Posts

Love for Running Transcends Stage IV Cancer Diagnosis

Not even Stage IV cancer can extinguish Axel’s love for running

Runners often credit running for helping them through tough times. Having a bad day? Go for a run? Stress at work? Log some miles on the trail? Frustrating situation? Visit the track for speed work. Axel Reissnecker’s story is the exact same. His love for running is unquestioned and the foundation upon which he relied after his cancer diagnosis. Read Axel’s edition of My Running Story and learn why he’s returning to an old tradition after defeating Stage IV kidney cancer.

Axel Reissnecker and his family celebrate after finishing the 2007 Cap10K. His love for running helped him defeat Stage IV cancer.

Axel and his family (left to right – son Sven, wife Karin, daughter Anja, son Felix) after Cap10K. Credit – Alex Reissnecker

Love for running turns into a tradition

Hi, I’m Axel Reissnecker. I’ve always had a love for running, though I didn’t start participating in races until I turned 44. After my first 10K in the fall of 1997, I quickly ramped up and ran my first marathon in Austin in 1998. This became a kind of tradition with 10 consecutive Austin Marathons from 1998 until 2007. Another annual tradition for me is running the Cap 10K in a costume. I even won first place twice in the costume contest! Eventually, after years of running road races, I switched to the “dark side,” aka trail running. I started running even longer distances, up to 100 miles.

In 2012, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer, Stage IV, which meant the cancer had already spread. I began chemo after the removal of my left kidney and the secondary tumor in my sinuses. However, this did not stop me from running. Less than four weeks after kidney surgery I was back on the trail and speed-hiking a 50-mile race.

The running tradition returns

Seven years later, at age 66, I am much slower than I used to be. This is also partially due to the side effects of the chemo. I also somewhat cut down on long-distance running. Nevertheless, I still like to run. It clears my mind and keeps me relaxed, balanced, and always in a good mood. Running also comes with a lot of health benefits. For example, it helps keep my blood pressure under control without taking meds. Rain or shine, there is nothing like being outdoors and enjoying a good run.

By the way, in 2017 I decided to return to the annual tradition of running the Austin Marathon. So, when you see an old geezer huffing’ and puffin’ towards the finish line on Congress Avenue on February 16, 2020, that might be yours truly!

My Running Story is a series of blog submissions from runners just like yourself. They submitted their inspirational running stories as part of a contest to win an entry of their choice to the 2020 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon. Their stories range from crossing their first finish line to drastic lifestyle change due to running. Everyone’s story is different and unique, impacting them in a specific way. While each story is specific to the author, everyone can resonate in some form or fashion because of the power of running. Other My Running Story submissions include Kayleigh Williamson, Kirsten Pasha, Michael Coffey, Samantha Santos, Tom Hamann, Erica Richart, Angela Clark, Rebecca Galvan, and Jeremy Tavares.

How to Stay Motivated after the Austin Marathon/Half Marathon

Keep the good times rolling, stay motivated with these tips

You trained a great deal in preparation for the Austin Marathon or Austin Half Marathon. Most of you trained at least 3-4 months, some of you as many as 12 months! Either way, you’ve established a rhythm and created a solid foundation with which you can build off of in preparation for the 2020 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon! Read below to see how to stay motivated now that you’ve crossed the Congress Ave. finish line.

Reward yourself

Early mornings. Late nights. Months of training. Hundreds of miles. One finish line. You achieved your goals and accomplished dreams! Reward yourself and commemorate your moment when you purchase official, limited-edition Austin Marathon gear from the online Fleet Feet Austin store. Show off in your Run Austin Under Armour gear during your next workout or on your next long run. Be proud of your accomplishments! Hurry, because supplies are limited. Pro tip: when you don’t feel like working out or going for a long run, bust our your Run Austin gear for an energy boost!

Join a running club

If you don’t already run with a club or a group, this section is for you! If you do run with a club or group, check out some other options around town. It never hurts to meet more runners, try new workouts, and log more miles! Various groups and clubs around Austin have differing schedules, so they can accommodate most any runner in any part of Austin.

