My favorite moments as a Mile 9 road guard

Why you should volunteer at the 2020 Chevron Houston Marathon

Jovan Abernathy

Jovan Abernathy is an international marathoner and owner of Houston Tourism Gym. To claim your free tour, contact her at info@tourismgymhtx.com

It's January. And January, in Houston, always means the Chevron Houston Marathon. Since I ran my big race in October in Iceland, I was not running Houston. I still wanted to take part in the festivities of the race, so I volunteered. This was my first time to volunteer for the race. It was such an amazing experience that I made a list of my favorite moments of the Chevron Houston Marathon.

1. Recruiting volunteers.

Cold, willing, and ready.

Sure I host long distance walking tours in Houston. What I'm really doing is trying to get everyone to run a half or full marathon. I saw the Houston Marathon as a great way to plant some seeds. It didn't surprise me that finding volunteers was so easy. Houston is such a hospitable city, I knew there would be no problems. In the end, Houston Tourism Gym donated 10 volunteers to the marathon. Not bad for a first time.

2. Making motivational running posters.

On Friday, we met for final details and to make motivational posters for the runners. Some of the volunteers, like Paula, were born clever. She proudly holds up her poster that said: "Hurry up, its cold out here." For the rest of us, we depended on A website called BestMotivationalRunningPostersEver.com Just Joking. There were some good articles online on the topic though.

3. Waking up in the cold.

Paula had a damned fine point. On Wednesday, it was apparent that this marathon would be cold. Some dropped out, but most of us grinned and bared it. On the day of the race, to beat the road closures, we had to get up at 4:30am. We kept reminding ourselves that the runners needed us.

4. Getting our official race crew jackets.

Our sector captain came bearing many gifts. The coffee, kolaches, and donuts were cool, but everyone was waiting on their official race crew jackets. We all lined up for our very own navy blue windbreaker jacket with the Chevron Houston Marathon Logo and RACE CREW printed across the back.

5. Seeing the wheelchair contestants whiz by.

Hell of an arm workout.

I love seeing the wheelchair racers. Even if I am running the race myself, I make sure that I get at least one picture. They make the coolest pictures, but you have to be quick. Those guys are fast. Can you imagine a 26.2 mile bicep and tricep workout.

6. When the elite runners pass by.

That's some high quality H2O.

You can always tell the elite runners. They look like graceful gazelles. Sometimes I laugh when I hear beginners talk like they can actually win the race on their first try. The marathon committee knows the top four or five people who are competing to win. I saw the proof on Sunday. These tables were set out marked for the top elites. Each elite has their own water bottle to drink from. As soon as they pass, they take down the tables.

7. Serving the gummy bears, jelly beans, and pretzels to the runners.

I remember when I ran Houston in 2008. When I was just leaving West Park and coming onto Richmond, there was a 10 year old girl with gummy bears. She offered me some as I passed her. I literally stopped in my tracks and ran back to her to get my gummy bear. I was forever grateful. I mean forever because that was 10 years ago. So my volunteers and I paid it forward. The runners definitely appreciated it.

8. Cheering for the runners.

James is soliciting high fives.

Everyone of my team did their best cheering. Mother and daughter, Juanice and Aneysia, cheered together. One thing is for sure. This is not their first rodeo. I hope they still have their voices. Houston Thanks you!

9. Performing our job duties.

We were the official road guards of Mile 9. We were stationed at Rice Blvd. and Greenbrier St. We were charged with keeping the runners on course and the spectators off the course. Rice University is not a defiant area. This made our job easy. Andrew, another volunteer, is an officer with the US Customs and Border Protection. Nothing got past him. At one point, I saw a gentleman step too close to the course and quick as a flash, he commands, "I'm going to need you to step back sir." Well done. I would not argue with that.

10. Electing the most impressive runner.

Let's get this straight. All of the runners were impressive. We really loved the duo of Superman and his hot dog. I saw a couple of Wonder Women. A guy was running while carrying the American flag. But, the blind runner being led by his pacer always gets me. And some people say they can't run.

