Friday, January 8, 2021

2021 Texas Marathon Event Report

Last Friday’s Texas Marathon:  Where do I start?

Have to say that it was a really, really good day out there.

I have announced this race every year since 2010, including the two years that I ran the half marathon in 2015 and 2020.

I ran the marathon in 2006, 2008 and 2009.  

After the 2009 race, which was my 22nd marathon, I said that I was retiring to the timing division, which then was manual.  The next year, they started to chip time the race.

All of this means I have been at the race on New Year’s Day for at least 15 of its 22 races and there’s a good chance that I was in attendance in 2007 (but can’t confirm it from my old blog).

I did, however, confirm it from Bill Dwyer’s old blog,

I think that Waverly has sang the National Anthem at the race 11 of the last 13 years.  Her first time was as an eighth grader in 2009.

I appreciate Steve and Paula Boone for annually giving of themselves so people of all abilities can call themselves a marathoner.

I started asking Steve on October 1 if this year’s race was going to be a go, given the dearth of live races.  Consistent to the end, he said that it would be held and am happy to report, obviously, that it was.

I will not repeat what he said to me that he was prepared to do to ensure that it was so for Friday morning.

You just never know what you will get for weather on New Year’s Day in the greater Houston area.

Two of the three times that I ran the race, it was warm.

However, Friday’s race had great weather to run in, but it was a little chilly for volunteers.  Although a year or two, it was worse.

It is always a long day out there, but one that typically leaves me feeling charged up for the rest of the year.

This year, especially so.

I really wish that it is something that everybody did once.

I have explained in the past that it is like a family picnic with a large race held during it.

Steve and Paula always comment that Waverly and I are part of their running family and while theirs is a large one, we feel very special to part of it.

I was unloading my car by 6 a.m. – to set up my sound equipment to be able to start announcing by 7 a.m. (which I did) -- and ended up leaving at around 5:30 p.m.

And, at the end of the day, except for staggering the starts of both the marathon and the half marathon, there was not too much different other than making sure that specific individuals – with masks and gloves on – gave runners their food post-race (to comply with County health department requirements).

I know that there were some runners very concerned about passing other runners on the out-and-back, four-loop course (two loops for the half marathoners), but pretty much everybody was in great spirits.

Some runners, not unlike many other years, decided to drop down from the marathon to the half after doing two loops, but that had nothing to do with COVID-19.

Another part of the equation out there is getting to work with Cypress Woods boys and girls’ cross country coach Greg Zarate, who timed the race for Run Houston Timing.  

I consider Greg a very good friend who I work great with and you must when we are out there until the last runners have finished after eight hours or so.

If I miss or fail to mention somebody, it is completely by error.

I really appreciate the love that I receive from so many in the community and I am sure that there are probably a few that I am not able to give as much time to as they may like.  

However, they also know that I am working hard to give everybody some announcing love during their two or four loops through the start/finish area.

Of course, my best friend Bill Dwyer is there early.  Any event that Bill and I are at together is a treat.  We’ve been doing this stuff together for probably 16 years now.

Just after I started announcing, another very good friend, Erika Park, shows up and I get a picture of her and Bill together.

Then I see Chuck Engle and his wife Sommer show up.

They had recently moved to Tennessee from Ohio and were vacationing in the Corpus Christi area while visiting her family here in the Lone Star State.

They decided to stop and run the race.  Chuck – known to many as the “Marathon Junkie” – was in for the marathon, while Sommer signed up for half.

As we were all talking with Steve, Angela Tortorice from Dallas and Hank Donegan from California, who was running his 300th marathon on Friday, came up.  

I quickly went into action and got a great picture – that is on my Facebook page – of the five of them together.  

Among them, there is at least 2,220 marathons, maybe 2,300.

Hank was running his 300th.  Chuck is closing in on 500.  Steve is approaching 800 and only God knows how many Angela has done.

All fun.

The big thing each year is the medal reveal as Paula does her pre-race announcements.

