Saturday came really fast. It seemed so far out and yet here it was, it was time to run in the Texas Independence Relay. If you’ve read my previous post before this one, you’ll know that I’m not a runner and I don’t “enjoy” it one bit. But yet, here I was loading up a van at 5 o’clock in the morning getting ready to make our way to Gonzales, Texas.
We got there, checked-in, got our swag and then got ready to start the race with a photo team start. And while most of us ran just a little bit and were able to walk back to our van, our first two runners of our two teams were already off to the races.
Our teams were split into two vans each, so we had a total of four vans with six members each. I was in van B for our team, which meant that we had the second six legs to run, which in turn meant we waited. The time seemed to go by so slow even as we went to go and have breakfast. After we ate and took a break we made our way to the first exchange of our van. We waited a little bit as I took some pictures of the beautiful scenery and took it all in. We walked over to the exchange point and waited a little more. Then we saw van A pull up which told us their last runner wasn’t far behind. And sure enough, before we knew it, here he came in the distance. It didn’t take long before he was only yards away ready to hand off the slap-on bracelet. We went from waiting and letting the time slowly pass by, to time flying by for the rest of the race.
The rest of it was like a blur, between stopping to drop off runners and moving down the road to a half-way point to give water/Gatorade it wasn’t long before it was my turn. My nerves were kicking in and sure enough, we parked in Flatonia, TX and there I went, walking to my exchange point. I prayed on my walk there and while I was waiting. I prayed that I would have strength and health along the way. It seemed like it would take a while before they would get there, but they rounded the corner a few blocks away heading towards us and it didn’t take long before that bracelet was in my hand and I was off. I tried to slow down my pace a bit, but I couldn’t. I don’t know if the adrenaline was kicking in or the excitement, but every time I would look down I was going too fast for my pace. I felt great and didn’t mind it so much but after my halfway point I hit a long climb up that almost caused me to stop. Being from Houston, we’re not used to hills and it showed on me that very instant. It took me about another half mile to recover from that and be back on a normal pace. When I rounded the last corner and into a slight straightaway I could see a crowd of people and knew that was the exchange point. So I ran faster, trying to get to my next teammate and get him going as fast as I could. I put the bracelet in his hand and I turned away from the area to move and it was then that I saw my wife and my oldest son walking towards me. I thought I was seeing things but there they were. They drove all the way from Katy, TX and just to see me finish my first leg in Praha, TX. I was overwhelmed and my eyes quickly teared. I was speechless. I hugged them both and was just overjoyed. I went from being exhausted and disappointed in my run at the hill to be filled with just excitement and love. It was a boost I severely needed right at that moment. I didn’t get to stay long before we had to leave to make our next stop but those few minutes gave me strength and encouragement. They made my weekend.
My second leg was in the middle of the night through Eagle Lake. Literally going from one side of the town to the next. My exchange point was at a Brookshire Brothers parking lot. The cold front had kicked in a bit earlier that evening and so I waited in the van for our runner to be in sight before I got out. I double checked everything, headlamp, blinker, glowsticks, etc. I was ready with my gear, but was I really to run again? I wasn’t tired but I know I wasn’t at full capacity for my energy. And then here he came. I got out and waited for him to take his last few steps before reaching me and handing me the bracelet. It wasn’t long before I was out of the lights from the parking lot and into the darkness of the streets of Eagle Lake. For the whole run, I didn’t really see anyone till the end. It was that leg that I had on my “Run 4 Them” shirt. Unfortunately, it was covered with a running jacket, but I knew it was there and I felt it. I thought of them all. All of those precious lives that we no longer have here with us. The reason I was here. I ran through the abandoned streets at this odd hour of the night and it was quite peaceful. I felt great running and was doing great at keeping a decent pace for me. That is until I turned into the last straight away and was blasted by the wind. It knocked my pace down a bit and my hands felt a bit frozen. It was then that a runner passed me. I was able to stay a few paces behind him when he did and I was tired and about to slow when I noticed two more runners quickly gaining on me. But there was the big bright light and flag that marked the exchange point. They were NOT going to pass me. I ran faster and in doing so almost passed the guy that had passed me earlier. I handed off the bracelet and walked off trying to catch my breath. Leg two was done.
