Why You Need to Participate in the Manzano Mile in 2014

A look at why you don't want to miss this track meet.

I confess:  The thought of running at an all-comers track meet had me scared to death. I’ve never been in a track meet, although I cheered my son on enthusiastically when he was in middle school (he ran hurdles) and then again when he ran cross country in high school. Me? I’d never even done a road run until I was in college, and I didn’t start seriously running until I was in my late thirties. A track meet? Come on—those people are FAST and, like, EVERYBODY is watching you. No thanks.

Over the years, many of my friends tried to tell me differently. It’s fun; there are people of all abilities; trust, me—no one will make fun of you. I chose not to believe them. It wasn’t until Leo Manzano looked me in the eye and said, “It’s just a 400; come out and do the Relay,” that I screwed up the courage to participate in the Manzano Mile. And even then, I was still scared to death.

We put together an AFM team. We’re a really small staff, and a surprising amount of people were out of town this weekend (coincidence? Hmm…). Still, we formed an enthusiastic foursome of “real” people.  Well, Maurice Harris has a college and pro-sports background and is an amazing athlete, but cut us some slack—we needed someone with a great sense of humor who could take the wackiness and nerves that his teammates were slinging around, and Coach Mo fit the bill.  We also figured that the deficit I would create would offset his talents. What we wanted to show was that an all-comers meet was for everybody.  The only requirements for the Media Relay were that we had two men and two women associated with Austin Fit Magazine, so Art Director Weston Carls and contributor “Coach Carrie” Barrett completed us.

All of my friends were right. Leo Manzano was right. Despite incredible nerves, performance anxiety, and having to give it our all for 400 meters, the relay was a blast. It was inspiring and exciting to watch the other teams do their thing. The lead runner for YNN executed an amazing handoff after falling—I still say they practiced that move—and I was thrilled to see David Braswell up close and personal as he totally blew by me, AFM’s third runner, as he anchored his team for victory in the Corporate Relay. Would you believe in the Open Relay, the first THREE teams came in under 4:00? Those who took on the mile thrilled me, too. Jaime Cleveland, local triathlete and trail runner, looked amazing as he raced, and I chased down several people to tell them how impressed I was by their performance, especially the woman who, at 74 years old, came in under 8:00 for her mile. We marveled at the beautiful young woman who participated in several events (and then crushed us with her walking pace as we made our way back to the car).

Perhaps the most inspiring and exciting was the kids' race. It was beautiful to see all the youngsters out there, running and enjoying themselves. There’s nothing more natural and lovely than a little kid, loping around and luxuriating in movement. Kids 9 and under ran the Kids Quarter (that’s one 400-meter lap) for free. Leo Manzano is so encouraging of the youngsters; he’s a partner in a program with the Texas Heart Institute (THI) to get kids started on creating healthy habits.  It’s called the 7-Day Healthy Heart Challenge for Kids. Basically, kids ages 5 to 13 get tips from Manzano and have access to an introductory program that will help kick-start those healthy changes, such as exercising for 20 minutes and trying a new fruit or vegetable. THI provides interactive resources on the Project Heart website. And Manzano was available for photos with youngsters (and admiring adults).

What with the good spirits, the great live music, a superbly run event, and cooperating weather all within the setting of the nice facility at the Texas School for the Deaf, the day was perfect. If running is at all your thing, I highly encourage you to put the Manzano Mile on your calendar for next year. There’s plenty of room for us “real” people, and it’s not scary at all.

Trust me.

See AFM's 2013 Manzano Mile photo album here.

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