In most years, everybody is all packed in, but I thought people did a good job spreading out, given the COVID-19 concerns – as well as following the social distancing guidelines we have come to know

I had brought my second speaker out so everybody could spread out and hear.

I livestreamed the ceremony, including Waverly singing the National Anthem and me starting all the runners out, on my Facebook page if you want to watch it.

The two years that Waverly was out we did a group sing, but she once again did a stellar job.

As we got runners off the starting line, I really believe that staggering them at 10-15 at a pop really made for a better run for everyone.

And the fact that there is no prize money, no elite comped entries and no age group awards, it really does not matter when you start.

Sure, I get it, even though I am not ever racing for place, that it is part of the charge that runners feed off, but while it is a race out there it is something bigger than just that.

Back to the start, most people did great with 10-15 every 30 seconds, but we had a couple of packs where folks did not listen, and the groups ended up pushing 20 while others jumped in earlier than they should have.

I guess even in a pandemic some people cannot listen and behave.

I think we had everybody on the course by 8:15, which is normally the start time of the half marathon.

All in all, 181 finished the marathon and 202 the half marathon, including 19 who had dropped down from the full marathon distance.

Surprisingly, there were only 22 less marathoners than last year, which was the lowest number of finishers since 2007 – two years before the first running of the half marathon.

The half marathon took the biggest hit.  

After bouncing back from a second lowest finishing number of 203 in 2018 to have 314 last year, just 202 covered the 13.1 miles on Friday.

On to the racing – or not.

Perhaps the most amazing thing of the day is that Steve Boone did not run for the first time ever.

He had run the first 21 times.

Jacqueline O’Brien-Nolen, who had run it 20 times before Friday, finished her 21st four-loop trip through Kingwood with a time of 4:04:58, good for 17th place overall among all females.

It is also the first time in a long time – actually 2008 -- that more than one Nolen wasn’t racing.

2020 – Jacqueline, Trent, Derek
2019 – Jacqueline, Trent, Katheryn, Derek
2018 – Jacqueline, Trent, Derek
2017 – Jacqueline, Trent, Brianna, Derek, Katheryn
2016 – Jacqueline, Trent, Derek, Brianna
2015 – Jacqueline, Brianna, Katheryn, Trent, Derek
2014 – Jacqueline, Katheryn, Brianna, Derek, Trent
2013 – Jacqueline, Derek, Katheryn, Trent, Brianna
2012 – Jacqueline, Katheryn, Derek, Brianna, Trent
2011 – Jacqueline, Derek, Katheryn, Brianna
2010 – Jacqueline, Derek, Katheryn
2009 – Jacqueline, Katheryn
2000, 2002-2008 – Jacqueline

Katheryn is the only other Nolen that finished a marathon since 2008.  

Derek had 11 straight half marathon finishes, while his son Trent had nine.  Katheryn had eight half marathon finishes while Brianna had seven in a row.

Steve and Paula gave out milestone awards to Ken Fattman, who finished his 500th marathon on Friday, while California’s Hank Donegan wrapped up his 300th.

Every year they recognize athletes who finished their 5th, 10th, 15th or 20th.

Five-year awards went to Sheau Yun Choo, Jason Kaplan, Amy Lewing, Andrea Sulak, Nancy Timpani and Ginger Trimble Knox.

Richard Carroll and Maggie Mount finished their 10th Texas Marathon while William Moeller, Yen Nguyen and Angela Tortorice did their 15th race there.

And Gerry Simpson finished his 20th Texas Marathon.

Both winners – Fort Worth’s Josh Heimbach, 35, and Hinckley, Ohio’s Selena Pasadyn, 25 – smashed the event records that had stood for 12 and 14 years, respectively.

Heimbach eclipsed the mark set in 2009 by Oklahoma City, Oklahoma’s Kurt Klewin with a 2:35:06 showing.  Klewin had the previous best time of 2:42:31.

