Sarah grew up in Austin & attended UT where she majored in Education. During her senior year, a friend asked if she had any interest in working at a local running store. Although she did not have experience running long distances, she was looking for a job & gladly accepted the offer. Sarah quickly realized the running community not only supports athletic endeavors but also endorses numerous charitable causes & loves to have fun. She started joining her new friends for 3-mi jogs around Town Lake, and someone eventually convinced her to sign up for the Capital 10K. A week after the race Sarah sat in her kitchen opening the mail & was shocked to receive a prize for placing in her age group. After that, she says she was hooked! Sarah’s coworker & local elite, Justin Gabriel, offered to coach her, and she thrived under his leadership. Soon, she was winning races & loving being a part of the running community. After graduating, Sarah became an elementary PE coach & started a running club for her students. She says that seeing the joy & pride on the faces of her students as they crossed the finish lines of local races was worth every minute. Sarah moved to Houston in 2014 when her husband was transferred. She enjoys running at Memorial Park because it reminds her of Town Lake where she learned to run 8-yrs ago. Sarah says that today she is motivated to run, not because she wants to win races, but because she is running for her former coach, Justin. Shortly after he started coaching her, Sarah was surprised when he did not show up for practice. She discovered that Justin had been in an accident & suffered a traumatic brain injury. When he finally came out of his coma, he was told he would be in a wheel chair for the rest of his life. This second picture was taken in 2010 when Justin won a 5K in 15:46 & Sarah was the 2nd woman overall. The third picture was taken 3-yrs later at the same race. Their coworker, Ryan, pushed Justin during the 5K. Every time Sarah races, she dedicates her efforts to Justin. She is thankful for his encouragement during her early years of running. He inspires her to never quit & be grateful for every new day.
Casey grew up in Michigan and went to college in Boston, but she did not start running until she moved to Houston. In 2011 she decided to start taking short jogs in her neighborhood in an attempt to lose weight. A few months later her husband Ron, who was already a runner, suggested she enter a race. He thought it would encourage her to train harder, and he was right. Casey says she caught the running bug and was hooked after that. A year later, she finished her first half marathon in 1-hour, 55-minutes. Ron was surprised at how fast she ran and insisted that she should be proud to have broken 2-hours in her first Half. Casey says she became more focused and started working to run faster with each new race. However, over time, she became discouraged because she did not see much improvement. She was frustrated and found herself not enjoying the sport. Then, a co-worker suggested she contact Al Lawrence. Casey says that when she spoke to him on the phone, she told him she was not very fast, but she loved running and wanted to get better. Within a couple months, she found herself thriving under Al’s leadership. Her attitude changed and she felt like a new person. In December 2015, 3-weeks before the Aramco Half Marathon, Al had included a 10-mile tempo run in Casey’s schedule. She says she was horrified when she saw the workout because she had never run anything that fast for that long. On the day of the dreaded workout, Casey came to Memorial Park, but it was raining terribly and she did not see another soul on the trail. Al knew her concerns, and he also showed up at the Park just before she started running. He sat in his car while she ran the first 3-laps. Every time she ran past his car, he would jump out and call out her split. Then, for the last mile, they both went to the quarter-mile track, and Al stood there in the pouring rain calling out her times. When she finally finished, she was crying because she was overwhelmed with fatigue and joy, but she was also thankful for her coach who gave her the confidence to succeed, even when she thought it was impossible.
