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Reflections of the first-ever San Antonio to Laredo ultra marathon

By Manuel “Manny” Davila

When I told people I wanted to do an ultra-marathon relay from San Antonio to Laredo, most people thought I was crazy. “Why would you do that?”, most asked as if I was one step away from being locked up at a mental hospital. Why? The reason why is that it has never been done before. Besides, the vision is to build something that will draw attention so that we can support charities in the future. Let’s take a look at what an “ultra-marathon” is.

Runners who inaugurated the first-ever Alamo To Border Ultra Marathon Relay
Runners who inaugurated the first-ever Alamo To Border Ultra Marathon Relay

An ultra-marathon is described as any distance over marathon distance. So, technically 26.3 miles is considered an ultra. As marathons have become more popular, people wanted a different challenge. The ultra-marathon was born. As time went on, others wanted to get involved but could not cover the great distances on their own. I could imagine the first ever conversation about this finishing with, “how about you do half and I’ll do the other half?”

Ultra marathon relays have become so popular that Running World now ranks the 100 Top Ultra Marathon and Relays in the USA. Every year, more runs are added to the calendar. Alamo To Border Ultra Marathon Relay is at its birth. Our vision is to make this a yearly event and have our name on that list.

The other part of why is the fact that this is an odd run, people will be curious. With this comes the possibility of calling attention to numerous charities out there that need support. Running is a sport that has no boundaries. You do not have to be an elite athlete to compete. The competition lies within the individual. Individuals will have their opportunity to support their favorite charity. Run for a cause is the best way of saying it, while doing something worthwhile.

The first ever documented run from San Antonio to Laredo happened this past weekend and for me, it was one of the most memorable events I have ever been a part of. For me, it was doubly special because not only did I run parts of it, but I also organized the run. I do have to give credit to people that helped and will do that throughout this article.

First up was Kris Kidd.

Kris is an occasional runner who does very well when called upon. He began his trek in front of Sea World. Taco Paluenque showed up with breakfast tacos for the few of us who were up that early. It was so cool to have a delivery car show up right before a run. Kris had the most scenic route but also the hilliest. Although the elevation chart shows a drop, it is actually more of an up down.

Poor Kris took the brunt early but fought like a champion including almost being slowed down by a train. One lady even screamed out “lean mean running machine”! Kris finished his run tired but having the title of first ever runner of The Alamo To Border Ultra Marathon Relay.

Next up was a self-proclaimed “non-runner”, but he is becoming one, Eric Ellman. Eric heads up The Big River Foundation which is one of the sponsors of the run. Eric ran in those glove shoes. He started off well and since he was just a beginning runner, I expected him to tucker out early. Instead I kept looking behind and he seemed to be having the time of his life. ‘Comfortable” was the word I kept thinking of. The only time he looked uncomfortable was when the big and vicious Chihuahua dog chased him. He was also a trooper and ran us past Lytle.

Emilia McGarity is tough! For those of you who would ever question that would only have to follow her Saturday morning. She completed the Jailbreak, which is a 5K mud run, then got there in time to run 13.1 miles. She really never showed sign of fatigue. She just reminded me of a wind-up toy that never stopped. She was sure and steady. We would periodically drive up to ask her if she needed anything and most of the time she just smiled and said, “no”, then would just keep going. She got us to the point of the day where the sun was coming out.

I was next. I was excited to go. Thinking about this for years, now was my chance. Herman had to take Emilia back to San Antonio, so I ran alone. I took only one water which was a big mistake. The roads are winding and at times hilly, but that is true for all runners. I had to battle the extreme heat, which was the hottest day to date. After about 5 miles, I really started to feel it. I had drank all my water so I went into a Valero for more. Showing me that there is still kindness, a lady let me get some Gatorade from the fountain. I took it happily and went off again.

Waiting for Herman seemed like an eternity. I had finished my liquids and went on for about another hour before I was saved by Herman with more liquid. Needless to say, I was spent. I was running slow, walking a lot more than I expected and wanted to. I turned to Herman and he got ready to go.

Herman’s leg was also in the sun. He ran with the camelback but soon also found that it was of little use. He had a great pace for about an hour, but the heat started to get to him. He looked at me and that look told me everything. He was feeling what I had felt a few hours before. He also mentioned the head wind which would have been better but it brought the dust and dirt which really seemed to make it hotter. I left him quickly to find our next runners but came back to see him running hard. The sun was not as strong and he let go. He was tired alright, but he finished strong.

Rita Cantu and Aristeo ran next and decided to go together. Rita has always been a strong runner and she got her husband into running 3 years ago. They both ran at a comfortable pace for a long while. With the sun beginning to set, they started to get some cooler temperatures. They did get at least two truck pass them that brought a bunch of dust. I could feel their eyes sting as I followed them. Once it was dark, we made sure they had constant light. Aristeo was running on the outside lane with a reflective vest. He seemed to be puckering out. He fell behind and it became hard to track to runners. I could see Rita in front but losing Aristeo behind me. I went to pick him up and Rita continued. Rita, to me, has always been a running machine. I call her a “mental runner”. She knows what she wants to get out of a run and gets it. They both did a great job. We now were a little over half way done and the next Laredo runners were prepared.

Read Alamo to the Border Ultra Marathon Part 2

Manuel “Manny” Davila is a San Antonio-based fitness instructor, marathon runner and owner and chief operator of the Par 5 Golf Fitness Program in the San Antonio area who shares his tips and fitness experiences on his blog MD Fitness’s Blog.

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