Bollywood, from Ragtime to Chinese Ballet to Hip Hop and children's plays. All for free. Just don't bring glass or weed.

Lots of performances

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Really awesome events.

Whether you are on vacation, just moved here, or a long time resident, you will definitely enjoy the amazing events at Hermann that are for all ages. Bring your kite to the Annual Kite Festival and you will find 10,000 other friends who love to fly kites just as much as you do. Other events include Hats in the Park, Evening in the Park, and Run in the Park.

See the Dark Side of the Moon at Burke Baker Planetarium

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It is the hub to the Museum District and the Houston Zoo.

Park your car once and you will not need to move it all day. Hermann Park is a few footsteps to the Houston Zoo (ooh Zoo Lights is going on right now!), the Museum of Natural Science. (Burke Baker Planetarium shows the Dark Side of the Moon most evenings at 5pm. You know Pink Floyd.) Don't forget the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston.

Hermann Park has something for everyone. You could be a family of five with young children, a couple getting to know each other, or a tourist from Abu Dhabi staying at Hotel Zsa Zsa. You will definitely get a taste of Houston culture and hospitality.


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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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