In doing so, he easily bested Cypress’ Daniel Lawton, who won in 2008 and 2011 with the third and fifth best times in the race’s history, by more than nine minutes.  Lawton’s 2:45:44 was in between his winning times of 2:44:39 and 2:46:50.

Spring’s Maverick Smalley, 33, rounded out the top three with a 3:00:12 showing.

In the ladies' race, oh my.

Pasadyn, a 2016 Harvard graduate who ran collegiately for the Crimson, was making her marathon debut and dropped a time – on a course that’s not known for fast times – of 2:54:47 that was just nine minutes off a Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier.

It broke Christine Agnew’s previous mark of 3:06:12 from 2007.

Kingwood’s Haley Watson, 42, navigated her way into second with a 3:19:57 after Houston’s Erika Park, 45, who briefly led Pasadyn after the first loop, slowed to help debut marathoner Scott Sienkowski, 16, who was having severe cramping issues.  

Park was third overall for the women in 3:29:10.

Despite the pandemic, there were still marathon finishers from 18 states outside of Texas in addition to Pablo Zamorano’s 3:14:12, 11th overall finish out of Santiago, Chile.

Three members of the Limbaugh family from La Grange finished the marathon.

Husband Duane and his wife Jennifer posted times of 3:59:27 and 4:52:52, respectively, but 18-year-old daughter Taylor topped them both with a sparkling time of 3:46:03.

There were some other couples who finished the marathon together.  They included:

Irving’s Breanna Waldrup and Andrew Olsen
Katy’s Scott and Andrea Witte
Kingwood’s Ron and Karen Berglund
Houston’s Peter Bennett and Yen Nguyen
Glencoe, Illinois’ Bob and Lesley Strauss
Houston’s Edward and Margot Campos
Houston’s Tim and Nancy Timpani

Brothers Daniel and Mark Lawton of Cypress were second and 12th overall.  Both had won the race before.

And maybe sisters Madeline and Mary Beth Meier of Kingwood and Cleveland, respectively, also finished, both in a time of 6:12:16.

However, the greatest family accomplishment came from the Foltz family.

Four brothers and sisters ran the 26.2 miles on New Year’s Day.

Sixteen-year-old Corey led the way with a tenth-place overall time of 3:13:45.

Thirteen-year-old sister Lucy was next in 3:56:12.

Southwestern University senior Mario, who swam for the Pirates and Kingwood Park, 21, helped youngest brother C.J., 12, to a finishing time of 6:24:56.

The winners of the half marathon were Tomball’s Seth Kaplan, 18, and Houston’s Kelli Tomlinson, 28, in times of 1:20:25 and 1:36:28, respectively.

Manfred Roenz of Humble and his son, Tyler, 16, ran close to each other in times of 1:33:19 and 1:34:09, respectively.

Husband-and-wife Jason and Carrie Labani, of Humble, finished in 1:45:40 and 1:43:47.

It was great to see the original race director of the Surfside Beach Marathon Daryl Beatty, 67, out there and posting a 1:58:03 half marathon time.

One of Bill’s runners, Trudy Regnier, finished in 2:25:03.  A friend of Volte, as he likes to call many runners, Sonia Dhodapkar, 43, of Houston turned in a 1:55:05 showing.  (And I’m sure I butchered her name as I had in the past; just not a lot of practice lately.)

And looking at the chip and gun time differences, it appears that we were able to get everybody on the half marathon course within about six minutes – and do so in groups of 10 to 15 the entire time.

There are lots of people I likely left off in this report as I know so many and can comment positively on, which would make this report 10 pages long (as I just started the sixth page in the Microsoft Word document).

I will say this, however:  “This race isn’t for everybody.”


There are just some people who could not humble themselves to a family environment like this race and event is and enjoy and appreciate it.

They would likely look down the noses of those who took longer than seven hours to finish a marathon.

I admit that some years it is challenging to wait some of those athletes out; however, I think that it is what makes Steve and Paula incredibly special is that they give these people a place to do this as most places cannot keep a road shut down as long for them to accomplish the feat.

If you’re reading, I hope to see you out here in 2022.

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