B. J. Almond - TIR Report

Come and Take It: The Texas Independence Relay

We went and took it -- the challenge to run 203 miles from Gonzales, Texas, to the San Jacinto Monument in less than two days.

A dozen HMSAers, with assistance from driver Lloyd Luco, took up residence in two vans as we began a 30-hour relay race along the roads that paved the way for Texas' independence from Mexico more than a century ago. Our president, Jo Ann Luco, led the way, running the first of 40 legs that took us from town to town in places some of us had never heard of.

The route gave us a chance to experience both the history and the charm of the Lone Star State. In Flatonia, some of us ate at Brenda's restaurant, where the owner persuaded everyone to order "The Best Damn Burger You Ever Stuffed in Your Face." On Saturday night in Columbus, we were treated to a band concert by a handful of junior-high kids. Their attempt to play Beatles songs sometimes fizzled out during the first verse, but their hearts were in the right place even when the notes on their horns weren't.

Running in the middle of nowhere on a foggy night was pretty eerie. Sometimes we doubled up on legs for the safety of our teammates, and Sam Musachia even slowed his pace so he could share his headlight with a runner from another team who otherwise would have been left in the dark.

Team captain Paul Cooley did a terrific job of mapping out which legs each of us was supposed to run, but we had to remain flexible as injuries, fatigue and even a fog-related accident made it necessary to sub for our teammates.

Each time we reached the end of a leg to hand off the baton, we could count on our fellow runners to be cheering our arrival -- with the exception of Sunday before dawn at Cinco Ranch, where we were so distracted by the coffee, snacks and indoor restrooms offered by Luke's Locker that Michael Luna reached his destination before we did. (Sorry, Michael!)

Later Sunday morning, while one half of our team was navigating the seemingly never-ending trail from Cinco Ranch in far west Houston to Mason Park on Houston's east side, the other half staked out the park in anticipation of beginning the last few legs of the race. Former president Bill Clinton was campaigning for Hillary Clinton at the park, but he was unable to lure away the Houston Masters runners, whose eyes were glued to the bridge over Brays Bayou where Fred Ward would soon be crossing in wind and rain.

It was after 3 p.m. by the time Libby Myers, Jacques Smuts, German Collazos, Randy Williams, Don Brenner and the rest of the team gathered at the San Jacinto Monument to see Clark Courtright finish the last 5.31-mile leg of the race. The whole gang then ran up to the monument, where we were treated to pizza and the much-sought-after medal featuring the Texas star. We were tired, sleep-deprived, and hungry, but the camaraderie, excitement and fun from the past two days left no doubt that Houston Masters is the best damn team we've ever stuffed ourselves in!

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