HOUSTON - This year’s Houston Marathon is officially underway and it looks different than ever before.
In 2021, the race is virtual. In a normal year, roughly 20,000 runners and 250,000 spectators would be a part of the race. However, in 2021 there are no fans and an official finish line.
"We’ve been training for so long without spectators," said marathon runner Glenda Newman. "It’s just going to feel like another run I think."
The roughly 2,300 registered runners have 10 days to cross their own finish line and submit their times online. An additional almost 5,000 runners signed-up for the half-marathon, and another 2,000 for the 5k run. The last day to submit run times is January 17.
"Part of me says it is crazy," said marathon runner Pedro Colunga. "The other part of me says, why not?"
Training during the pandemic was challenging for almost all of the athletes. Colunga says he normally has races scheduled throughout a year to help train for a full marathon. However, all of the in-person official races were cancelled. Instead, Colunga met with small groups of friends to run and practice together. Colunga and Newman plan to run the full 26.2 miles on Sunday with a small group of friends.
"We’re just going to celebrate each other and honor the run," said Newman.
Although 2020 was a tough year for almost everyone, Colunga’s family faced additional challenges. On Christmas Eve, a large fire destroyed their home.
"We were getting ready to eat our Christmas dinner. It all just happened so quick," said Colunga. "My shoes, my clothes, were gone. The running community was the biggest help that helped me get up from that."
Colunga and thousands of other runners are now looking to prove that even in a year with a pandemic, you can still cross a finish line.
"If I can run a marathon, anyone can," said Newman. "If you’re curious about marathon-ing, give it a shot."
"Hitting that 26.1 miles, I honestly think I will get emotional," said Colunga. "Even though there’s no spectators, I really think I’m going to feel it the same way."