I ran the Run for the Water for the first time in 2012, a few weeks before my first half-marathon. Now that I think about it, RFTW was probably my first double-digit race! It was a small event then, but this year it sold out with 5000 participants in the 10-miler, 5K, and kids’ race.
I’ve talked about the backstory of this race before, but it’s worth retelling. Gilbert Tuhabonye began running as a child in Burundi, but in the early 1990s his village was attacked and he was the sole survivor of the massacre. He eventually ended up in Austin, where he started the Gazelle Foundation to build clean water projects in Burundi. The Run for the Water is an extension of that foundation–funds raised from the race go directly to those water projects. This year, 6243 Burundians will have clean water thanks to this race.
Earlier this week, Gilbert “carried a 25-liter jug of water from Lady Bird Lake to the Capitol this morning to demonstrate what children in his homeland must do daily to provide water (which isn’t always clean) for their families.” For him, clearly this is more than a race.
I didn’t run it last year–it was a week after the Army Ten-Miler and I didn’t think it was wise to run two double-digit races back-to-back. So I recruited my National Junior Honor Society students into volunteering at a water stop instead. This year, since I was running it, I gave the project to one of the student members to organize. She lined up volunteers, contacted the organizers, and set everything up. I really looked forward to seeing them on the course!
It was still dark when we arrived at the South First Street bridge. Last time, temps were in the 40s and we huddled inside Run-Tex’s training room to keep warm. This year, Run-Tex is long gone (hellooooo more condos) and it was only about 63 degrees. Ah Austin weather.
Just before 7am we gathered at the start. After the American national anthem, a group sang the Burundi national anthem as well, and it was time to run!
The first two miles are pretty flat, down West First Street. We skirted the Austin High School campus, running alongside the hike and bike trail for a while. Then up a short incline to Lake Austin Boulevard. It was the first of many hills.
Around mile four, I reached the water stop where my NJHSers were working. Let me tell you: it’s great motivation to hear a dozen eighth-graders cheering your name! They were awesome.
From there, we climbed one hill after another, although it wasn’t really any worse than last weekend’s hilly run through River Place. Most of the hills were short, with a decent downhill on the other side. I ran most of them, going up slowly, making up time on the way down. I took S’s advice–don’t look up–and kept reminding myself to focus on the mile I’m in, not how far I had left to go. And the views along Scenic Drive were, well, scenic as the sun rose over the lake. Somewhere along Pecos Drive, I saw a friend running the other way, cheering on the runners. Seeing her gave me a little boost in the middle of those hills!
Finally I made the turn onto Enfield. This stretch was longer–and hiller–than I remembered. Cars zipped by on the right side while we ran on the left. Many of them seemed to be in a hurry to get to the golf course. Finally, I turned onto Exposition. I knew there’d be one more hill alongside O. Henry Middle School–fortunately there was a water stop on this stretch, and the volunteers were awesome–their excitement and cheers got me up that hill. Then down, back onto Lake Austin Boulevard, just over two miles to go.
I ran on, over the bridge, past Austin High again (but this time on the other side), along a pretty flat stretch of road. Nine miles down. The last mile shouldn’t be that hard, but this one has a sneaky incline. I could see the second traffic light–the one for the bridge–and I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. S had finished and was standing just in front of the final turn, cheering me to a strong finish.
As I turned onto the bridge, I saw ten zillion kids running around crazily. Turns out, I’d gotten there in the middle of the kids’ race. They ran on the east side lanes and we had the west, but still, they were kids and a few of them got a little free-range. Fortunately the volunteers kept them going in the right direction.
I could see the finish, hear the drummers. I turned off my headphones and listened to the crowd noise. I managed to speed up a little.
It was nowhere near a 10-mile PR for me, but I’m pretty happy with it all the same. I finished 38 seconds slower than the Army Ten-Miler two weeks ago, but that was a mostly-flat course, while this one most definitely was not.
I was almost ten minutes faster than my 2012 time, I beat my (rather arbitrary) goal for this race by about two minutes, and I beat the girl doing sprint-walk intervals next to me the whole race. I felt pretty decent most of the race–although I felt sluggish the last mile or so, I didn’t suffer like I did at the end of the ATM. I also avoided the post-race crash I experienced after the ATM. Maybe it helped that we headed to El Arroyo right away (don’t worry, we sat on the patio to avoid funkifying the restaurant) and I ate my favorite post-race meal ever: Enchiladas del Mar. Can’t hurt, right?