2012 Houston Marathon

It's a beautiful day: There was no better weekend for the Houston marathon and half marathon


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If Saturday morning's Olympic marathon trials showcased 300 of the country's most elite athletes, then Sunday morning's Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon was reserved for the 28,000 marathoning (and half-marathoning) mortals.

The sound of the 7 a.m. gun marked the 40th anniversary of Houston's largest single-day sporting event. It was greeted with perfect running temperatures, partly sunny skies, and of course, an energy that only the country's fourth-largest city can provide.

It's not uncommon to find people not taking themselves too seriously at the marathon. You've got to have some sense of humor to run 26.2 miles just for fun.

Hung Kim was among those that understood that concept. He was one of a trio to wear the featured chartreuse tutu — throughout the entire race.

It takes an army of volunteers to make the Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon go off without a hitch — more than 7,500, to be exact.

And no volunteer is too small to count.

The George R. Brown Convention Center is a flurry of activity on race day. Athletes, supporters, media, photographers, volunteers, officials and race committee members scurry about the grand expanse.

But it's never too crazy for a photo. Runners John Cannell and Becky Workman pose for a last-minute shot before heading out of GRB for the 10-minute hike to the starting line.

The days of having your name on your race bib are over. When we asked Becky Workman what she expected to be greeted with along the race course in response to her particular moniker, she said, "I'm guessing people will say, 'You're almost there!' "

Now that's good motivation indeed.

While the masses convene at GRB awaiting the race start, some take a few moments to themselves to enjoy the calm before the storm.

Does 26.2 miles ever get old? Not to veteran runner Richard Jares, who was not only leading the 5:25 pace group, but was also running in his 100th marathon on Sunday.

Under a clear sky and with the sun peeking out behind the downtown skyline, the U.S. Marine Corps Color Guard cleared the course as the seconds wound down to race start.

And they're off!

Remember what we said about having a sense of humor? Some runners clearly have it more than others.

The only things left at the starting line after the runners departed? Their detritus. Mounds upon mounds of discarded gear — mostly clothing — littered the race start in a sort of flash shantytown.

But volunteers collected the items, which were reunited with their original owners at the end. "We put them in bags and take them back to GRB," one volunteer told us. "They'll make it back to their original owners somehow."

The design of the race course had runners of all distances overlapping at various points in the race. Here, the front runners in the half marathon headed back to the starting line, while runners and walkers in the El Paso Corporation 5K Fun Run headed out on their loop of downtown.

Who needs legs to race? Certainly not Ramiro Bermudez, the wheelchair marathon race champion.

Why does running have to equal suffering? That's not the case for Terri DiRaddo, who greeted her cheering squad of Callie Stewart and husband Andy DiRaddo with a big grin on Allen Parkway, about two miles from the end of the half marathon.

More than 250,000 spectators were expected to line the 26.2 mile course, but that doesn't mean there weren't times where support was sparse.

The Galleria was one of those areas. Runners were grateful to see a friendly face — or a camera lens — on Post Oak Blvd.

On Memorial Drive between I-610 and Westcott Drive, however, the marathon spectator party was hopping. Live music and throngs of enthusiastic onlookers greeted runners between mile 21 and mile 22.

Doug Walla of Los Rauncheros helped contribute to the festive atmosphere.

There's nothing like a personalized support crew when you're hitting "the wall" in a race — the part past any training distance you've ever done, where you're not sure how your body is going to perform, and perhaps you're beginning to falter.

Emily Montgomery's family knows what's up, and stood on Memorial Drive around mile 22 cheering her on.

Even if you don't have a stake in the game, though, it's still incredibly fun to cheer on the runners. Kelley Hennigan and Brandy Milam headed down from yoga store Lululemon in The Woodlands to raise a few spirits.

But in truth, there's no place like home — or the finish line. After the hill at mile 24 on Allen Parkway, it's just 2.2 miles to salvation — or only 2.2 miles left to make up the distance between a podium finish or not.

Run, Forrest, run! Shawn Forrest, solidly in fourth place at mile 24, hoped to catch third place Demssew Tsega in the last miles. But he couldn't make up the difference between the two, and Forrest missed a third place finish by a little over three minutes.

Two more miles to GRB, and the race is over. It's often the longest two miles of a runner's life.

It's the prize that awaits every runner at the finish line, and the reason they put themselves through what they do — the coveted finisher's medal. And it's worth its weight in blood, sweat, and tears to everyone that successfully finishes the race.

The finish line at the Houston marathon or half marathon has been described as "the most incredible feeling." Maybe one day, you'll want to know how that feels for yourself.