Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Chevron Houston Marathon From The Men's Marathon Press Truck

I guess I could be like mostly everybody else in print journalism with a press pass and stay in the George R. Brown Convention Center and watch the telecast inside.

And I would have if it was going to rain in the first two hours earlier this morning.

Because of space and the fact that it is a monthly magazine, my story in Texas Runner and Triathlete is basically a synopsis of the day.

I try to finish it before I leave the George R. Brown, which I've done successfully now this year and last, so I'm not inclined to see what others have done (even though I heard the same commentary as they have from the winners and top Americans).

By the way, it is really hard to get much substance out of the Ethiopian and Kenyan athletes.  However, I learned that there is really a style to asking them questions - sitting a row behind Race Results Weekly's David Monti (who knows everybody).

And that is to ask the question slowly.

When you get your copy of the magazine, there'll likely be some news and notes that you haven't seen before - my specialty - and maybe a few quotes from Becky Wade and Jordan Hasay that weren't included in other stories.

I don't write as often as guys like Monti or the Houston Chronicle's Dale Robertson (who seems to try and continually drive home the story line of the dominance of the Ethiopian athletes), so I'm certain their stories have a bit more creativity than mine.

I try to pick up some different themes and then thread them all together.

So like I did a year ago - and like Waverly did for many years while I was running the marathon (as she would take notes and get quotes for me to write the marathon story for Texas Runner and Triathlete), I was on the men's marathon press truck.

Kind of like in a basketball game where you look for lead changes and swings, following a marathon from the press truck is a similar process.

You're watching for when the pack thins and who's left standing when it does.

Getting to the press truck, with the new start line and corral setup, was a challenge in that I was expecting an individual from the HMC team to be going there too - and when they didn't, I navigated myself there and onto the truck.

Was there in plenty of time though and had a chance to trade a great series of texts with a friend before they started their half marathon.

Different this year was the fact that this year's referee was not Sugar Land's Joy Smith.  The 55-year-old, who was fourth overall in the 1998 Houston Marathon (in 2:41:42), was running her first Aramco Houston Half Marathon since 2007 and finished second in her age group in 1:38:37.

The Chevron Houston Marathon really does a great job in its timeline to start the race, as well as many other facets, of course.  There are a lot of things that are done at The Woodlands Marathon because of a relationship between the Houston Marathon Committee's Operations Manager Carly Caulfield and The Woodlands Marathon race director Willie Fowlkes.

I got tasked with turning the clock on at the top of the press truck.  So, even though we were far enough ahead of the start line that I couldn't clearly see the clock, I was listening for when the gun went off.  (I also maintained the time on my personal watch so I could maintain splits.)

So you ask:  What goes on on the press truck?

The biggest function is to make sure that the time is captured at each kilometer and mile marker.

Mile splits are fed back to the Press Center for communication to media members that are there.  This role last year and this year was performed by a pair of Rice Owls men's track and field athletes.

The ham radio operator on the truck was also sharing this information.  (I'm sure there was a level of backup and redundancy in place.)

There was also a gentleman - last year the individual was from the Chicago Marathon team - that was feeding each kilometer split and the total time into a computer which updated a display on the back of the truck which showed the runners their pace per mile and kilometer.

Bob Alexander was the individual that was heading up the positioning of the truck with the car behind us, which was filming the athletes directly behind them, and working with Bayou City Road Runner and local attorney Tom Radosevich.

All the while, the truck had to navigate some of the wheelchair athletes as well as both visually and mobility-impaired athletes, plus we would have to move from one lane to another as the athletes desired to run the tangents through a bend in the road.

After we made the split where we lost the half marathoners, in front of the truck was a quartet of officers on motorcycles.

So it was a continuous synchronization between the challenges in front of Radosevich and staying close enough to be able to visually see when the athletes passed each split point.

I'm sure course certifier Logan Burgess was the one responsible for putting the kilometer and mile markings on the road in bright green paint as part of his course certification work.  They were very beneficial when the truck got a little farther out on some passings of the teardrop flags marking the kilometers and miles.

Beyond that, it was just plain fun while working.

We were able to see the lead pack grow to seven runners by mile 8.  Bib #7 dropped off to seventh as we passed the half way mark at 1:05:013.

By mile 14, the pacer had dropped off and there was a group of five.

At the 30 kilometer mark, the field dwindled to four and two minutes and 17 seconds into mile 24 on Allen Parkway, it fell to three.

There Dominic Ondoro used those 4:49 and 4:50 splits, a couple of the fastest of the day, to pull away for the win.

I told Chevron Houston Marathon race director Brant Kotch in the media center in the GRB at about 11 or so a.m. that I thought the crowd was as good as its ever been.

There were so many people that I knew that I saw out on the course.

Eyecan Alliance's David Adame and Catapault's Alison Fowler very early on.

Next up was Snowdrop Ultra 55 race director and University of Houston Alumni Association race director Patty Godfrey.

Saw Volte's Juan Flores near mile 12.  Other Brother's Peter Manry and Gerry Simpson were near mile 13.  Hempstead's Becky Nesbitt at around mile 17.

Snowdrop's Trish Kline was in the Galleria area just before passing Becky by.

Volte Endurance Training's Bill Dwyer, and probably my best friend besides my daughter, I saw around mile 7 I'm guessing and then again right around mile 23 near Andy Stewart's Finish Line Sports aid station.  Mary Carter I know I saw with Bill twice and Mayra Caamano the second time.

When Bill saw me the last time, I think I hollered that I was the "Mayor of Pressville" on the truck.  :-)

Before that though, the most incredible sight all day was seeing near mile 21 Coach Al Lawrence sitting in a chair along Memorial Drive and he stood up after I hollered at him to cheer on the lead marathoners that were behind us.

I wonder how many people ran by Coach Al today and had no idea or clue who he was.

I'm sure there were others that I missed.  If so, I apologize.

So we're coming down the main stretch of road that heads right to the finish line, but there's a turnout near Main Street.

I got off the truck there and ran to the GRB, getting a short run in for the day.

Great experience.  Glad I was able to be a part of it once again.


Ed Fry said...

Awesome report Jon! As always you provide details that would be missed by others, so you keep it interesting even if we already know what the final placings are. Only sorry I missed seeing you race weekend!

Jon Walk said...

I'm pretty fortunate that I get to do and see many things that others don't. And while I have a responsibility to report for the magazine in that role, I can responsibly share other things that may be insightful to others. I was on the truck to work, and I did. But it was incredible to see and be recognized by so many in our great running community in southeast Texas.