  • RAW Running meets twice a week on Tuesday evening (7:00 at Deep Eddy Cabaret) and Friday morning (6:30 at Fleet Feet Austin).
  • East Side Beer Runners meet on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Hops and Grain and explore Austin’s trails on Sunday morning. RAW and ESBR don’t charge for membership.
  • Austin Runners Club has runs just about every day of the week in every part of Austin. ARC dues are $30/year, but if you join ARC while registering for the Austin Marathon or 3M Half Marathon it only costs $25!
  • Pro tip: if you’re not in Austin, use this helpful tool from the Road Runners Club of America to find a running club near you.

Branch out

Chances are high that all or a high percentage of your Austin Marathon or Austin Half Marathon training miles were completed on the road. Now’s the time to branch out and explore other locations and endurance sports! There are numerous benefits to running on trails or completing your first triathlon.

  • Trail running will purposefully slow you down. You can really dial in your pace, allowing your body to continue getting stronger. With the ups and downs, twists and turns, you work your muscles differently. This helps with the strengthening, especially with your ankles and feet. Wherever you run on trails, you get to see some of the prettiest locations in your city! Pro tip: pay attention! You can’t just zone out like you sometimes can on the road, you have to pay attention to everything, from roots to rocks. The last thing you want is to end up on the ground!
  • Register for your first triathlon, like Rookie Triathlon. The benefits of cross-training are endless! With a 300m swim, 11.2-mile bike, and 2-mile run, this event is perfect for first-timers. You’ve got the running part down, now focus on the swim and bike portions. Once you adjust your training you’ll really feel your body get stronger. Austin has several pools where you can start your swim training and numerous bike paths where you can lock in your bike training.

Register for short-distance races

Speedwork makes the dream work! Now is the time most runners switch from long-distance training to shorter distances, especially with the impending Texas heat. This allows them to remain in shape while strengthening their muscles differently. Speedwork will help you get faster if you utilize your training properly. Just because you focus on shorter distances doesn’t mean you can ignore recovery, stretching, foam rolling, etc. You still have to take care of your body! 

  • Cap10K – Cap10K is entering its 42nd year and is the largest 10K in Texas. With more than 24,000 registrants expected on April 7th, Cap10K is annually one of the largest 10Ks in the US. Cap10K starts on Congress Ave. Bridge and finishes near Auditorium Shores. The finish line festival is complete with a selfie drone, beer garden, and live music.

Workout with Camp Gladiator

This crew got you loose on Feb. 17th, so you know they know their stuff. They also had 12 cheer stations on course, so you know they can bring the energy! CG is an outdoor fitness program for all fitness levels. They have workouts all over Austin, find one near you. These workouts will make you a better runner because you can trim down, work on your core, and increase your overall strength. Learn how you can take advantage of their best pricing of the season!

Raise money for your favorite charity

Another great way to stay motivated is to fundraise on behalf of your favorite Austin Gives Miles nonprofit leading up to Feb. 16, 2020. Add more meaning to your training miles and make a significant impact on Central Texas. Raise money from family and friends for each mile you run or each run you complete. Either way, you’re using your legs for good! It’s tough to choose from all the amazing Austin Gives Miles charities, but if you ran with us on Feb. 17th, think back to the aid station that gave you the most energy. The one that pumped you up when you needed it the most. Write down that nonprofits name and fundraise on their behalf when you train for the Austin Marathon, half marathon, or 5K.

Start a team for 2020

It’s never too early to begin planning for 2020 3M Half Marathon (Jan. 19th) and Ascension Seton Austin Marathon (Feb. 16th). There are many reasons to create a team. Starting a team is a great way to hold others accountable during training. Plus, running is better with friends! Why pick either event when your team can register to run both events. Grab brunch after long runs, make shirts for race day, or support an Austin Gives Miles charity. Let the recruiting begin!

Shawn Livingston, Recovering Addict, Transforms Life Through Running

Shawn Livingston emphasizes how the power of running helped him get his life back

On Tuesday, October 30th, Shawn Livingston, a 10-year military veteran, up-and-coming endurance trail runner, and recovering addict who discovered his love for running through Back on My Feet Austin (BoMF), met with William Dyson (Austin Marathon Communications Manager) to conduct the latest installment of the Staying Vertical interview series.