Jeff has always had a knack for numbers. When he was 6-yrs old, his parents bought him a calculator. He carried it everywhere & even took it to a cousin’s wedding to try & approximate the cost of the event. Fast forward to 2013 when he was traveling to Cabo for a relaxing vacation w/ his friends. As he was walked through the airport, Jeff saw Shiva, who had just arrived from Houston & was waiting for her friends. He knew she was the one & quickly introduced himself. Over the next few days, they realized that their parents lived 10-minutes away from each other in central Florida. Shiva was already planning to spend her July 4th weekend traveling to visit her parents. Although Jeff’s life was very scheduled, all of the sudden he “remembered” that he was also planning to visit his family over the holiday! He eventually moved to Houston, and they were married this past year. During their courtship, they dreamed of starting their own business together. They discussed many ideas, but nothing ever seemed to be a perfect fit. Jeff and Shiva both enjoyed running, but they usually worked out with different groups because they run at different speeds. Then, one day, as Jeff was watching a video of a spinning studio, it hit him: What if they started a business providing instructor-led classes for runners on treadmills? The classes would offer a festive atmosphere w/ exciting music, would provide a challenging workout, & would allow athletes of varying abilities the chance to belong to a single community of runners & workout simultaneously. As soon as Jeff presented his idea to Shiva, she knew it was right. They spent the next year finalizing plans & were proud to softly open RacePace at the end of May w/ the Grand Opening celebration coming up on July 15th. In addition to their studio classes, they host a free Thursday night social run at Holler Brewing Co. Before May, Jeff & Shiva could often be seen on the trail at Memorial Park. However, in the last 2 months, every spare minute has been dedicated to the launch of their business. They both adore the Houston running community & have a passion for serving the inspiring people who make it fun to come to work every day
Arlene started running at Memorial Park after she moved to Houston in 2001. In the beginning, she only ran the 2.9 mile Seymour Lieberman Trail. The following year she joined the Runner’s High Club and started leaving the Park for her long runs. She says she learned how to navigate Houston’s streets and drive better because those long runs took her all over the city. Then, in 2003, a friend introduced Arlene to the trails on the south side of Memorial Drive. She immediately fell in love with the peaceful, quiet setting the trails provide. Also, she liked that the dirt paths provided a softer surface to run on versus the sidewalks. She says that when she brings friends to the trails for the first time, they have one of two reactions: they either love them and appreciate their serene beauty, or they panic when they run into a spider web and cannot get back to their cars soon enough. Her favorite trail is the Green Trail because there is less erosion, and it provides an easy out-and-back route compared to the Purple, Red, Yellow, Blue, and Orange trails. Arlene suggested that a great follow-up to the People of Memorial Park book would be one titled People Of The Trails. She says there are so many great stories of the fun times they have had at the Park and the sweet people who work out exclusively on the trails. However, one problem is that they have a saying: “What happens in the trails, stays in the trails!”
Alan is one of the smartest men you will ever meet on the trail at Memorial Park. As Associate Vice President at MD Anderson, he manages a team of scientists and doctors whose efforts are dedicated to finding a cure for cancer. However, in the last 4-years, he has also personally discovered the joy of running. Despite his vast understanding of the molecular structure of DNA and medicine, he used to think that anyone who desired to run more than 1-lap around Memorial Park was crazy. That is until 2013 when his daughter, Lindsay, invited him to join her on an 8-mile long run. He begrudgingly agreed to go, but as soon as he finished, he was hooked. He quickly found himself training for a marathon and travelling across the country to participate in races. Alan says that the highlight of his journey was running the California International Marathon with Lindsay this past December. Not only did he enjoy the experience of taking a trip with his daughter, but they also both qualified for the Boston Marathon. They are now planning a trip to Boston next year. Alan is a member of a Facebook group called the Grateful Runners. They are all Deadheads (fans of the Grateful Dead) who also share a love of running. In 2015, he and Lindsay competed in the New York City Marathon. Alan was thrilled because the timing could not have been better; a Dead and Company concert was scheduled at Madison Square Garden on the evening of the race! The band is comprised of 3 of the 4 surviving members of the original Greatful Dead along with John Mayer on guitar. Alan insisted that Lindsay join him because he was sure the concert was going to be the highlight of her day. She says that after running a marathon that morning, she was terribly sleepy and finally told Alan she was going back to the hotel. Of course he stayed until the end.
