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.

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

So, the next race I want to run is in November. I have a while, but I just can't get into it. This brings up a great topic. When is it time to take a break from running? Here are the top reasons why you should:

  1. After a big race- Let's face it. You are just over it.
  2. During and coming back from an injury- We all want to keep going, but you have to stop if you want to get better.
  3. If you have a bad attitude or low motivation- You are obviously bored.
  4. You are not seeing progress- This could be a symptom of overtraining.
  5. You need to drop some serious weight and tone- You have hit a plateau and running can only take you so far.
  6. You are prepping for a race, but you have an early start.- This is a great opportunity to pick up another sport for a couple of months before your training begins.

If you have experienced any of these symptoms, it is time to pick up another sport. Don't worry, you are still a runner. Here are my suggestions on other sports that are not only a new challenge, but they also compliment your running addiction and will improve your running performance.

It's funny. All runners think alike. When I wanted to discuss this topic, I took to the internet. I knew which sports that I wanted to highlight, but I found this article by this guy who writes for Men's Running UK named Tom Bristow. He chose the exact same sports to discuss. This is me giving him his props.


Walking

I know walking. I built a business on it. Let me tell you a little bit about walking. It is not for wimps. If done correctly, walking is a full body workout that can burn anywhere from 90 to 200 calories. (Depending on whose walking). It reduces body fat and improves balance. It builds stronger bones and muscles in the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. Its great when done with others.

In Houston: I would say this, but join Houston Tourism Gym on a walking adventure.

Cycling

Cycling improves the muscles that you already use for running by making them stronger. It gives the hips and knees a break from the impact of pounding on the pavement. It improves flexibility and coordination as well as builds leg muscles. If you want massive, sexy calves like Fred, then try cycling.

In Houston: Try a social bike ride like Critical Mass or Tour de Taco.


Swimming

This activity is great for runners. Although it is a full body workout, swimming gives your running muscles a break while working out different sets of muscles. It strengthens muscles and joints. For runners, its a great alternative because it increases your cardio endurance and your VO2 Max. Swimming is also a fun and relaxing pastime. Lastly swimming is great for cooling off in hot-ass Houston.

In Houston: If you do not have a pool of your own, you can access one at your local gym or recreation centers like Emancipation Recreation Center.


Rowing:

Another full body workout that is great for runners. If you are injured, you get to get off your feet. But, don't discount this activity. When done right, it will work your entire body. It is best for improving respiratory function and body composition. If your goal is fat loss, rowing torches calories.

You can find a rowing machine at most gyms, but if you want the real thing, you can rent a kayak at The Waterworks at Buffalo Bayou and spend a day on the water.


Boxing:

Remember the scene where Rocky is running stairs at the Philadelphia Art Museum…running is a part of a boxer's training. So I guess runners should include boxing in their training. This is definitely a good idea if a runner wants to improve his or her speed and running posture. Improve your agility with the fancy footwork of a boxer. Learn better ways to breath. There is no other way to relieve stress than boxing. It strengthens your mental muscle and boost confidence. Lastly, boxing teaches you self defense when you find yourself on a lonely road.

In Houston: You could order equipment and box and home or you can get proper training from a boxing gym like Title Boxing Club.

So, before I get into some heavy training, I'm choosing a couple of these activities to get into. I'll let you know how it turns out. Please let me know which ones you have tried. Send your emails to info@tourismgymhtx.com.

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