Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cowtown 50K - 2/28/09

The Cowtown in Fort Worth, TX was this year's annual reunion run for the National Black Marathoners' Association (NBMA). The Cowtown offers a 5K, 10K, half marathon, marathon, and 50K - essentially a run for everyone. Tony (TX) and Charlotte (GA), the founders and directors of the NBMA, choose races that offer multiple distances so that everyone in the club can run. It is not a requirement to actually run a marathon to be a member of the NBMA. Those who walk 5K's are welcome.

Even though I've been a member for years, I had missed every reunion run. I decided last year that no matter what I'd participate in the 2009 reunion run. The NBMA has previously gathered at the Cleveland Marathon, Lewis and Clark Marathon, New Jersey Marathon, and Lost Dutchman Marathon. Next year the reunion run will be held at the ING Atlanta Marathon.

When my plane landed at DFW, I picked up my rental car and headed to the Expo. I was going to meet my running buddy, Fred (OH), as he was allowing me to share his suite on Friday night before the race. Fred is such a sweetheart! He gave me the bed, and he slept on the couch. And Fred is tall, so he could not have been too comfortable! When I offered to give him something on the room, he refused. You can't ask for a better buddy than that.

When I arrived at the Expo to pick up my packet, I was told that, yes, I was registered, but no, there was not a packet available for me. With over 17,000 people registered for the various distances, this is bound to happen every now and then, I thought, so there was no need to panic. I was pointed to the "solutions" table to get the issue resolved. On my way there, I saw Fred. Bless his heart, unbeknownst to me, he had already picked up my packet, along with a few of his other running buddies' packets. He and his back pack were loaded up with race numbers, t-shirts, and goody bags. See, I told you he was a sweetheart!

We then proceeded to the NBMA booth to chat with other members. I am not an Expo person. Unless I specifically need something (shoes, new socks, new tights, etc), I do not spend time wandering around the Expo. You can spend so much money at the Expo, which is the whole purpose for the exhibitors. To avoid the temptation, I usually pick up my packet, go get dinner, and take it back to my hotel room. Once I eat, it's usually time for bed. Most of these races start at the crack of dawn, and a few of them will start in the dark, lol. And since I'm out there all day it seems, getting a good night's rest is essential. I also normally don't go to the pasta parties, if they're offered. If the price is not already included in the fee, the price is always more than what I'd normally spend on dinner. But the main reason I don't participate in the pasta parties is that I'm basically a shy person. One-on-one, I may talk your head off, but put me in a room with a bunch of people that I do not know, and I climb back into my shell. It's crazy, I know, but I've never claimed to be of sound or sane mind, lol. Fred, on the other hand, is very social. Since we were staying together, I was basically following his lead. So we go to NBMA booth.

It's been a long time since I've seen Tony. This year's Cowtown Marathon was his 100th marathon. Congratulations, Tony, on a job well done! He's completed the Cowtown Marathon 19 times, and I believe, the Cowtown Marathon was his first marathon. So, he's come full circle, so to speak. Tony is also the first black person to complete a marathon on all 7 continents, a very elite group, I might add. Another special thing about Tony is that he has basically cured himself of diabetes through his running. He's been featured in Runner's World magazine, owns his on CPA firm, written several books, and is a professional speaker. A truly remarkable man in my eyes!

Tony contacted me a few years ago after we ran the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, KS. We were the only 2 black people there if I remember correctly, and the internet makes it so easy to find anyone these days that, even though we didn't have the opportunity to talk during the marathon (we were on slightly different paces), he found me and told me about the NBMA. I've been a member ever since.

I also finally met Charlotte. My first thoughts - wow, she's tall and thin, a beautiful sister. We chatted for a while and I found out that she's a triathlete. Not being a swimmer, I admire anyone that can balance three sports and still have a life. I also met her husband, and I even ran a little with him during the race. He's tall and thin as well. They are a wonderful set of bookends, lol. Marvin (I hope I remembered his name correctly) admitted that Charlotte's the speedster in the family. She certainly sped by me during the race, lol, asking if I'd seen her husband. He was slightly ahead of me after he continued to run, while I took a walk break. I told her that he was ahead of us, but I'm sure she caught up to him in no time. I look forward to seeing them next year at the NBMA's reunion run in GA.

I had met Gillis (OH) at the Tupelo Marathon in MS a couple of years ago. Gillis is a speedster as well. We checked into our hotel in Tupelo at the same time, and I introduced myself. Tony had told me previously to look for him at the race. Even if we hadn't met at the hotel, the Tupelo Marathon is small enough that we would have eventually seen each other. It was good to see him again at Cowtown. He sped past me during the race on his way to a 4:08:46 marathon finish. Nice work, Gillis!

I had not seen Lillard (KS) for a while. We ran a lot of the same races when we were both pursuing the States. He told me that he broke his ankle(?) during the NYC Marathon(?) and had been out of commission until it healed. It was good to see him out on the roads again. We ran together a little at the start of the race, but I had to drop back before his pace killed me, lol. He went on to finish the marathon in 5:26:53. Way to go, my friend!

I met several other members, notably Gerald (TX) and Nancy (TX), whose also Fred's running buddy. All in all, hanging out at the NBMA booth was a good idea.

We then proceeded to the Jubilee Theatre, about a block from the Expo, for the NBMA's "meet-and-greet". There were probably about a 100 members seated in the theatre, an awesome sight for my sore eyes. I was so proud to sit with so many of my running sisters and brothers, all ready for the challenge of running their chosen distance.

Tony made his opening remarks, introduced the board members (Tony, Charlotte, Gillis, and Gerald), and told us that we had "celebrities" among us. First, he introduced us to another black male who had also completed a marathon on all 7 continents. It just so happens that he and Tony have the same birthday. How cool is that!

