Marcus Lewis

Marcus Lewis

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!

Tracy Dodds Larson

Tracy Dodds Larson

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!”

Jeff Cottrell

Jeff Cottrell

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.

Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith

Ryan was active as a child but did not start running until his sophomore year in high school. The PE class he was in had an annual physical fitness assessment, & Ryan ran faster than anyone else in the school. A couple days later the cross country coach reached out & asked him to join the team. The timing was perfect because Ryan’s dad had just signed up to participate in a marathon challenge at work. After speaking to the cross country coach Ryan decided he would tag along with his dad during that weekend’s upcoming 10-mile training run. Despite the fact that he had not run more than a mile in his life Ryan says he felt great & decided to join the team. During this time he also had a passion for tinkering with cars. He loved to work on his car and then take it out to see how fast it could go. After graduating from high school Ryan bought his own set of tools and continued to pursue his passion. It was not until he was offered a steady job in the oil and gas industry that he decided to return to running & racing. Ryan says he ran on his own and was putting in 80-90 miles/week but then a friend introduced him to Al Lawrence. Al suggested Ryan cut his mileage, but increase the intensity of some of his workouts. Within a couple months he was setting new PRs and running faster than he ever thought possible. Al’s nickname for Ryan was “Smitty.” Instead of his actual name, every workout Al provided had “Smitty” at the top of the page. He says Al was always the Voice of Reason when he would start thinking about doing something crazy. Al would remind Ryan of the long term goal & encourage him to not get sidetracked by something that sounded fun but would not ultimately help him improve. In 2014 Ryan purchased a camera and began learning how to take beautiful pictures. He loves photographing scenes from nature and has traveled across the US in pursuit of new images. He even set up a company called Running The World Photography to showcase his work. With the passing of his beloved Coach, Ryan is thankful for all Al taught him; not just in running but in life. Al watched Ryan grow from a young man who raced cars to a gentleman who is one of the fastest athletes in the city.

Jackie Tobin

Jackie Tobin

Jackie grew up in Corpus Christi and found a job in the oil and gas industry after graduating from college. Three weeks after moving to Houston, she was in a horrific car accident. She spent three months recuperating in the hospital, and shortly before she was released, her doctor ordered a routine MRI to confirm she was ready to go home. The MRI showed a spot on Jackie’s thyroid, and she was told she should eventually have it checked out. When she finally made an appointment at another doctor’s office, the radiologist that was drawing the fluid from her thyroid was a young man who was fresh out of nursing school. Jackie says that as soon as he saw the fluid, his eyes bulged and he exclaimed, “Oh no!” Jackie begged him to tell her what he saw. His only response was that he was not authorized to relay the information, but she should “expect the worst.” The next day she received a call informing her that she had cancer and her thyroid needed to be removed immediately. By the time she was admitted for surgery at MD Anderson, the growth had doubled in size and she had new spots on her lymph nodes. Thankfully, the surgeons were able to remove the tumors and she has been cancer free for 10 years. Looking back on that painful time in her life, Jackie realizes that if she had not been in the car accident, she may have died from cancer! She feels like the wreck actually ended up being a blessing that saved her life. After the surgery, Jackie slowly regained her strength and decided to start running. Her workout regimen consisted of running 3 easy miles, 3 days per week. She loved the freedom and stress relief running provided. In 2007, Jackie met her husband. They were married two years later and their sons were born in 2011 and 2013. During this time, Jackie entered a couple 5Ks, but she never wavered from her 9 miles per week training routine until 2014 when she met Bayou City Road Runner’s Larry Lindeen at one of these races. He insisted she should come to Memorial Park and join one of the BCRR Sunday morning long runs.  Jackie says the 1st time she showed up @ the Memorial Park Tennis Center for the BCRR 10-mile long run, she was unsure of exactly where she should go. Loris Fusi, another longtime BCRR member, saw Jackie looking lost & asked if she needed help. Jackie says she will never forget that day. She loved being at the Park, but she was also shocked that she could finish the workout since it was a mile longer than what she normally ran in an entire week. Soon, running @ Memorial Park became a key part of her weekly routine & she has developed many lasting friendships through her time on the trail. As Jackie’s workouts began to intensify & her mileage increased, she was thrilled to see her times dropping. However, she also insisted that she had no interest in competing in a race that was longer than a 5K, even though she was training w/ other runners who were competing in this year’s Houston Marathon. Then, in the fall of 2016, Jackie decided to enter the HMSA 25K in honor of Stephanie Bonk, one of her training partners who was injured & could not compete. Jackie ended up winning the 25K & received an automatic Elite entry to the 2017 Houston Marathon. She was terrified @ the thought of racing for such a long distance but decided she should give it a try. The hot weather made the race very difficult, but she was inspired enough to try again at The Woodlands in March where she was the third woman across the finish line. Throughout 2016, Jackie & her husband had been longing to have another child. Despite the joys she was experiencing through running, she was frustrated that she was not able to become pregnant. Her husband suggested she should stop running, but Jackie was worried she would become a total grouch. She says running keeps her calm, helps her focus, & brings her joy. However, in March she decided to heed her husband’s advice & take some time off. Today, Jackie says she misses Memorial Park terribly. She cannot wait until she is able to return to the trail & see her friends. However, she is also excited to announce she is 8-weeks pregnant! She is thankful for this new season in life & looks forward to what the future holds.

Arthur

Arthur

Arthur lives in Missouri City but comes to Memorial Park almost every day. He always has a smile on his face and waves to everyone as he makes his way around the trail. He is 71 years old and has completed 18 Houston Marathons and 7 Houston Half Marathons. Arthur says he enjoys working on cars and has a 1975 Cadillac that he bought in 1975. He only drives it on Sundays. He keeps his copy of People of Memorial Park in his truck and has been working to collect the autographs of the people whose stories are in the book. He has added his own yellow tabs to the pages so that when he meets someone who has not signed his book, he can quickly flip to the exact page. In the last 6 months, Arthur has tracked down almost everyone. He says he still needs to find @crystalhadnott, but she runs too early for him to meet her.

Aaron Burros

Aaron Burros

In 2010 Aaron visited his doctor for his annual physical and weighed in at 356 pounds. His doctor insisted that Aaron needed to lose weight or he would not live to see his 50th birthday. Aaron says he walked out of that office and made a pledge to start running, even though he could barely jog a couple steps before he had to stop and walk. He also prayed and asked God to help him lose the weight. Two days later, Aaron’s car stopped working, so he also began walking 2 miles to and from work each day. Eventually, a friend gave him a bike, and Aaron began riding his bike from his apartment in Bellaire to Memorial Park. Within a year, he had lost over 100 pounds. He says his mom had a couple friends who called her asking if Aaron had started using cocaine because they were shocked at his sudden transformation. Then, in 2015 he was in an incident at work and was severely injured. His surgeon and therapist both advised that he would experience intense pain in his hip if he tried to resume running, but unfortunately, there was nothing they could do to alleviate the suffering. Aaron decided he was willing to run at a slower pace and just see if his body could hold up. Today, Aaron says he is not as interested in running fast like he used to be. Instead, he is content to run easy with friends and spend the time encouraging them to keep going and not give up. He thinks that Memorial Park is a place where Houstonians should be thankful for and take advantage of being able to run with so many other people. He has also started pacing friends through races across the city and the state. He loves seeing his friends’ lives change for the better through running, just like his did 7 years ago.