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An Athlete’s Perspective – Issue 13

An Athlete’s Perspective is a blog series of event and/or training experiences written firsthand by the athletes themselves. An Athlete’s Perspective is a completely unscripted and raw look into the mind and daily life of an athlete as they prepare for their next race. Readers will discover training regimens, eating tips, gear recommendations, and an uncut perspective into the lives of people like you and me.

Still Going

By: Robert Mange with Leslie and Andrea Leyton-Mange

I am 65 years old and for most of my adult life, up until about 5 years ago, I was a runner. I began running in 1976 after moving to the Washington, DC area for a job with the Federal government. Eventually, I had a 36 miles per week habit. I’ve completed 16 marathons, a dozen triathlons, and assorted other races of varying distances.   

On February 18, 2018, I completed the Austin Half Marathon with my daughter, finishing with a chip time of 4 hours and 18 minutes, which was certainly nothing spectacular… except for the fact that I have Parkinson’s Disease. 

Parkinson's Disease

Andrea enjoys a post-race meal with her family after completing the Austin Half Marathon with her father, Robert.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a progressive neuromuscular disorder that affects both brain and body. Typical symptoms can include tremors, slowness of movement, rigid muscles, trouble with balance, fatigue, and loss of mental sharpness (dementia), among other things. Over time, swallowing and other bodily functions are affected and there is no cure. Not everyone will display the same symptoms, but symptoms that are experienced will become more frequent and severe.

Prior to the half marathon, I didn’t (and still don’t) know of any other Parkinson’s Disease patients who attempted this distance and, when we spoke, neither had my neurologist. He said that he had never treated anyone at my fitness level so I should be confident. This time, I would be attempting my first long distance race while having a disease that dominated my life. So many things could go wrong. I was terrified. I only knew how to train for normal running distances while free from disease.

How do I train by walking, with the kind of effect I would need to build strength for the long haul? What do I do to substitute for long runs and speed work? I trained hard but could not tell if I was getting a training effect. I just walked for as long as I could and jogged for short spurts in between. Would it be enough? Would it be enough to enable me to take the nearly 70,000 steps to the finish?

Race Day – February 18, 2018

It was still dark when I awoke the morning of the race. I needed extra lighting to take the 10 different medications that I need to keep my symptoms at bay. My Parkinson’s Disease meds are generally effective for most of the day but by evening have completely worn off, so I wondered as I downed my morning pills how long they would keep me upright on that day. I wore a shirt signed by the members of my weekly Power for Parkinson’s (PFP) exercise class. They’re a courageous group of people who offered me encouragement and support as I trained. Before heading to the course, my daughter helped me attach my race bib. My tremors and coordination issues make it difficult to use something like safety pins on my own.  

Happy just to be alive at the start, we set off. I was tired after 3 miles. What went wrong? Did we start out too fast?  I was going to have to grit it out. Support on the sidelines helped. At around mile 11, encouragement came from about 30 young adults who formed a canopy over us, cheering us on. I walked and ran for the duration of the 13.1-mile course with my daughter beside me, supporting my efforts and guiding me to the finish. I was more tired than I had ever been before.

Crossing the finish line that day had special meaning to me because it showed me that I could still accomplish fitness goals in my life despite the challenges of a disease that seeks to rob me of my ability and strength. I’ll need them both when I try the Austin Half Marathon again next year.

An Athlete’s Perspective – Issue 12

An Athlete’s Perspective is a blog series of event and/or training experiences written firsthand by the athletes themselves. An Athlete’s Perspective is a completely unscripted and raw look into the mind and daily life of an athlete as they prepare for their next race. Readers will discover training regimens, eating tips, gear recommendations, and an uncut perspective into the lives of people like you and me.

Beyond 26.2 Miles with All Blind Children of Texas

By: Cheryl Austin

Image of co-captains Janet Bean and Paula Willson (credit: Chrissy Cowan)

ABCTX co-captains Janet Bean and Paula Willson (credit: Chrissy Cowan)

“Unimaginable.” If I had to describe my experience with the 2018 Austin Marathon and Austin Gives Miles in one word, it would be “unimaginable.” I had run marathons before–four, in fact: one in each state I had lived–but this one was different. This time, the extent of my accomplishments reached far beyond myself, and would potentially impact the lives of the 9,000 legally blind children statewide.

As an individual with a congenital visual impairment (oculocutaneous albinism) and a teacher at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, I know well the unique educational needs of this population, and was pleased to learn about the efforts of All Blind Children of Texas (ABCTX). ABCTX is “a resource for the optimal physical, mental, emotional and social development” of these children, with a mission to fund and facilitate their participation in programs and activities that “provide hands-on learning experiences that help to master the skills needed to work alongside sighted peers.”

So, when I had to drop out of the Austin Marathon in 2017 due to an injury, I made myself a promise . . . If I ever ran another marathon, it would be for this charity, and I would not do it alone.

