With days to go before the 51st annual Chevron Houston Marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon, Baylor College of Medicine would like to celebrate its runners who have trained for months and will lace their shoes to run their race on Jan. 15.
Race training can change a person regardless of their personal record goals. Whether solo or running in a group, the months leading up to a long race are filled with full schedules, a different food intake and (hopefully) more sleep than normal. While muscles are forming on the outside, the inside can transform as well.
In this compilation of runner stories from the Baylor community, learn why each person has dedicated hours of their life to putting one foot in front of the other on marathon weekend.
Dr. Now Bahar Alam, resident in radiation oncology
“I signed up for the marathon to prove to myself that I can complete it; it is a bucket list item. I have been training by running at least five times a week over the last few months. I started with shorter distances and ran at a jogging pace. Then I started to increase the mileage on one weekend day, and I plan to increase this to 20 miles one week before the race. The other days, I run 4-7 miles. I run this all the way through at a faster pace than my long runs, or I run a fast race pace in one-mile increments. Running is important because it allows me to focus on one goal. It is a great way for me to clear my mind.”
Yang Ding, first-year medical student
“I am running the Chevron Houston Marathon in January and I’m very excited! I started training in July after graduating college by following a beginner marathon program. When I started, I could barely run one mile. I ran the BCM Wellness 5K in October, and in December, I finished a 20-mile run, the longest run of my program. I have never run long distance before, but it has always been a dream of mine to finish a marathon. I believe exercise is an integral aspect of health and I want to show that anyone can take on the challenge of a marathon – even a busy medical student – by just taking a single step forward! Running has become a passion of mine and is a great break from the stress of studying for exams. I have also made great friends through running with the BCM Runners Club every week. I could not have made it this far without them and my running partners. I hope my journey will inspire others!”
Dr. Christopher S. Greeley, professor of pediatrics
“I am running the half. I am on the team for Bo’s Place for Chevron Houston Marathon Run for a Reason Program. I run for my physical and mental health.”
Wendy Hammerman, R.N., nurse manager in Family and Community Medicine
“This year at the Houston Marathon, I will be pushing a child in his ‘chariot’ as he had both feet amputated due to sickle cell anemia. I’ve also guided a blind athlete at the Houston Marathon a few years ago. I feel that giving back to the running community is where I find my greatest joy with running. I’ve run the Houston Marathon a bunch of times and have qualified for the Boston Marathon many times, as well. I will run the Boston Marathon again this year in April.”
Sean Hartig, associate professor of endocrinology
“This will be my eighth Houston Marathon (I think). Marathon day remains one of my favorite days of the year. Despite the early morning call, the excitement amongst the runners is palpable and everyone is in such a great mood. And few feelings outdo crossing the finish line after the months of training.”
Dr. Akshat Katyayan, assistant professor of pediatric neurology
“I am running the full marathon this year. This is my fourth Houston marathon. I started running in my mid 20s to lose weight and to get healthy because I was dealing with low back pain and prehypertension. Before then, I was never an ‘athlete’ due to my weight. Once I started running, I realized that I enjoyed it very much, and the added health benefits, including about a 60–70-pound weight loss was a bonus! Over the last decade, throughout residency, fellowship and now working as a physician, I try to work out (mostly running, some weights and biking) five or six days a week. I feel it is very important for everyone, especially healthcare professionals, to try and lead a healthy lifestyle. I love running the Houston marathon as our vibrant city comes together as one that day. It embodies the spirit of our great city where people from different cultures, countries, religious and political affiliations run together and support the runners! I have been training for the marathon with my running group, Runner’s High Club. Although the training season officially starts in September, my group unofficially runs 12-15 miles every weekend on Saturdays in the summer to keep our physical fitness up. It is not fun running long distances in the Houston heat, but it has increased my endurance and stamina when I actually start training for the marathon.”
Dr. S. Hillary Kim-Vences, assistant professor of medicine – general internal medicine
“This will be my seventh consecutive Houston race since moving here in 2015 to start my residency. Houston 2020 was my first marathon (and a Boston Marathon qualifier!), which will probably live in my memory forever as the best race ever. My husband is also running his 11th Houston Marathon in 2023, his first as a legacy runner. We met during my intern year, bonded over running in Houston together, and seven years later, here we are – married with two kids and still running together. Including 2020 when I was pregnant with my first baby, I have been grateful for my health that allows me to continue running. I think of those who have touched me and left, such as my patients and mentors who have passed away, and dedicate my race each year to their memory. I love this race in this city, which has become my home away from home. I’m running in 2023 with the goal of qualifying for the New York City Marathon. Even if I don’t qualify, I’ll be happy to run this course again. I love how this race brings Houstonians together – seeing strangers cheer for strangers. If you happen to spot me on the ‘hills’ of Allen Parkway in the final stretches of the race, please remember to send all your positive vibes my way!”
