The Run for the Water is not just a challenging 10-mile race through the hills of West Austin. It quite literally changes people’s lives–its founder, Gilbert Tuhabonye, was the sole survivor of a massacre in his village in Burundi, and he now uses the proceeds from the race to build water wells in his homeland. To date, the Gazelle Foundation has helped more than 20,000 people access clean, safe drinking water in Africa.
I ran this race last year and loved it–from Gilbert Tuhabonye singing the Burundi national anthem at the start, to the gorgeous view at the top of Scenic Drive, to Gilbert high-fiving every finisher at the end, it was a well-run, satisfying race. But this year, running two ten-mile races in consecutive weekends seemed like an invitation for injury. So when several of my National Junior Honor Society students expressed an interest in volunteering, I seized the opportunity to participate in the race while not overdoing the running part.
Thunderstorms rolled through Austin about two hours before the race start (I think these were the same storms that delayed last night’s Texas -TCU game for about three hours in Ft. Worth), but R4TW’s Facebook page declared that the show would go on, rain or shine.
My NJHSers are eighth-graders, so they were dependent upon their parents to get them to and from our assigned water stop at the end of Lake Austin Blvd. Did I mention we had to be there by 6am to start setting up?
I had about 15 student volunteers, plus two adults from my campus, my own personal child, and a couple of other people who joined us. We got four tables’ worth of water cups stacked and filled, and I taught the kids how to stand and hold cups to make them easy for runners to grab as they passed.
The race was supposed to start at 7:00 (and I remember it started on time last year) but a nearby police officer told us that the start had been delayed by 15 minutes. Not sure if that was due to weather or traffic or what. I’d told my students that we’d start to see the first runners about 15 minutes after the start (we were somewhere around mile 3.5) so they were all ready, waters in hand. With the delay, they wandered around and splashed each other–I felt like I was herding cats.
But then the officer informed us that they’d started (true to the 15-minute delay) and soon, we saw the lights of the motorcycle escort ahead of the leaders. They didn’t even slow down through the water stop–they just grabbed cups and kept going. I saw my Rogue coach, one of the first 10 or 15 runners to pass us. These guys finished in the neighborhood of 49 minutes, by the way.
After the superhuman runners came through, we had an ever-increasing field of mere mortals pass by. I loved seeing my Rogue friends, a former student, and even a couple of young runners, maybe 10-12 years old. They were doing great!
Our water stop was at the end of the flat section of the course–after passing us, runners turned right and spent the next three or four miles winding up through the hills of West Austin before returning to the relative flats on the way back. But it was really humid, and the more I stood there, the happier I was to be helping out instead of running in that soup.
The last participants came through, and we got everything cleaned up. The police opened the road back up, and our little crew headed to the adjacent coffee shop while they waited for their parents. One of the girls said, “That was a lot of fun!” and I had to agree.