Image of ABCTX aid station at Mile 15. (credit: Chrissy Cowan)

ABCTX aid station at Mile 15. (credit: Chrissy Cowan)

Convincing the All Blind Children of Texas board to support my idea was easy, and the Austin Gives Miles application was straightforward and simple. What happened after we were accepted as a first-time Official Charity Partner was nothing less than remarkable. Under my leadership, a team of 59 runners and walkers came together and, with additional support from the Moody Foundation and Qualcomm, raised $33,500, more than double any previous ABCTX fundraiser. Some were experienced athletes; others had never participated in a road race before, and most had little to no fundraising experience. Local businesses opened their doors to host events and their hearts to donate goods and services, raising more dollars and building awareness of our mission and camaraderie within the community.

On race day, the miles seemed shorter and my legs less fatigued, as I reflected on this significant journey. With the support of more than 75 volunteers at Mile 15, my parents on the sidelines, and my husband at my side, I crossed the finish line with a sense of pride that I cannot describe. I had already won, so to learn that I had placed first in the female VI (B3) division was just icing on the cake!

For more information about All Blind Children of Texas, please visit www.abctx.org.

An Athlete’s Perspective – Issue 11

An Athlete’s Perspective is a blog series of event and/or training experiences written firsthand by the athletes themselves. An Athlete’s Perspective is a completely unscripted and raw look into the mind and daily life of an athlete as they prepare for their next race. Readers will discover training regimens, eating tips, gear recommendations, and an uncut perspective into the lives of people like you and me.

From Australia to Austin

By: Mike Marshall

The Marshall family.

I live in Brisbane, Queensland Australia. I’m married to Kylie and am the father of 2 boys, Zach 9 and Jake 6. We are now four weeks away from racing in the Austin Marathon and 5K race. How we got to this point started about 12 months ago I decided that in 2017 I wanted to set a goal to run some marathons and see exactly what I could achieve with a targeted focus.

My background in sports had been “on pause” for the past 12 years while we started the family and may have extended a bit too long as I “enjoyed the life” of excess and “normality” (ie not getting up at 0400 and being constantly tired, sore and irritable like all hard training endurance athletes). I had never really specifically trained and “run” a marathon, I had completed a bunch as part of training but these were always part of a “bigger IRONMAN picture” so I was not fully focused, trained, or tapered during these races and I suppose that’s what lead to the goal.

This goal seemed to fit well with the family as they all showed interest in getting involved. We decided that the “main event” of the year would be the Honolulu Marathon in December followed by a Hawaiian Christmas vacation (sounded perfect end to a year of hard work).

I set about training utilizing the Under Armour Connected Fitness Apps, Map My Fitness, Record, and My Fitness Pal to monitor, review, and hold me accountable throughout the process After so much time away from training I was substantially “well-conditioned” (read: overweight).

Mike and his boys, who’ll run the Austin Marathon 5K.

As the year progressed I started to see some improvements in both running and the weight front, racing a half marathon in May and a marathon in July where I managed to record the same time I ran 12 years prior despite an epic “blow up” at about the 33K mark.

From July onwards the focus was solely on Honolulu. As the last 11 weeks approached I saw on the Map My Fitness App a challenge for the month of October: The Under Armour Australia “Reward your Run” Challenge. The concept was pretty simple, most KM in 28 days, two sessions per day, min 20 mins per session, max four hrs. The major prize for Australian residents was a trip for 2 to the Austin Marathon in 2018 and for those in places 2-100 a pair of shoes. I figured I would enter the challenge to help “keep me focused” on the training for the marathon and given the volume I was running figured I might end up winning a pair of shoes if I was lucky. I got off to a slow start in the challenge as I was away and missed the first day (as it was my rest day following my long run the day before) and I was planning on racing the approaching weekend. At the completion of the first week of the challenge I found myself in about 5th position and looking at what I had done and the gaps figured I might be able to do a bit better than what I thought. Pretty soon I found myself focusing on achieving the most KM per day so I could to “Get to Austin.” The KM increased and the fatigue set in. My family were a huge support to me throughout the challenge and we were trying not to “Dare to Dream of Austin Marathon.”

#IWill

At the conclusion of the challenge I had racked up 878 KM and was declared the winner. We now found ourselves Austin bound in 2018. This challenge helped me prepare well for a good performance in Honolulu in December 2017, but also gave me something further to focus on heading forward. With Honolulu ticked off, the work is truly underway with the goals set for the Austin Marathon.

Glad to say that thanks to the Under Armour Australia “Reward your Run” Challenge not only will I get the opportunity to race the Austin Marathon, but my wife and boys will also race in the Austin Marathon 5K. Needless to say, we are all super excited to get this opportunity to go halfway around the world to race and experience a city like Austin.

The reality of racing in Austin is what is motivating us all to prepare and train hard for which I expect is the whole point of the event being held. The Austin Marathon event seems to be comprehensive in bringing in a complete experience of the city and state which is super exciting for an Australian family. Would love to hear the suggestions for post-race meals, parties, and experiences so we can capitalize on this opportunity at the Austin Marathon thanks to Under Armour Australia.

If you see me out there say “Gday,” if I am not too out of breath you will probably get a “Hey Mate” back.