January is always a big month for area runners due to the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half-Marathon.  Every year, runners from all over the city gather to make the epic trek through our wonderful hometown.  This event is also the primary goal race for many Cypress Running Club members.  With training beginning in the dog days of summer for marathon participants and early fall those running the half-marathon, we have pushed through some pretty hot grueling runs in the hopes of crossing that finish line on a cool January morning.  For the veterans of the 26.2/13.1 distances who have logged hundreds of training runs, gulped gallons of Gatorade, honed pre-race activities to perfection and criss-crossed racing miles all over the city, this race is an old friend.  They have long forgotten the exhilaration of putting an exclamation point on a long, and sometimes painful running season.  For the new runner, every training run, every obsession about race-day running gear and every hard-fought mile on that course is a brand new, life-changing experience.  With that in mind, we have invited our newly christened marathoners/half-marathoners to share some of their most memorable race-day experiences.  Our veteran runners may read something that reminds them of that day they first conquered the course.  For those unsure if they are ready to commit to the challenge of a full or half-marathon, maybe this will inspire you to sign up for the next available long race.  If nothing else, reading this should definitely make you smile.



“To start with, I wanted to do this distance in Houston because of CRC. Biggest homefield advantage EVER. Proud to wear my Yellow! I trained, and did well. But, I got derailed in the month leading up to the race with quitting my job and pulling my son from school to homeschool. But I knew I had to toe the line, and that I would get it done. My brother in law – and ultra marathoner – came from CA just to run the race with me. I started out, and was right on pace: having a great run. But it quickly went downhill when I found no nutrition on course. I had gels, but it wasn’t enough. By mile 12, the cops were chasing us! “you’re 5 minutes behind pace, we’re going to close the course, you’re gonna have to pick it up.” DEMORALIZING. I passed the half mark, after having the best peanut butter oreo as mile 12 EVER, and thought I was going to quit. They closed the course, and I had to run on the sidewalk. But I kept seeing people quit: people who didn’t want to run on the closed course who jumped on the SAG bus, people injured, people who couldn’t hack it. And I wasn’t there. So I soldiered on. My 2 kids, husband and wife of my Bro-in-law, jumped into action. They went to the store and bought tons of water, gatorade, oranges and food: they supported me and a whole lot of other people through the last 10 miles. Once I crossed mile 22, where Jennifer Johnson and her husband had stuck around for I don’t know how long after the tent had come down, my pace picked up. I met two other girls struggling to finish, and they asked me to pace them to the end. I pushed them. But we were in it together. My mom, who hates my long distance running, called at 1:30 pm while I was still on the course. I had to manage my breath while running as I told her I was at the hotel pool with my family, and would call her later (she thought I had run the half and had finished hours ago). The final miles were such a challenge: closed course meant hopping from median to median across traffic, and trying to find the finish line. My final three miles got faster and faster, and I crossed the finish line where my son put my medal around my neck (that my bro-in-law had run ahead to get for me, including my triple medal). One of the girls I had finished with had no medal: so I gave her my triple (she had done the 5k, too). I have never been so proud of myself as I was that day, or of my family who supported me, or my friends and running club who believed in me. I am a bigger runner who has always hated my body. When I sat in that ice bath and looked down at my legs – the legs I usually admonish for not being smaller – I was affirming and proud of those legs and that body that had carried me to the finish line, injury free. I may have crossed in 6:30, without photo or fanfare, but my garmin, my heart and my family and friends know the truth: I earned that medal and that 26.2 sticker on my car window.”  Kathleen Staten



