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Wish

Austin 10/20: Don’t Stop Believing

By Wish

There were three very interested spectators anxiously looking on at the finish line of the second Austin 10/20. The leader and winner of the 10/20—Kenyan Simon Ndirangu—had crossed the finish line more than an hour earlier, but Frank Varela and his two teenage daughters were patiently biding their time, cheering on the 8000 other finishers.

In the middle of the road of The Domain Shopping Center in north Austin, the fabulous Journey tribute band—Escape—clicked off hit after hit for the finishers and assembled crowd at the finish. “He isn’t Steve Perry,”said the elder Varela of Escape’s lead singer, “but he’s really good.”

The Varela girls—Caroline and Emma– weren’t paying as much attention to Escape as their dad was. Their concentration was firmly fixed on the road as they scanned the finishing runners for their mom who was attempting the first 10-miler of her life.

Not a naturally gifted runner, Carla Varela had taken up running several years ago to keep up with her husband. Speed isn’t her thing, but still likes to participate in a few races a year. The week before Carla had run in the Austin Statesman Capitol 10,000 with her husband, but the Austin 10/20 was the big test. “I heard so much about this race from friends last year,” said Carla Varela the day before the 10/20, “that I just thought it would be fun and not so intimidating to try it. I figured there would be a lot of good runners, but I also thought there would be plenty of runners just like me who are out here to enjoy the music, have a good time and finish. That’s what I’m all about—finishing.”

Mission accomplished.

As the digital clock on the finish line passed the two-hour mark and the finishers continued to stream by, the Varela girls nervously looked for mom just as Escape broke into Journey’s all-time classic, Don’t Stop Believin’ .

The timing was perfect and there couldn’t have been a more appropriate song to usher Carla Varela to the finish. Although tired from her longest race, the high energy music seemed to give Varela one final burst and she waved to her family as she passed by and forged ahead for the final 100 meters.

Crossing the line in 2:05, Varela was understandably ecstatic. “I won’t lie to you,” Varela, a teacher, said. “That was not easy. Once I got passed eight miles, I knew I could and never stopped believing I could do it.”

Steve Perry she is not, but Varela exemplified the spirit (and tied it neatly into a musical theme) of the thousands of other runners who joined her on a cool, cloudy morning. The 10/20 meant a lot of different things to different runners, but just getting to the finish was what mattered most to all.

That includes the world-class Africans such as Ndirangu (47:15) and women’s winner Bellanesh Gebre of Ethiopia (55:31) as well as the age group winners and the other competitive runners in the huge field.

Still, most ran the 10/20 for the good times. Ivi Kerrigan, a 40-year-old teaching tennis pro from Austin ran the 10/20 last year and was in the field again, just a week after running the Capital 10,000.

“I wasn’t looking for a PR today,” said Kerrigan who nevertheless placed second in her age group with a time of 1:12:25. “ I ran with my friend Jesse {Devlyn} and we were here just to enjoy the day. The music was terrific and so was the course.”

Ah, the music. Music is synonymous with the 10/20 races. For the uninitiated, all 10/20s are a 10-mile race with 20 bands, spaced every half mile along the way. Since Austin’s the Live Music Capital of the World, the 10/20 bands were especially important from Shaka—a three-man hard rock group from McKinney—who were on the first stage, just a half mile into race, to Escape at the finish line. Shaka was amazing. Long after every runner had passed their stage (and most had finished), Shaka was still cranking even though the only people listening were a couple of Austin policemen on hand for traffic control.

There were plenty of other musical favorites at 10/20, including the Staylyns (from Austin) who attracted a sizable gathering of spectators (and lingering runners) at their stage.

Still, there was a race to be run and 10 miles to be covered. After finishing and rehydrating, most of the 8000 runners gathered on the grass fields right next to the finish for the piece de resistance of the morning: Candlebox.

After a short set from opening act Lost Element, Candlebox hit the stage. The guys from Seattle are in the midst of their 20th anniversary tour and absolutely rocked the house with its distinctive sound.

And that’s what 10/20 is all about: Mixing competition with fun…and music.

Next up in the 10/20 series is the U-T California 10/20 on February 14th in beautiful Del Mar, California. Be there.


Tuning In Archive Posts

Why the 10/20 – Article 1: February 20, 2013
Austin 10/20 Almost Here – Article 2: March 4, 2013
Tips for Easing Your Way Through the Austin 10/20 – Article 3: March 26, 2013