They discuss life’s highs and lows, running’s impact, and what the future holds. Shawn just completed the Pinhoti 100 Miler in Sylacauga, AL, and has his sights set on the 2019 Ascension Seton Austin Marathon presented by Under Armour. BoMF, an Austin Gives Miles official charity, combats homelessness through the power of running, community support, and essential employment and housing resources. Read his interview below. If you see him on the trail or running with Austin Runners Club’s Ship of Fools chat him up!

William Dyson – When did you move to Austin? How long ago did you begin running with BoMF? What prompted you to join the group?

Shawn Livingston – I moved to Austin in 2016 for treatment. I’ve been running with BoMF for nearly 18 months now (began in June – 2017). I distinctly remember seeing a few guys return from running the 2017 Cap10K. I knew I wanted to get healthy, but I needed something to push me a little bit further. Seeing those guys return provided that spark for me.Shawn Livingston

WD – What was your life prior to BoMF?

SL – Growing up I was the oldest sibling. I did well early on in life, was a good role model for my siblings, and did well in sports. During my 10 years in the military, I got injured and became addicted to opiates. I was lost for a long time, eventually getting into legal trouble for drug possession. Everything came crashing down when I went to prison. It was there I realized I needed to stop being selfish. You get back what you put into this world, I truly believe that. I started thinking if God had a plan for me to peak early in life and then crash just so my siblings would know what not to do, then it’d be worth it. It was difficult to get past that thought process.

WD – What was your initial reaction to BoMF?

SL – BoMF was exactly what I needed at the exact right time. As a vet you miss getting up early, the camaraderie, going on long runs, the structured routine. Finding something similar was just what I needed. There were runners at the morning runs like me and I knew this would be the perfect stepping stone.

WD – What has running done for you as a human?

SL – After getting out of the military, I had problems with depression and anxiety. I couldn’t sleep and had nightmares regularly. Eventually, running became a part of my life and did to me what medicine could not. Through running I was able to break my dependence on the medication. Since I was a kid I’ve never been good at being still. Now, running has become my meditation. I’m able to break down, process, and work out life’s instances. You have some time to think when you go on a 20-mile run.

WD – What has running done to you as a person?

SL – About two years ago I weighed 260 lbs., smoked cigarettes, and was tremendously out of shape. I started running and eventually got my weight down to 195 lbs. The before-and-after pictures show two completely different people and showcase the difference between unhealthy and healthy. My attitude towards everything shifted, I have a more positive outlook on life, and possess a confidence booster I didn’t realize I had. Even with all that, it was hard to find a sense of accomplishment in life when I first started running. It wasn’t until I ran my first race and received a huge medal. They put it around my neck and I felt this undeniable sense of accomplishment. It made me want more. As someone who’s new to running, I wanted that next feeling. Before running I was addicted to feeling good. Running provides that good feeling now.

WD – Why do you continue to be involved with and support BoMF?

SL – There’s a saying “keep what you have by giving it away.” Running with BoMF has been so beneficial for me on many levels. When I needed someone, they were there. They supported me and helped me turn my life around. I’m dedicated to bringing that feeling and sensation to other people. If they’re in a similar situation, I want to show them what’s possible.

WD – Tell me how you went from morning runs with BoMF to ultra distances.

SL – I first started on trails because I was down to run anything. At first, running longer distances didn’t make sense to me. I was inspired and also blown away when those guys ran the Cap10K. Penny (BoMF volunteer, mentor, and fellow trail runner) saw something in me that I didn’t. She encouraged me to give longer distances on the trail a try. My second race was 2017 Capt’n Karl’s Muleshoe Bend 30K and continued with longer distances from there. Eventually, I gained more and more confidence. So much so that I’m running the Pinhoti 100 miler (my first) this Friday in Alabama (update: he finished in 27:43:35)

WD – You’ve becoShawn Livingstonme a decorated ultrarunner. What are your recent accomplishments?