“Sunday was my first Full. I’m still a bit of a rookie. I’ve only been serious about my running for about 2.5 years now. And I’ve probably only run about a dozen races … if you add all of the different distances together.  I was very impressed with the level of organization at Houston. That is a lot of logistics and people to coordinate. That was an order of magnitude above and beyond any other race I’ve been in. Clearly a major event!  My race? Well … it started well! (Well – once it started! I was in “D” corral so we hit the start line about 30 minutes after the gun.) I was very pleased and ran great for about 25K. I was dead on the pace I wanted. I felt good. My breathing and heart rate seemed good. I was enjoying the sites and sounds of the race. I thought I was hydrating and taking my gels on schedule.  But the weather warmed up a bit and my day turned South. I guess I lost too much salt. My legs started cramping pretty badly about mile 16. I tried to alter my gait and run through it. But that didn’t work so well. My right ITB flared up on me and my running was over.  I checked my Garmin and did some math in my head and figured I could still power walk in and finish before the 6 hour course sweepers pulled me … so that’s what I did.  It wasn’t pretty. But I finished. I could see I wasn’t the only one hurting. I even noticed the course flags change from green to yellow.  {I found some pretzels between mile 21 and 22 and they immediately helped reduce some of the cramping. That’s why I’m thinking the salt loss put my electrolytes out of balance. Unfortunately my ITB was still inflamed, so I was still walking.}  Outside of sore legs … (and a very very badly bruised male ego!) … I had a swell day! The crowd support was amazing! Club members were everywhere. The bands. The bagpipers. The belly dancers. I enjoyed it all!  My sister, (she ran her first Full in Chicago about a year ago), flew down from Ohio for the weekend … and I got to walk in the last 3 miles with her! That meant a lot to me.

Earlier today I registered for the 2016 Full. And the 5K too!  No way I’m going out with this 5:55 albatross as my “best marathon effort”. Nope. I’m going to come back and crush this thing!  [Well … in a tired turtle limping behind the stampede through the peanut butter kind of hoping for a 4:45-ish finish kind of crushing.]”  Ron Luther



“This was my first full marathon. I ran my first half marathon almost exactly one year to the date of my first full. I never thought I’d ever even want to run a full. I didn’t think I was capable. I started off running (I use the term loosely) with the couch to 5k group. Ashley and Julie were so sweet and encouraging to a fledgling runner like myself. I was happy when I could run a mile! My husband would ask if I had made any friends. I told him that it was kind of hard when I ran in the middle of the pack. I did that because I sounded like a wounded rhinoceros! I couldn’t get my breathing down and, it was embarrassing! I got up to 3 miles, I did a few 5k’s with my kids. I was stuck mentally at 3 miles. I thought that was all I could do. Finally, I pushed through and ran 5 miles, 7, then 9. Jennifer Johnson told me that if I could run 9 miles, I could run a half. Lady year, I ran the Aramco half, the Woodlands half, ran as a part of a team at the Texas Independence Relay, Houston Half and, the BCS half. I started running with the Foundation group headed by the fabulous Mark Peterson. His love for running and, his patience for novice runners is just amazing. I developed stress fractures in my lower tibia bones and I had to take off months of training. I was concerned about not making it for the full but, I stuck to my training. I also took it easy when I had any pain. The morning of the marathon, I was pretty calm. The days leading up to it, I was a bundle of nerves. Driving up to GRB to pick up my packet made me a little nauseated. I started off that morning with Cynthia Carter. She’s run a few marathons and, we were going to do 3/1 intervals. The crowd support was awesome! CRC was out in force! I looked forward to miles 7 and 22. I was not disappointed! The volunteers were phenomenal! I was feeling great up until mile 18. Pain in my knee forced me to walk more than I wanted. I saw the pacers getting further and further. I ran with a man named Gary who was running his 68th marathon. His last marathon was in Dallas. He had fallen, busted up his face and broke a couple ribs. He spent 6 minutes in a medical tent and finished at 5.20! His story stuck with me. As I was pushing through those last miles, I thought of my friend, Rebecca who just completed chemo. I thought of the kids I raised money for at the Snowdrop foundation. I thought about my family who has been so supportive and never missed a race. I wanted to finish strong. I heard Rebecca’s voice telling me that I always have to sprint the finish. I did. My time is not what I wanted. I will PR and beat that time at my next full. Redemption will be mine . What I take away from this experience is that I am made of more than I thought I was. I am strong. Through running, I inspired my husband to start his own journey. This past year, he’s done the MS150, Bike Around The Bay 180 mile ride, the 5150 sprint tri and when I call him at lunch, more times than not, he’s running! Running. Putting one foot in front of the other changed my path, brought me great friends and, gave me pride in myself. It was a long 26.2 miles. I found myself on the streets of Houston.”  Jeanell Arriaga