We had hotel rooms that we would use to shower and rest in between our van legs. Even though I was only able to get about an hour and a half of sleep Saturday night, it helped a lot to shower, freshen up and just rest on a nice clean bed. When we woke a little later in the morning hours, we had to quickly leave and make our way to Cinco Ranch in Katy, TX to start our last leg. My stomach was hurting pretty bad that morning and I was exhausted. I had no idea how I was going to run my longest of three legs still.
I stood on the corner of Wilcrest and Briar Forest waiting for my teammate to come. I said to God, “You’re gonna have to carry me on this one. Cause I have nothing left.” When that bracelet hit my hand and the HPD Officer let me cross the street I felt some energy. Felt pretty good going into the run, making my way down Briar Forest. I started to feel a bit tired by the time I hit the halfway point and got my sips of water in. It wasn’t long after that, that I think my body wanted to start shutting down. My left hamstring started tightening up, my right calf started to tighten up as well. Every now and then I would get little pulls in them that would make me jerk in pain. I remember hobbling a few times to get them to go away. My body wanted to stop. I wanted to stop. My body had given me two really good legs of running and I think it had enough. I looked down at my phone from time to time and kept seeing 15min/mile paces every now and then. I thought to myself, “I’ll be lucky to get a 12min/mile pace out of this, maybe even a 13min/mile pace. I felt like a failure at that point. Like I’ve just failed my team and my friends and family. Here I was hobbling in my run and some random guy runs next to me, extends his fist out and gives me dap. He moved on ahead of me, but maybe he was trying to encourage me to keep going despite the condition he saw me in. I thought about the names on that shirt. And how they fought all the way to end. The pain, the exhaustion they felt. Still, they fought. I continued on, regardless of what I must have looked like and pushed through it with tears in my eyes. Not from the pain, but from thinking of them. I turned on Voss and rounded that turn and I could see my teammates waiting there, happy to see me and I handed off the bracelet to our next runner. “Do you need me to help you to the van?” my teammate asked me. I thanked him and told him I’d be okay. I looked at my pace when I got in that van and I was just over an 11min/mile. I have no idea how that happened cause it felt like I was going so slow. But then I remember what I asked God before I started that run.
We finished the race at the Buffalo Bayou visitor’s center and I think we were all glad to be done. It was an absolutely amazing experience, and I’ll never forget it. Someone asked me if I’d want to do it again next year in which I replied, “Probably not, but I won’t ever say never.” Even though I did catch myself saying “Never again” after the last leg I ran.
I want to thank my teammates for letting me be a part of this. I know I was one of the slowest runners there that weekend for them, but still, they encouraged me along the way and inspired me by how awesome they did. We truly have some gifted runners in our company and I was able to see them first hand.
To all my friends and family that encouraged me along the way when I would post about the race and shared photos. Thank you all so much.
To my family that drove up there to see me on my first leg. You have no idea how much that meant to me. It was truly an amazing feeling to see you there.
But mostly to my two biggest cheerleaders along the way. My brother Ramiro and my wife Erin. Who sat there and followed me literally every step of my runs through my run app. They cheered me on and encouraged me to keep going. You guys have no idea the impact that had on me through the race. Thank you both so much, from the bottom of my heart. I love you guys so much.
And of course, I can’t forget the people who I ran this race for. The loved ones that are no longer here with us.
Santos Herrera Jr., Allyson Hendrickson, HPD SGT. Wayne H. Bearden, Brandon Hamilton, Pete and Angie Ballard, JoJo Alvarez, Jesse Elkins, Maria Guerrero, Jesus “Chuy” Sosa, David Nagy, Carolyn Ter Poorten, Marilyn Perry, Sheila Dodd, Pio LeMoing, Roger Ibarra, Pablo A. Villarreal, Yolanda Garcia, Carlos Castillo, Reggie Walters Jr., Mimi Guerrero.
You are all so loved. You are all so missed.