Lone Star Spirit

By: Kevin Irwin 

No, I’m not talking about Tito’s Vodka.  I’m talking about those feelings you get around this time of year – that is, on Texas Independence Day – last Saturday, March 2nd. Maybe I’m not a native Texan, but I’ve lived half my life in this state and have a wife and kids who are native. So I should qualify as naturalized and think I’m entitled to a bit of Texas pride.

There are plenty of stereotypes associated with Texas. As always in these cases, they’re both wrong and right. Sure, we’ve got plenty of oilmen, cowboys, lying politicians (are there any other kind?), and good ol’ boys. But we’re also the home to high tech and high culture. The Johnson Space Center, Dell, the Amon Carter Museum, the Menil Collection, the Van Cliburn Competition – just to name a few. We’ve got tiny ranching communities and big modern cities (Houston is the 4th largest city and 7th largest metroplex in the U.S.; the DFW metroplex is 6th). We’ve got every sort of climate and terrain. Despite all the wide disparities, it’s still tied together by a common spirit: a mixture of confidence, practicality, optimism, hospitality, and stubbornness.

Wait a second! That sort of sounds just like another group of people I know: runners. (Disclaimer: most runners I know live in Texas, so that may be biasing my conclusion. If so, all I can say is too bad you don’t live here.) So, to celebrate Texas’ birthday, I’m going to riff on this topic using some quotes involving the Lone Star State:

That’s right, you’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway
– Lyle Lovett, “That’s Right (You’re Not From Texas)

The community of runners is an open and inclusive one. Anyone, at any age, at any ability, can join. There’s no special equipment, no tests to pass, no secret handshakes (as far as you know, wink wink). On the road and on the track, we are all equals. Some may be faster, some may be slower, but we all work just as hard. If you’re out there and trying, you’re one of us. Over the course of training or even just a race, we form bonds of mutual respect and friendship through sharing a common struggle.

Remember the Alamo! – Texian Army battle cry

Runners are a determined folk. They will doggedly chase their goals. Throw down a challenge and they will pick it up. Failure is not an option – definitely not after the long miles of training – but should it happen, runners get back up and try again. A failure is simply fuel for success the next time. And as noted before, we’re not alone on race day – every runner has your back and will help remind you of the hard work you put in leading up to that moment.
You all may go to hell and I will go to Texas. 
– Davy Crockett 

Warm winds blowing, heat and blue sky and a road that goes forever.
– Chris Rea, Texas 

No matter how bad a day, a run will do wonders for clearing your head. You can leave your troubles behind just by putting on your shoes. With others, the camaraderie and conversation makes time and distance fly by unnoticed. Alone, you can relax and enjoy the passing of the miles, soak up the scenery, and feel the breeze of your passing. Live in the perpetual moment of “now” running affords you.

Texas is a state of mind. Texas is an obsession.
– John Steinbeck
I dearly love the state of Texas, but I consider that a harmless perversion on my part, and discuss it only with consenting adults.
– Molly Ivins
Admittedly, runners are probably a bit off plumb. We’re not just talking about the act of running – something most people find crazy to begin with. More like your eccentric yet endearing maiden aunt.We worry about odd details: the weight of our shoes, what flavor of gels to carry, when to take side gels. (Note: I don’t do any of those things, but my weirdness is in my spartan old-school ways.) We talk among ourselves about split times, lost toenails, the best ways to prevent chafing, and the right amount of cushioning in a shoe. Outsiders just smile and nod politely, waiting for another topic to enter the conversation.
There’s a vastness here and I believe that the people who are born here breathe that vastness into their soul. They dream big dreams and think big thoughts, because there is nothing to hem them in. 
– Conrad Hilton

Runners often set big goals for themselves. Whether it’s just completing that couch to 5K program, getting that Boston qualifier, or finishing an unprecedented Grand Kona Slam, it’s always about challenging preconceived notions of your limits. From that comes the confidence to transcend the next set of barriers – running or otherwise.

This is the idea behind Marathon High. Take kids who, given their situation, might feel no reason to entertain their dreams. Set them a seemingly unattainable goal  (in their mind) to complete a marathon. Throw in elite athletes to coach and support them (while those athletes are chasing their own dreams of the Olympics – yet again with that community theme!). The result? Teens who learn that maybe big dreams aren’t really impossible ones.

Looks equally good on a flagpole or a pair of running shorts

So, go grab yourself a beer and eat some BBQ brisket, remembering all those things that make both running and Texas so great.

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