“This was my first full marathon. To be honest with you, I was not as nervous as I thought I would be for my first marathon. There were a few different reasons for this. 1) Me and my GF had already said we were going to take it slow and just enjoy it. Because of this I knew I would reach my goal of finishing and enjoying it. 2) I felt confident in the training I had done ( most with CRC and some on my own)

Overall it was a great experience! I encountered some knee pain about 16 miles in, but was able to press on to the finish.

The crowd definitely fueled me throughout the entire race. I ran for Team Living Water so it was extra encouraging at their water stations and also at CRC’s water stations, to be encouraged by those two groups I have been apart of.”  Dan Nerdahl



“My first half-marathon experience was definitely an experience.

I joined the Cypress Running Club back in June, after I had already made the decision to run a half marathon. I had seen the t-shirts all over the trail, and I figured it would help me to be a part of something that I knew I could turn to when I needed help.

I first saw one of the running “meetings” for Saturday and decided to just show up. It was a little intimidating at first, because I didn’t know anybody. So I just kind of made my way behind someone and just…ran. I ended up behind a group of about 4 people – Kate, Ana, Franco, Mariela, and Steve. They just asked me my mileage and took me on board. I listened to them talk, I didn’t have much to say at the time. But they poked me to learn about me, and then I had to have my own story for next week. That’s how I got on with my running group.

To prepare, I kind of just asked everyone what did they do? Then I tried to copy some of it. Some didn’t work, some did. When race day came around, I was definitely “ready.” I had gone to the pasta dinner the Friday before (although I didn’t eat too much; I may need to change that). I tried to go to bed early, but that didn’t work either. I was up until at least 2, anxious as all get out. I had only done 12.5 as my longest run, and it was a really sluggish run at that. Was I really prepared to add another mile on to that? I was worried if I could run the entire time, if I could even finish, if I’d be one of those persons that peed on themselves. Would anyone be cheering me on? Would anyone even be happy that I finished it?

I had a set “group” on whom I was running with – we were the same pace, although I could see that she could definitely be faster. But Mariella was my motivation, she kept me running while we were together, so I figured if I could stick with her, then I’d definitely make it through the race, and at a good time too. We were able to stay together the first 5 miles, then we got separated when I stopped to tie my shoe. Although I didn’t see her, I knew she was up ahead and all I had to do was keep running, which I did. The crowd support was like none I had ever seen. As I came up to mile 7, and I saw the yellow, it was awesome. I was a little sad because I didn’t have my CRC shirt on, but hey – they read my bib and still gave me a “go Tiffany!” I was having a fabulous time so far.

Until mile 9.

I don’t know what happened, and I fully can’t explain it, but I crossed over that bridge and my body was like, ‘NO.’ I tried to maybe lower my pace, but that made me feel even worse so I had to actually stop and walk. I was really disappointed in myself because it wasn’t what I wanted to do. But I looked around, and there were other people walking. So I tried to run again. Didn’t work. I ended up walking about a mile before I could get to running again, and made it the rest of the way. That was painful for me, because I had had these thoughts in my head of just blasting my way through, no holds barred, and here I was, still had about 3-4 miles left, doing what I claimed up and down I wouldn’t do.

But I finally made it to the end, and I felt myself pick up more when I realized I was on the home stretch, and made it under my initial goal time (barely).