Marcus grew up playing basketball, but in 2006 a friend suggested he should train for a triathlon. He bought a bike and completed his first sprint tri that spring at the age of 29. Over the next few years, he continued to increase his mileage, and in 2011, he finished his first Ironman triathlon in The Woodlands. However, during this time, Marcus’ family was growing. He wanted to spend less time training and decided to focus solely on running. Today he is the father of 4 young boys and says that faith and family come first. He came to Memorial Park for the first time in 2007 and has continued to run at the Park as often as his schedule allows. Now an ambassador for the Houston Marathon, Marcus enjoys being immersed in the running community. He says he prefers to train with friends because they always motivate him to work harder. However, he fits his workouts around his family. Despite his busy life, Marcus has still been able race well. His most recent goal has been to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Entering the 2017 season, he felt like he was in the best shape of his life. However, he was devastated when he crossed the finish line of this year’s Woodlands Marathon in 3 hours, 7 minutes, but still did not qualify because the race was short. Marcus says that when he told his wife what happened, she suggested he should just enter another race. While he appreciated the support, racing another marathon so close together seemed like too much. In the end, Marcus says he decided he had to move on and try again next year. With 4 little boys, all waiting for daddy, Marcus doesn’t have time to feel sorry for himself!
In what seems like a previous life, Tracy was a successful attorney who ran exactly 35 minutes every morning on a treadmill. After her first son was born, she continued to run 35 minutes a day. The only difference was her son was sitting in a bouncer next to the treadmill. Two years later she had her second son and quit her job to stay home. Tracy says that after she stopped working, she started running more because she found pride in setting goals and then working to achieve them. Thirty-five minutes on a treadmill became an hour or two outside, often with a single or double jogging stroller. In the past 5 years, she has completed several half and full marathons, including 3 half marathons during her last pregnancy, as well as a 10k on her due date. Her third son was born a little over a year ago, and Tracy has trouble even remembering what life was like before she was a Boy-Mom. Over time, Tracy and her husband have figured out a schedule so both of them can spend time exercising. During the week, she runs in her neighborhood with her middle son in the stroller. He loves the 1-on-1 time with his mom and usually talks to her the entire time. On Saturdays, Tracy’s husband keeps all 3 boys while she does her long run at Memorial Park. She prefers coming to the Park because she feels safe and likes exercising among all of the other runners on the trail. In January 2016, Tracy was 31-weeks pregnant with her 3rd son. She had signed up to run the Aramco Half Marathon, but she had been fighting a painful sinus infection and back injury for the 2 weeks leading up to the race. She had decided that she would have to miss the race, but the morning before the event, Tracy woke up feeling much better. She got dressed and told her husband she was going to the Marathon Expo to pick up her race packet. In shock, her husband asked, “Are you crazy?” Tracy’s immediate response as she walked out the door was, “I guess so!”
In 2014, Jeff weighed more than 500 pounds and was suffering from hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. He had watched his mom pass away from complications of obesity when she was only 57 years old and was worried that he was probably facing the same future. Also, his job as an ER nurse was becoming increasingly difficult because he struggled to stand on his feet for the entire shift. Then, in 2015, he watched the documentary Forks Over Knives. The movie had such a profound impact on Jeff that he immediately decided to switch to a plant-based diet. As his weight began to decline, Jeff started walking for exercise. At first he would go to the gym and find a chair that he could set next to the treadmill. He would walk for 5 minutes, then sit down and rest for 5 minutes. Looking back, he says those days were humbling and tough. However, over time, his weight continued to drop and he started adding short jogs to his walks. Jeff ventured to Memorial Park for the first time this past January and says that he now works out almost exclusively at the Park. He feels like the Park provides motivation for him to work hard. He is inspired by the diverse abilities he sees on the trail and says that when he sees people who are not as fit as he is, it encourages him. The day before this picture was taken, Jeff had accomplished a new milestone on his path to a better life: he had run 2 laps around the Park without walking, something that seemed unimaginable even a few months earlier. Now, his goal is to finish a half marathon by the end of the year. Jeff says he enjoys telling people what he has done to lose over 170 pounds in the last year and a half. He has a list of movies that he recommends for anyone who wants to know more about adopting a healthy lifestyle. Also, he signed up for a service that sends him a weekly email with recipes and grocery lists. Finally, he advises everyone that you can visit as many clinics as you want and make as many doctor appointments as you need, but in the end, you are your own primary care provider.