Austin Distance Challenge kicks off Sept. 27 with Run Free Texas 8K

Austin Distance Challenge participants will collect pieces of this magnet at each of the six races in the series.
Austin Distance Challenge participants will collect pieces of this magnet at each of the six races in the series.

Want to conquer this year’s Austin Distance Challenge, hosted by the Austin Runners Club? Better sign up soon.

The series of six local races leads up to the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon in February. The races increase in distance as the series progresses, making it a natural component of many runners’ training programs.

Participants sign up for the series (separate from signing up for each race), registering for either the full or half track. Awards are given for overall, masters and age groups. Registration for the series is $55 here.

The first race is the Run Free Texas 8K on Sept. 27.

Proceeds will benefit The Trail Foundation, which protects and enhances the Ann and Roy Butler hike and bike trail around Lady Bird Lake.

That cool circle at the top of this post? It’s a collection of magnets. Distance Challenge participants get the center piece at packet pickup, and collect the surrounding pieces after they complete each race.

They also get a long-sleeved tech running shirt, a one-year membership in Austin Runners Club, use of the Austin Distance Challenge hospitality tent at the finish of each race and entry into door prize drawings at each race. Most importantly, everyone who completes the series gets an Austin Distance Challenge running jacket.

Here’s the race lineup:

  1. Run Free Texas 8K – Sept. 27
  2. Run For The Water 10 mile – Nov. 1
  3. Decker Challenge Half Marathon – Dec. 6
  4. Rogue Distance Festival 30K and 10K – Jan. 10, 2016
  5. 3M Half Marathon – Jan. 24, 2016
  6. Austin Marathon & Half Marathon – Feb. 14, 2016

This Sunday, go play in the street at VIVA! Streets Festival

For five hours this Sunday, a 1-mile stretch of East Sixth Street will be closed to motor traffic for the VIVA! Streets Festival. Photo courtesy VIVA! Streets
For five hours this Sunday, a 1-mile stretch of East Sixth Street will be closed to motor traffic for the VIVA! Streets Festival. Photo courtesy VIVA! Streets

This Sunday, go play in the street.

From noon to 5 p.m., a 1-mile stretch of East Sixth Street between Interstate 35 and Robert T. Martinez Jr. Street will be blocked to motor traffic for the fourth annual VIVA! Streets festival.

For five glorious hours, bicyclists and pedestrians will take over the road. Space will clear for ballroom dancing, yoga, zumba, soccer, basketball, giant chess, hula hooping, petanque and tennis. There will be an obstacle course, gardening classes, anti-bullying workshops, martial arts demonstrations, cane fishing, bird walks, a kids drum circle, a learn-to-ride bike course, chalk art, bike polo and more. SkyCandy will offer special aerial performances and classes.

Organizers of VIVA! Streets hope to build communities by encouraging active living. It’s part of a global movement of open streets events, or cyclovias. San Antonio, Houston, Fort Worth, El Paso and Brownsville all host similar events.

“As a business owner on the route, it’s great to hear about the participation and enthusiasm from my fellow neighbors,” Paola Barrerra of Buenos Aires Café Este said in a press release.

This year’s sponsors include Humana, TxDOT, SkyCandy, AARP, Texas Gas Service, CapMetro, Central Texas Mobility Authority/Metropia, the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, TopGolf, Instacart and Austin’s Yellow Bike Project. The event is co-produced by the City of Austin and BikeTexas.

For more information go here.

Guess what Austin race made Outside Magazine’ s list of 10 Most Iconic Races in the US?

Racers begin the 3M Half Marathon on Jan. 25, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Racers begin the 3M Half Marathon on Jan. 25, 2015. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Quick, name the 10 most iconic running races in the United States. Outside Magazine did, and Austin’s 3M Half Marathon made the list.

That puts it in pretty rarefied air, considering the other races on the list – the New York City Marathon, Bay to Breakers, the Boston Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, the Carlsbad 5000, the Fifth Avenue Mile, the Badwater Ultramarathon, the Western States 100 and the Peachtree Road Race.

Here’s what the magazine said: “More under-the-radar than any other race on this list, Austin’s 3M is a favorite among those looking to run their fastest half marathon. The point-to-point course from north Austin to the finish in front of the Texas State Capitol includes an average elevation drop of 41 feet per mile, according to race director John Conley.”

Conley, head of Conley Sports, which puts on the 3M Half Marathon as well as the Austin Marathon and Half Marathon, was caught happily off guard by the race’s inclusion.

“To be in the same company as Bay to Breakers, the Chicago Marathon and the Badwater Ultramarathon, yeah, it’s amazing. It’s really humbling,” he said this morning. “The 3M Half Marathon is one of those events that is easy to overlook because we don’t have world record holders, there’s not a lot of external glitz to it. But it’s a screaming fast downhill course that when people run it, they can’t stop talking about it.”

Participation in the race has been on the upswing the last two years, and Conley expects about 7,500 to register this year.

Registration is open here. Entry fee is $95 until Nov. 20, when it increases.

“People are discovering it,” he says. “It’s not unreasonable to expect that in a year or two it’ll be a 10,000-person race.”

The race, established in 1995, is set for Jan. 24 next year.

To see Outside Magazine’s entire list of “Most Iconic Races in the US,” go here. https://shar.es/1vUmFz

Athletes to climb Mt. Bonnell 44 times on Sept. 11 anniversary

The public is invited to join Mike O'Hara as he climbs Mount Bonnell 44 times on Sept. 11.
The public is invited to join Mike O’Hara as he climbs Mount Bonnell 44 times on Sept. 11.

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City each rose 110 stories from the ground.

Ninety-nine steps lead to the top of Mount Bonnell.\

Participants will climb the equivalent of both Twin Towers.
Participants will climb the equivalent of both Twin Towers.

The way Austin trainer Mike O’Hara sees it, each trip to the top of the Austin landmark is the equivalent of climbing five stories. That means it would take 44 trips up the stairs to climb the equivalent of both Twin Towers.

This Friday, O’Hara, who owns Bigger Faster Stronger Training in Manchaca, will charge up the steps in honor of those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

He’s inviting the public to join him.

The group will meet at the top of Mount Bonnell at 7 a.m., before starting the fifth annual Memorial Mt. Climb. They’ll pause for a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., the exact time the plane hit the first tower in 2001.

There’s no entry fee, but participants are encouraged to make a donation to Wings for Warriors, a non-profit organization that supports military service members wounded in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. To donate, go here.

If doing it solo sounds too tough – and O’Hara says your calf muscles will be screaming before it’s done – you can gather some friends and form a team and divide the workout.

O’Hara comes from a military family. His brother served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was wounded there.

The event starts at 7 a.m. Friday at Mount Bonnell.
The event starts at 7 a.m. Friday at Mount Bonnell.

“I have a heavy heart for military and first responders,” he says. “This is a way to get the community together and push each other. It’s not easy.”

In the last few years, local firefighters have participated, wearing nearly 50 pounds of fire gear while they climb. O’Hara wears the cumbersome gear, too. The struggle of carrying it up and down the hill is his way of paying tribute.

Mount Bonnell is located at 3800 Mount Bonnell Road.

For more information about Bigger Faster Stronger Training, go here.