Overall, it was a great experience. I was glad to have the cheering people and the atmosphere, because if those people weren’t there, if CRC wasn’t there, even with all of my training, I don’t know if I would have finished.

I’ve gone crazy though – I’ve already signed up for more races this year and look forward to all of them, looking for CRC yellow and giving a simple ‘go CRC!'”  Tiffany Munger



“I ran my first half marathon on Sunday, January 18th.  I started running a year ago.  I began with a group of women who had never run before and we were training to run a half marathon in June.  In March I became ill and had to be out for 3 months.  I was able to begin running again a couple of weeks before the half so I traveled with my group and ran the 10K.  I loved being able to cheer my group on but it killed me not to be running with them!  After that race we began training for another in November.  Well, I got injured and was out for another three months.  I began running regularly again in December and had decided there was no way I could possibly be ready for the Houston Half.  I ran with one of my friends, Nancy Patino, a couple of Saturdays before the race and she really encouraged me to just give it a try, not to worry about time, walk if I have to, just go and finish.  I received the same encouragement throughout the next week from another friend, Anjou Keller.  Between these two ladies and a pep talk from my son I decided what the heck.  So, I showed up with very low expectations of myself, not nervous at all (which is so not me) and just ready to run.  We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day.  The energy and excitement all around was amazing. There were spectators everywhere cheering us on, music blaring at every turn.  It was just awesome.  Then there was the CRC team cheering us on and that was just the icing on the cake.  Even people not with CRC would yell, “Go Cypress” when we would run by because of our shirts. Well, I ran my race at a very slow pace but I DID run it and I did FINISH it. This was such an incredible experience and I can’t wait for my next one!”  Kelly Sewell



“Overall, it [half-marathon] was fun. The constant support along route was awesome. I learned all about not overdressing as I overheated bad at the end. I did better than I thought I could, but it’s still super slow in the grand scheme. I loved being able to run with my wife up until the split for the half/full. I didn’t think I’d be able to hold her pace. And then I loved that I did the half so I could still see her cross the finish line.  I learned I have a long way to go with my running and I wouldn’t hate it so much if I had running partners at my pace. I run by myself in the evenings (8:30) due to home schedule and it’s boring and that’s one reason running stinks to me.  It was my first official run race event. My only other run was 10 for Texas in the Woodlands which I ran slow as a training run. I wasn’t going for pace / time.  The race makes me want to do another and more 5 and 10k also. I signed up for the 2016 half already. Still no real desire for a full. It’d be cool and I would like to do one but my mind isn’t ready for the commitment yet.  The number of CRC people out there was awesome. The cheering and support from sidelines and fellow runners was a great boost.  While it’s only natural to have cliques within a group that large (due to schedules, pace, personality, etc), it still seems like one large family overall when it comes to events / support.  So keep it up.”  Fred Bingham



“Last weekend I ran and completed my first half marathon at the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Half Marathon. I was also able to raise $1,100 for military veterans and Team Red, White and Blue participating in the Run For a Reason program. Between running for myself, for those who can’t, for our military veterans and for my buddy Asher in FL, I chose this race since it was in my hometown and I had cheered on my family members in years past. I had heard the public support throughout the route and organization of the event was stellar. I was right and had an amazing day! AHMAZING!

I wasn’t out there to break any records. After all, this was my first time running this distance. My goal was simply to finish and to have the pride of knowing I was able to run my goal of 13.1 miles. 13 point one FREAKING miles. Wow! If you had told me a couple of years ago I would have accomplished this, I would have laughed in your face. I would have NEVER believed I could do this in a million billion years, but I did! And here are 4 things I learned:

1. Joining a running club is a life changer.
Not to say that running on your own and following a plan won’t work, but for me, I needed support and others to hold me accountable. Meeting every Saturday morning at 5am for training runs for months was tough, but exciting. There were even training runs at the track on trails during the week, but I was unable to make those due to my work travel. I followed the plan from my hotel gym or local gym to stay on track. This could be the first time I’ve stuck to an “exercise” plan ever. I’ve also miraculously changed from being a grumpy morning person, to a happy morning person. Miracles do happen! haha Best part of joining a running club? I have made life long friends … FAMILY … in my running buddies from the Cypress Running Club! CRC! CRC!