11. "Running" into my old classmate on the course.

It happened while I was soliciting gummy bears. A tall guy almost got clothlined by my arm. I quickly moved out of the way to see that it was Lee Risinger from high school. I yell at the top of my lungs, “Go Lee Risinger! It's Jovan from Dickinson High School." I could hear him say hello from down the street.

He is one of my Facebook friends and I remembered seeing him post pictures of him running races. When I got home, I sent him a message. We got to catch up,but I really wanted to know how his race went.

It turns out that Lee started running about 5 years ago and lost 120 lbs. This was his first full marathon. Despite a nagging ankle injury, he finished in 6 hours 07min before collecting his medal. According to Lee, his favorite part of the race was all the support and hospitality. He loved the course and the port-o-potties were immaculate. His next race is the Seabrook Marathon. You go Lee!


Lee shows off his medals.

The road blocks have been picked up. All the trash is gone. You have a whole year to think about and train for the 5K, half, of full marathon. If not, at least volunteer. It is well worth it.

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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

If you are anything like me, you love the beginning of the year. You check all the running calendars and pick out all your races for the year. You go to the local running store and buy your new shoes. You even get a pair of new socks to go with them. You download some music....to get ready for your first run of the season. You get to the park and put your feet on the cinder path. You about a quarter of a mile in......and you run out of steam. You are just not as motivated as you thought. I know I'm not the only one. Because I made it my job to motivate you I have created a short list of things that can motivate you quickly.

Nothing like good tunes on the open road.

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Music

This sounds like the obvious answer. Of course music is motivating. When was the last time that your heard a song and really felt it? Like, you really got it. When I trained for the Houston marathon in 2008, I was really feeling Refugee by Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers. I had come off of a rough patch and I was ready to move forward. Tom, singing his heart out with, "You don't have to live like a refugee." just resonated with me because I knew that I was not going back to that. I got to acknowledge the hardship, recognize that it was significant and that it was over and agree to move on. This leads me to my training for the 2009 Honolulu Marathon. No Drama by Mary J. Blige was the song. I decided to actively "allow no more drama in my life." Those songs got me through training and the finish line.

Who is your favorite superhero?

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Your favorite Superhero.

My favorite thing to do when I run is to pretend that I have superhuman strength and abilities. I imagine myself in different scenarios overcoming odds and doing super cool things just for the hell of it. Because running did not come naturally for me, it felt like I needed superhuman powers to get through a run. It really seemed to fit. Here are a couple of superheroes who have always done it for me:

The Juggarnaut: Because once he gets started and gains momentum, he cannot be stopped. Not by rain or a heavy wind blowing against him or a slow and steady incline that never seems to end.

The Wolverine: He heals fast. It you have a cramp, a sprain, a pull, or your legs, toes, or feet are hurting, you can be the Wolverine and it will heal in about 10 secs.

The Phoenix: The bad thing about the Phoenix is that there is nothing that she can't do so, for this exercise, you have to be specific. This helps me take my mind off of pain and think about something I like to call "micro impossibilities." If the concrete of the road is bothering your joints, you could imagine that you are the Phoenix and that you can change your drops of sweat into a path that you can run on instead of the concrete. And everyone knows that running on sweat is great for your joints!

Live oaks look like lightening.

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Nature

Nature has a lot of things to glean inspiration from. I am obsessed with fractal patterns. Fractal patterns are reoccurring patterns in nature. They signify how things start from a small seed, grows and replicates. They are the natural order of things and a great example of why science is so cool and how and why you can count on it every single time.

They make me think about all the possibilities that are out there and how everything is connected. Live oaks are native to Houston. Have you ever noticed that the trunk and branches of a live oak tree look exactly like lightning. I see a row of live oaks and I think of a thunder storm because it looks just like that. I makes me think of having a brainstorm. I always ask myself: What else do I have up there? See how this works. Flowers and leaves are great for this too.

If you are on your next run and you are starting to run out of gas or feel pain, remember to look up, look down, and definitely don't forget to look inside yourself. You will find yourself at the finish line.

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