As we bask in the hot running days of summer, it’s just a short time until the promise of cooler weather and the start of the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge. The running series originated in 1995 as a way for runners to work up to the Austin Marathon. It has since become the premier racing series in the Austin area and an integral part of training for many runners.The series includes five races, starting with the IBM Uptown Classic 10K race on October 2, 2011, and builds in distance until the February 19, 2012, running of the Livestrong Austin Marathon & Half Marathon. Participation is open to all runners who plan to do all five races and is a fun, rewarding way to encourage runners toward new accomplishments. It appeals to experienced runners who like to commit themselves to new goals each year as well as helping new runners complete a successful running season. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, simply completing all five of these races is a major achievement for any runner.
Why do some runners take on all five of these races? The two most common reasons are to achieve the personal goal of completion of the series, no small task when the total distance is 68.6 miles over the five courses, and to compete for competitive times against other runners.
Distance running, like most fitness activities, relies on discipline and commitment. For many runners, training improves with a support group and meaningful goals. The Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge has both: you run with others who have committed themselves to the same goal of completing five meaningful races. You can share experiences and accomplishments while giving support to other like-minded runners. The series increases your fun, appeals to your competitive nature, and distinguishes you as part of a unique group taking on one of the most difficult running challenges in Texas.
For 2011-12, there are two options. The Full-Track option is the full distance in all five races including the marathon distance at the Livestrong Austin Marathon & Half Marathon. The Half-Track option is the same, except runners complete the half marathon portion of the Livestrong Austin Marathon & Half Marathon.
All runners who participate in the Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge receive a custom-printed long-sleeve technical running shirt, a free one-year membership to the Austin Runners Club (non members only), VIP treatment at each race with a Distance Challenge tent at the finish area where they can enjoy beverages, snacks, and compare race stories. All participants are invited to attend the March Celebration party.
Runners who complete all five races, either Full- or Half-Track, receive a Completion Certificate, a custom-printed running jacket, (blue this year), and compete for awards. Trophies are given for Top Male and Female finishers, Overall, Masters, and Age Groups (five year groupings), for both the Full- and Half-Track programs. Winners are determined by the lowest total time combined for the five races. Certificates, jackets, and trophies are then presented at the March Celebration Party.
This year the series is sponsored by Austin Fit Magazine. “As a local company, we seek to support many local events, specifically those that promote a healthy and active lifestyle,” said Alex Earle, Vice President of Sales.
“The Austin Distance Challenge is rich in tradition and includes five highly anticipated events that not only increase the number of runners in Austin, but provide great support for local businesses. As a voice for Austin’s active community, it’s important that we do more to spread the word and motivate others to participate in more running events. This challenge is a great way to set goals and go for it. By specifically completing the five races, participants will have completed nearly 70 miles of running. Additionally, all finishers achieve an impressive goal – finishing a half or full marathon.
“Our involvement is perfectly aligned with our mission – to educate, inspire, and engage others to lead healthier and active lifestyles, what better way than to get out there and run,” said Earle.
Several changes have been made for the 2011-2012 series, all geared towards increasing the runners experience, fun, and value. The Austin Runners Club (ARC) is now managing the series, adding prestige and benefits for the runners. ARC is made up of runners and has been supporting the running community in Austin since 1974.
Another change is the selection of The Trail Foundation as the sole beneficiary. All net proceeds will be donated to The Trail Foundation, a nonprofit organization that beautifies and maintains the trails along Lady Bird Lake, a vital service to all runners, walkers, and bikers who traverse ‘The Trail.’
The 2011-2012 series kicks off on Oct. 2, 2011, with IBM Uptown Classic 10K race running through the Domain shopping center. On Oct. 30, 2011, the scene shifts to downtown as the Gazelle Foundation Run For The Water ten-mile race takes runners from the First Street Bridge out west, along Scenic and Exposition and then back. Dec. 11, 2011, east of downtown at the ARC Decker Challenge Half Marathon, things get more serious as runners get to see how their training is working and can make any needed adjustments. Jan. 29, 2012, is the 3M Half Marathon & Relay starting at the Gateway Shopping Center north of downtown and ending with a fast finish downtown. Then it’s Feb. 19, 2012, the day of the Livestrong Austin Marathon and Half Marathon. Runners have trained, mended sore muscles, and are ready for this marquee race. This course has it all, fast flat areas, muscle-straining uphill climbs, fast downhill slopes, and varied scenery.
The Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge can’t promise you perfect weather or a personal record at each race. What it can help with is the full sense of accomplishment, the company of other fun runners, and a memorable fall running season.
Runners interested in registering or learning more about the 2011-12 Austin Fit Magazine Distance Challenge can check out the website www.austindistancechallenge.com for details.