2. Trust your training.
CRC provides training plans to their members and this was instrumental in my being able to succeed. My coach, Mark Peterson, gave great running and training tips as did other seasoned runners in our club. Having them as a resource is just awesome. THANK YOU MARK and CRC! I am a visual person so printing my CRC training plan for my half marathon and being able to check off each run as completed as the weeks progressed, gave me a huge sense of accomplishment. The training plan for me just as it had for others before me. I even survived the dreaded taper time and now understand how it all comes together.

3. Stretch and Roll with it!
Lack of both is what led to my Gecko incident in the fall of 2013 and threw my C25K training off track. Well, that and running wrong (take a free running clinic y’all). There will always be pros and cons with each, but for me, it was a saving Grace and I believe helped me stay healthy and strong. And seriously. It hurts so good!

4. “Looking” fit and “Being” fit are not always the same thing.
One of the things I noticed running my first half marathon was that the participants of the half and full marathon are all ages and SIZES. There was even an older man juggling balls and running the full marathon next to me. He totally passed us. Juggling! We cheered him on too. 🙂 I used it believe only super athletes ran these races. This is so NOT true. Oh, there are super fit athletes that do of course, but anyone can if they have the drive and determination I saw on that route. It was truly inspirational. If you ever lose faith in humanity, go watch a marathon. Your eyes may get sweaty from seeing the hearts of those running.

Running is not all rainbows and kittens with puppies in fields of daisies. I did hit my “wall” at 10 miles. The index toe of each foot suddenly felt as if my feet were on fire making each step painful, but my awesome running buddies Jan, Jen and Melissa slowed with me and encouraged me the entire time to help me finish. The cheer support of strangers pushed me as did that last mile of exhilaration. Seeing the FULL marathon runners on the street next to us about to finish in the same amount of time it took us for HALF that distance gave me motivation to the finish.

The emotions I felt crossing that finish line are difficult to explain because I was happy and crying all at once. Excessive Pride. Extreme Joy. Absolute Astonishment. Badassery. I had just run a freaking half marathon. Like FOR REAL y’all! I ran better than the government too! Haha. All mixed together as a medal gets put around your neck. I felt I could do ANYTHING! What’s next? Oh, it’s a doozy. More on that later.

Race #27 of my #50by50 did not disappoint. The cheer support by the public, my running club and my family was more than I imagined. CRC had a tent set up at mile 7 and my husband Steve, son Jacob and BFF Viviana were there too with homemade signs for me. It meant so much to see them all there! They even had signs from friends who couldn’t make the race. Those were awesome too and made me laugh and smile. There were people yelling in support of everyone for every inch of every mile. I never once felt alone. I felt like every person cheering was my close family and it was one big party! One big party where you run 13.1 freaking miles!

Moral of the story? Don’t think you can’t run a half marathon because you’re overweight or aren’t an athlete in the best shape. YOU CAN! Get that ok from your doctor. Find a running club. A training plan. Make a goal. And just move y’all! If I can, you can. It’ll be the best decision of your life!  Michelle Lancaster



Lastly, we would like to thank our Queen of Race Support, Jennifer Johnson, and ALL the other CRC members and families that crawled out of bed at an insane hour to haul themselves downtown just to cheer and feed every yellow CRC shirt that passed by.  Jennifer and her husband, Judd set up the big yellow tent at mile 7 and then later at mile 22.   For some of us, those cheer locations kept us going just that little bit longer, even when we wanted to quit.  We give all of you all of the accolades that a great teammate deserves.

Click below to read about Jennifer’s experience as the cheer squad captain.

VolunCheering for a Marathon Can Restore Humanity and Inspire the “Sole”