Ruth Ann Luna, associate professor of pathology and immunology
“This will hopefully be my 12th Houston Marathon, and 14th marathon in total. I started running after my kids were born as a way to stay in shape and ensure I got time for myself. However, when my son was diagnosed with autism shortly after his second birthday, running has since become highly therapeutic for me – a chance to calm my busy brain and think through all of life’s challenges both personally and professionally. While I prefer to run alone because of this, I have helped guide many other friends through their marathon training, and I’ll be excited to see another dear friend, who is also an ‘autism mom,’ cross her first finish line.”
Donna J. Palmer, research associate for molecular and human genetics
“This will be my 20th straight year running the Chevron Houston Marathon. I’ve run many marathons, but Houston is my favorite, and I’ve managed to make it to the start line year after year. These last few years have been the toughest, as I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis three years ago. I went from running multiple miles each week, to a painfully slow walk. But I kept walking. Then the medications started to kick in, and I was able to start running and walking again. So here I am again, refusing to give up on my streak at Houston, or on myself. I love running, and not running has been mentally challenging. Learning to accept my post-RA limitations has been a huge and frustrating learning curve but having this goal of completing the Houston race each year has helped immensely. As this year’s marathon approaches, I am filled with hope, and although I’ve had many setbacks (thanks to RA), I am determined to try. I won’t be able to run continuously but by using my run-walk strategy I plan to get my 20th finish.”
Dr. Katy Patras, assistant professor of molecular virology and microbiology
“I have been an avid runner for over a decade and enjoy participating in local races to run with the community to see more of our beautiful city. This is my second year running the Chevron Houston Marathon, and I love the course (super flat), and the spectators that cheer along the entire route. I run four-to-five times a week and have been building mileage since the end of September. I have a running group, which includes neighbors and other Texas Medical Center faculty, and we encourage and motivate each other on the longer (or warmer) runs. Running makes everything better! The physical, mental and emotional benefits of frequent running have motivated me to make it a routine habit. The extra benefits include deeper friendships and dedicated time for thinking and processing.”
Sophie Schott, researcher in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences
“I ran the Houston Marathon last year with the goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, but passed out at mile 25 of the race due to pretty bad hyponatremia. Medics pulled me from the course, and I woke up with an IV in my arm instead of a medal around my neck. When I was in the recovery area, one of the doctors volunteering at the event noticed how sad I was about how my race turned out and encouraged me to try again. His kindness meant so much to me in that moment and helped me to believe that I could qualify for Boston if I got enough electrolytes in my system during my next race. I ended up qualifying and placing third in my division at the Erie Marathon and will be racing Boston this April!”
Victoria Tenge, postdoctoral assistant in molecular virology and microbiology
“I’m just volunteering at the Houston Marathon this year because I’ll be doing the Running the Rose 100KM Ultramarathon at the end of January in Tyler, Texas. During the pandemic, I ran my first regular marathon, the 2021 Houston Marathon, and got into distance running. I enjoy running ultramarathons because they push you exceed both physical and mental limits. The training process is extensive. While running so many hours, I can destress by listening to music and podcasts or use the time to think about challenges that I am troubleshooting in the lab. I’d also love to promote the BON Running Club to the Baylor community. They meet every Tuesday evening at Little Woodrow’s in Rice Village. When I moved to Texas and started at Baylor, I would go after lab, and this is how I got into running.”
Dr. Michael Wangler, assistant professor of molecular and human genetics
“I will be running the Chevron Houston Marathon this year. I lost my father to Alzheimer’s disease last year. He was a marathoner, so he is my inspiration. My kids are great runners, also, and they cheer me on. I’ve been training with up to 23-mile long runs and weekly runs with the Houston Harriers group, as well as with a fantastic partner. I mix in spin classes at Ryde and strength training. I hope to represent Baylor well.”
Story compiled by Julie Garcia. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.