Next up was a guy I've seen before, but had never met, who runs with the Achilles Track Club. I had seen him with my running buddy, Cathy (NY), but what I did not know about Don (NY) was that he had run 35 marathons AFTER his heart transplant. Good grief! If anyone ever gives me a lame excuse about why they don't exercise, I will point them in the direction of Don. Don took an early start to complete the marathon. About 2 miles from the finish line, I passed him giving him some encouragement. He said he was ready for this to be over! The cold wind had taken a lot out of all of us, so I understood the feeling. Don finished the marathon in 7:52:19. Congratulations on a wonderful performance!

And then Tony started telling the story of the Eisenhower Marathon. My heart started beating really fast. Oh, no! He was going to introduce me. Where's my shell?! He tells them that I've completed 221 marathons/ultramarathons, that I've finished a marathon in every state, that I'm currently pursuing an ultramarathon in every state, and that I've done a few 100 mile races. He then asks me what's the most marathons/ultramarathons that I've completed in a year. I have to speak? In front of everybody? Can't we talk about this one-on-one, in private, lol? I tell him that the most I've completed in one year is 52. The guy next to me jokingly asks, "why?" A little laugh from me eased the pressure around my heart just a tad, but all I wanted to do was hide. I wanted to point to Fred sitting next to me and say: "no, look at Fred. He's a much more accomplished runner than I'll ever be. He's run 358 marathons/ultramarathons and the majority of his runs were ultras. He's done several 100 milers, 48-Hour and 72-Hour races, and even 6- and 10-Day races. So please, I don't deserve to be in the same category as the other 'celebrities'." But everyone was looking at me, smiling, clapping, and welcoming me into the circle. I was so freaked out, and so uncomfortable with the attention. I'm a nobody in this sport. I can list 10,000 reasons why I'm no one special. But yet, this love from my sisters and brothers was drawing me in. I wish I had done something spectacular to deserve it.

Finally, Tony moved on to Fred. Phew! Wipe off the brow; the heat is off, lol. After Tony told everyone of Fred's many accomplishments, the guy next to me told me to ask Fred the same question he had asked me earlier, "why?", lol.

Tony then moved on to several door prizes. I even lucked up and got one, a $130 gift certificate for Spira running shoes. The guy next to me said, "As much as you run, you need those." I laughed again and agreed with him.

Another winner of one of the door prizes was a guy who was pursuing the states but was doing it a little differently. He was taking his family with him (wife and 2 sons) to all of the states, and I believe the whole family was running some of the shorter distance races on his trips. That is so cool! This brother is a celebrity to me.

Next we gathered for the group photo above (last photo). What a beautiful bunch!

We mingled some more, and then it was over. Fred and I headed to his suite in Irving, about 30 minutes from Fort Worth. Thank you, Fred, for pulling me out of my comfort zone. I'm so happy to be a part of such a wonderful group of sisters and brothers.

The next morning, prior to the start of the race, we gathered at the Jubilee Theatre for another group photo (3rd photo above). We all ran in red tops and black bottoms with our "Free to Run" bibs attached to show our unity. Very cool!

It was windy . . . and cold at the start. I hung out in the theatre up until the last possible minute. I talked with Maurice (OK). He's a fascinating and fast brother. He talked about the Boston Marathon which, of course, I've never run because I'm not fast enough to qualify, lol. But it turns out that he ran the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile in February, and that it was his first 100 mile race. I must have been completely out of it at RR100 to miss another person of color, but I did. He also paced someone at the Mother Road 100 Mile last November, but since that's a point-to-point race and he was pacing someone a lot faster than I was running, I never saw him there either. I need to start paying more attention at my races. I can't be missing any brothers and sisters, lol.

The Cowtown is a nice race. There are some hills, but nothing impossible. I started out running with Lillard, and then I ran some with Marvin. A little while later, I hooked up with Karen (TX). Karen is another one of Fred's running buddies. I met her at the Burning River 100 Mile Race a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, we both DNF'd that year, but we've run some of the same races since then. Soon Laura (TX) joined us. Laura owns a business selling marathon charms and gifts. I've run with her in quite a few races as well. Tony also joined us, making it a foursome. Laura and Tony were running the marathon, and Karen and I were running the 50K. Both races follow the same route up until Mile 23, where the 50K'ers take a 4.8 mile out-n-back along the river, on a crushed gravel, dirt path, before rejoining the remainder of the marathon course. This 4.8 mile section was my favorite, even though I ran it alone. Tony and I parted company at Mile 23, after running and talking for several miles. He went on to finish in 5:34:05. His wife, Debra (TX), ran her first half-marathon at the Cowtown. They definitely had a lot to celebrate at the finish.

I saw Fred on the out-n-back. He was a good hour in front in me and looking strong. Fred finished the 50K in 5:42:47, winning his age group. Congratulations, my friend! Fred even had enough energy left over, and waited for me at the finish line. He gave me a hug, welcoming me back. A perfect ending to a perfect day.

I felt good all day, finishing in 6:41:57. This was one of my faster road 50K's within the last couple of years. I credit my finish to all of those good vibes from the NBMA. I hope all of the members enjoyed their Cowtown experience as much as I did.

Note: I'm still slowly learning how to format my Blogger posts, and adding photo captions is not one of my skills yet, lol. The first photo above, from left to right, is the brother who has also finished the 7 continents (sorry, I can not remember his name), Charlotte, Fred, Don, Me, Tony, and Gillis (kneeling). The second photo shows Fred and me actively recruiting, lol. Cowtown would be this sister's first half-marathon, and her two sons were running also. That's what I'm talking about - make it a family affair!

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