Hot 95.7 DJ and Aramco Houston Half Marathon Ambassador Sarah Pepper has been a runner for most of her life. Starting in grade school and continuing all the way up through her senior year of high school, Pepper ran cross country with her brother. But after graduating, and with no team to run with, her running faded into the background. The tragic loss of her brother in October 2010 brought her back to running. It was a way to remember him, so every now and then she would run a few 5Ks.
In 2012, Pepper decided she wanted to run the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. Her friends were skeptical. She had just finished the Dynamo 5K with a friend when she turned to her and said “I totally want to run the Half Marathon.” Her friend laughed and said ‘well ok I’m not going to, but you can do it.’ This didn’t dissuade Pepper, so her friend signed up for the 5k that year and Pepper signed up for the half marathon.
But now what? Pepper had no idea where to even start with her training for a half marathon. She went online and googled how to train for a half marathon and laughs when she remembers that “It really did give you a detailed outline on how to train – run three miles this day, four miles this day, five miles this day – so I put it on my refrigerator and, like a little kid, marked it off every single day.”
Through her long runs on the weekend and attending the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute EXPO on race weekend made Pepper realize how little she actually knew about running. Says Pepper, “I realized that even though I ran cross country from the time I was in sixth grade until I was a senior in high school, I knew very little about running. Cross country in high school was just go, stop. In the marathon you had to get little gels, and what kind of gels do you want, and you have to get that thing that looks like deodorant but it’s not deodorant that you rub between your thighs so you don’t get hurt. People were telling me that my toenails were going to fall off and everything’s going to bleed, it got me really excited (laughing).”
The morning of the 2012 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Pepper was so excited that she arrived hours early. “I was at the GRB at 4:30 (the race starts at 7:00am), that’s how excited I was. I was just sitting there waiting, waiting, waiting and it literally is the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
She was running that year in remembrance of her brother. Her shirt was decorated on the front to read “what you doing at the marathon?” – a parody on her radio segment what you doing at the courthouse – and the back of her shirt said “In Loving Memory of Andrew Pepper, 1982 – 2010.”
Pepper struggled late in the race. “I was coming down mile 11 … and all I could think was there has to be a sign that says 12 somewhere. There has to be a sign that says 12,” said Pepper. “My legs were getting hot, I was so tired, so exhausted, and this man ran past me and he said ‘Your brother would be so proud of you today.’ And I literally started crying on the race course thinking I’m never going to be able to finish because now I really can’t breathe.”
But she did finish. And she’s watched the video of herself crossing the line over and over. As Pepper crossed the finish line, she looked up and then over to her right, before bursting into tears and then into fits of laughter. She was remembering her brother. He would always run on her right side and try to pass her. Now whenever she crosses a finish line she looks to her right and it’s like he’s still there.
Now the Aramco Houston Half Marathon is Pepper’s first event every year. “In radio there’s an element that runs at the top of the hours, where you give your station ID. When you first start working radio there’s always a song that comes on with like a 16 second intro,” explains Pepper. “So you’d always play that and then you would talk all the way up to through the 16 seconds and then you’d be like ‘yes, I hit the top of the hour!’ It’s like your best moment ever. I use the Aramco Houston Half Marathon as the top of the hour. It’s my first event every year. I start it out and it sets the tone for my entire year.”