Are you running the Chevron Houston Marathon or Aramco Houston Half Marathon? Here’s all the inspiration you need to start training today!
By Ambassador Mariana Cano

OK. So, I’ve registered for the 2016 Aramco Houston Half Marathon. I have my registry confirmation, and I’ve already chosen my training. In all my calendars, I’ve saved the big day: January 17, 2016. Now, the challenge is finding the inspiration and the motivation to push me to start training that will help guide me all the way to the finish line.

One has to dig deep to find inspiration and once it’s found one must never let go. I like to surround myself with people who drive me to be better. This approach always seems to work.

A goal of mine as an Ambassador for the Aramco Houston Half Marathon is to share inspirational stories from marathoners in the Houston community through their advice and knowledge.

Here’s the first one.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Nathaniel Collins, a 79-year-old who is the only runner to have participated in all 14 Houston Half Marathons. Can you believe it!

Influenced by the running boom of the 70s, Mr. Collins and his racquetball friends decided to switch sports after growing tired of racquetball.

The next year, Mr. Collins went on to finish his first marathon, which would be followed by 19 more. Yes, you read that right, 19 more marathons, which include the Boston Marathon, the New York City Marathon and 18 more in our beloved city of Houston.

During his training for marathon number 21, Mr. Collins fell ill. However, to his good fortune, it was the first year Houston opened a 13-mile race in addition to the 26-mile race. So, instead of not running at all, he chose to run the half marathon. Who would have thought he’d finish 13 more half marathons in a row, making him the only participant to do so in Houston.

Fourteen years later, and now at 79, he enjoys running the 13 miles. And this January, it’ll be the 15th time to do it.

Mr. Collins doesn’t just run to stay healthy and active; he truly enjoys it. He told me that if he could define running in just one word, it would be “fun,” although after chuckling, he finished the sentence with “… when you finish the race.”

I was most impressed by Mr. Collins’ humbleness.

His favorite place to run is on Allen Parkway, but he cautions runners to watch for cyclists. He’s convinced that after the remodeling, we’ll be the envy of the U.S.

To all the people running their first full or half marathon, he recommends sticking to a training schedule and following it step by step to enjoy the race.

During race day, he doesn’t have breakfast. At the most he’ll eat a piece of toast, but during the race he eats all the oranges they offer him through the route.

He always drinks water before, during and after the race. Staying hydrated is very important to him and he recommends drinking water at every station if your total race time is above two hours.

He tries to get as much sleep as possible the night before the race. He usually spends the night at a hotel in downtown Houston, so he can enjoy every minute of sleep. But regardless, he always likes to get to the starting line early.

One of the most important things in running a marathon are the volunteers says Mr. Collins. And he always stops to say thanks to all the people who help him along the way. Especially his dear friend Donald Willmon, who for several years has arrived to the race at 3 a.m. to help set up the finish line.

I want to take this opportunity to also celebrate and thank all of the 7,500 individuals that help make the Houston Marathon a success year after year.

These words will stay with me forever:

“Keep running, never quit. Even when you get old, stay active. That’s the only recipe to getting a healthy yearly check-up”

— Nathaniel Collins

My dear Mr. Collins, you can be sure that I will do so. Thank you for such a great conversation and for all your advice but above all, for filling me with inspiration and motivation to start this trip toward January 17, 2016. I’ll be thinking of you a lot that day.

I also want to thank the Organizing Committee of the Chevron Houston Marathon for giving me the opportunity to meet this amazing human being.

Soon, I’ll share another story with you.

About the Author: Mariana Cano
Mariana has run four half marathons and one marathon. She’s a mom who started running when her first daughter was born to lose the baby weight and fell in love with it! Up to this day, Mariana finds it very hard to wrap her head around the idea of how her body can physically resist running non-stop for two hours or more, but after 10 years of running she just keeps going. Mariana is a Mexican mom of three children under 10, who has been living in Houston sine 2004.
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