Perhaps you have heard “Now coming in for their amazing finish is “Your Name Here”” or “All the fear is over as you are done. You have made it and are now part of the Chevron Houston Marathon Family!” Have you ever wondered who those announcers were and why they were celebrating your accomplishment too? Well that’s because our announcers have been a part of the Houston Marathon for many years and are athletes too.
Whit Raymond and Mark Purnell have more than 80 years of combined experience, either running or announcing events around the world. Both come from running/triathlon backgrounds and are certainly two guys that have been there, done that. They know what you have gone through, not only to get to the start line but to the finish line too.
We recently asked Mark to share some of the things he sees throughout the day at the finish line, some perspective on those moments, and how it makes him feel being able to share a feat so special with you.
Mark jumped at the chance to share some of his experiences with you.
It is truly a humbling honor to be a part of this staff year after year. As you mentioned, being an old athlete myself, it is so fun when I can celebrate such amazing accomplishments no matter if they are our Olympians or our new athletes. There are so many stories Whit and I could tell you from the expo, to the start lines and the finish line but three immediately come to the top of my head from the 2018 event.
– The first was one of our Athletes with Disabilities (AWD) participants, walking the ABB 5K. A woman caught my attention at the finish line and asked me if I could stay there as her daughter was walking with family members for her first 5k and proceeded to tell me her story. With me fighting back tears of incredible pride for this young woman, I told her mom I wouldn’t leave without making sure she got a proper introduction and when she came in – it was truly memorable. You see, she has Cerebral Palsy. She has never walked over 1k and that day she finished her first 5k! Her mom hugged me in tears and cried out “Thank you, Mark!” over and over. Moments like this reaffirm that it’s never about us, it’s always about the athlete. Each year, participants like this young lady, become my heroes.
– The second, which will stick with me and those that were at the finish line forever, was when Molly Huddle came around the corner and we knew she was going to break the American Record! Of course, Whit and I were besides ourselves getting the crowd, the crew and even Molly amped up and excited as she closed in on the finish line. I remember jumping up and down with so much excitement as she broke the tape that I thought we were going to turn the announcer’s pod over! Such an amazing moment for Molly, the sport of running, the race and the spectators. You cannot replay those emotions…. it’s something I will always cherish and remember for a very long time.
– The third is pure love and joy. As athletes, we have been there at one point or another. The sacrifice of not only ourselves but time with our families, friends, co-workers; the injuries; the self-doubt; and the fear are constant hurdles for athletes. We all experience these at some point or another on our journey to the finish line, but one in particular had me in tears. I felt her emotion and her heart as she neared us. I called out to Whit, “We have a first-time marathoner!” As a veteran announcer, it’s just something you can “read” on people when they finish their first marathon. Almost the same look as a first time Boston Qualifier. Whit joined us in the finish shoot and ran next to Tessa and then I, tearing up with her, told her to “show us that emotion, let it out and Welcome to the family! You are a Marathoner Tessa!” She lost it and her husband was all smiles. It was a moment that you knew instantly would be tough to beat. I was immensely proud to share Tessa’s moment of accomplishment with her!
As an athlete, we understand the fear and doubt is always there in the back of your mind but it all disappears in that one moment and makes all the sacrifice worth it. Tessa and so many others did it – they achieved the dream of a lifetime!
No matter if you are planning to run the ABB 5k, the Aramco Half or the Chevron Houston Marathon with us in 2019, I can tell you it is always an honor to meet you at the Expo and a truly heartfelt experience to cheer you on as you accomplish your goals – whether it’s your first race, your Boston qualifier or your 47th running of Houston.
So runners, there you have it. Whatever your reason for running, whether you’re first or last as you come into the finish line, just remember you have the support of our announcers and finish line crew who are truly excited to celebrate with each of you! We’ll see you in January 2019!