SL – I’ve placed in the top 10 at several races and have thoroughly enjoyed pushing my body’s limits while testing longer distances.

Nov. 3rd – Pinhoti 100 Miler (27:43:35)

Sept. 28th – 4th place overall – J&J Race & Trail Running Reunion 50K (5:48:17)

Sept. 7th – 1st place overall – Paleface Marathon (4:39:15)

Aug. 4th – 8th place overall – Capt’n Karl’s Colorado Bend 30K (3:45:52)

June 2nd – 5th place overall – Texas Trail Running Festival Half Marathon (2:04:46)

May 5th – 5th place overall – Pandora’s Box of Rox Half Marathon (1:57:54)

WD – What keeps you running?

SL – Like I said earlier, it’s my medicine. Running is what I’ve gotten the most out of in life. Nothing makes me feel as good as running. You hear people talk about the direct connection between running and mental/physical health, but it doesn’t really click until you experience that feeling firsthand. It’s tough to find something like the “runner’s high” this rewarding.

WD – Tell me one or two running goals on your radar right now.

SL – Finish this weekend’s 100-miler (check) and qualify for the Boston Marathon at the 2019 Austin Marathon.

WD – Tell me one or two non-running goals on your radar right now.

SL – Get certified to become a personal trainer, continue progressing in my life, and reach as many people as possible.

WD – How are you training for the Austin Marathon? What’s your approach?

SL – Running trails has helped my road running. It’s strengthened muscles that don’t normally get work when road running. I run hills all the time. I plan to run the 2019 Bandera 100K in January. Barring an unforeseen injury, I’ll keep training because I want to qualify for Boston.

WD – BoMF is an Austin Gives Miles charity. Why should someone run/fundraise/spread awareness on their behalf?

SL – Runners know how beneficial running can be, they get it. What better way than to help others better themselves than by running?! It’s a very unique outlet to help those that need it most, simply by completing an action most of us take for granted on a daily basis.

Shawn LivingstonWD – How do you want to be remembered?

SL – I want to be remembered as somebody that was able to help others through their trials and tribulations. I want to use my experiences to show them right from wrong, but to also show them you can still accomplish anything you set your mind to, no matter where you are in life.

WD – You can travel back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self. What is that advice?

SL – No advice, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m not ashamed of anything in my past because it made me who I am now. I wouldn’t be the Shawn Livingston I am today without my past. We wouldn’t be at this table today and I wouldn’t have a message to share if it weren’t for my past.

WD – You have 30 seconds to pitch BoMF to someone who could benefit from the organization. What do you tell them?

SL – If you want to find an avenue to change your life and be around positive people who want to help, this program can provide that for you.

WD – What does family mean to you?

SL – Family means everything to me. My mindset changed completely when they cut me off. That’s when it sunk in. To have them back makes you realize at the end of the day family is all you have.

WD – Favorite non-running activity?

SL – Basketball.

Favorite place for long runs?

SL – Town Lake. To have so many people in the same place doing the same thing, from all walks of life, in shape, out of shape, all with similar goals, it’s energizing.

WD – Morning or evening workouts?

SL – Morning.

WD – You can choose one – dogs or cats?

SL – Dogs.

WD – What’s your favorite color?

SL – Carolina blue.

WD – Shawn, thank you for taking the time to visit with me and share your story. Meeting you and hearing your story firsthand is powerful. I appreciate you spending your time with me. Best of luck at Pinhoti, your first 100-miler! I just might sign up for my first trail race and hit you up for some advice. Keep pushing and taking it day-by-day. Good things are headed your way. We’ll see you at the Austin Marathon!

SL – You’re welcome. Thank’s for having me. I’m fortunate to have been given a second chance through running and I feel like I need to tell my story. Everyone knows someone with a problem. The hard part is reaching through to them and helping. I see running as an avenue to reach others. It can transform someone’s life if they have the right mindset. I know it transformed me! Thanks for the luck, hit me up when you register for that trail race. Looking forward to more trails and the Austin Marathon!