Инстаграм @peopleofmemorialpark People Of Memorial Park
Part 1 of 2 - Alton has been a Memorial Park regular for 20 years. He calls the group of men he meets in the morning “The Posse” and has many stories of their sweet friendship and competitive nature over the years. Alton grew up in Houston. His dad told everyone that he only obtained a 4th grade education, but Alton is not sure if even that is an exaggeration. During his senior year of high school, Alton remembers a day when his dad asked him what he planned to do after graduating. He assumed he would be a truck driver like his dad was, but when he presented his plan, Alton’s dad surprised him by insisting that he was going to college. The thought had never crossed his mind, but Alton agreed and enrolled at TSU the following fall. Today he is a self-employed accountant, which gives him the flexibility to come to the Park during the mid-morning. He is often asked if he chose the profession because he likes numbers. Instead he says that when he enrolled at TSU and needed to declare a major, he opened the newspaper to the Help Wanted ads. He saw that accountants made $650/mo, and that’s what he wrote down as his major. He jokes that he is thankful Engineering did not start with an “A” because he would have been a terrible engineer. During college, Alton took several courses that required him to add or subtract multiple columns and rows of numbers. Inevitably, one of the calculations would be off and he would have to go through the entire page looking for his error. Then, one day, he was complaining to his father about how much easier his work would be if he had an adding machine. He says his dad never liked banks, and to Alton’s surprise, his dad instructed Alton to go outside, get a shovel, and start digging under the water heater. Sure enough, there was a box of money, and Alton withdrew the $50 needed to buy the adding machine! #happyman #lovehissmile #theposse #accountant #memorialpark
Carolina @tropicalfruit_runner grew up in #Venezuela and has always been very active. She swam throughout her childhood. Then a friend at the university introduced her to #rugby. She played rugby for 10 years and started running to stay in shape. In 2014 Carolina’s job as a systems engineer transferred her to Houston. During her years of playing rugby, she jogged alone, but in Houston she quickly realized there are many great places where she can exercise outdoors with other people. She says she has made many amazing friends and feels like the running community is now her second family. Another thing Carolina appreciates about Houston is there are many races that encourage participants to also raise money for charities. Carolina is a #foodie and thinks it is tragic that there are people loves giving back by helping those in our City who don’t get nutritious meals. She uses her running as a means to raise funds for the @houstonfoodbank and Fort Bend Seniors on Wheels and also volunteers with @girlsontherun because she believes giving back to the community is very important. Finally, Carolina is a huge fan of #MemorialPark. She says the diversity she sees on the trail is a beautiful picture of the world, all on a 3-mile path. When she looks back at her life growing up in Venezuela to where she is now, she is overwhelmed to think about how much she has changed in such a short time. Carolina’s enthusiasm and appreciation for Houston’s incredible food, the compassionate citizens, and the thriving fitness community all make her proud to call Houston #home. #beautifulinsideandout #colorful #trailrunner #servant #runhouston #runhou
Jewett Brown has been a regular of the Memorial Park morning crowd for many years. He starts his workouts at 4:30 a.m. by jogging a lap. At the end of the lap he walks backwards from the stretching deck to his car because he once read that walking backwards helps strengthen different muscle groups. Finally, if the weather is nice, Jewett walks a second lap. Although his exercise routine is fairly consistent, he is better recognized as the man who never wears a shirt. Ever. Even during the January 2018 freeze when it snowed. Jewett says if the temperature gets below 45 degrees, he carries a hand warmer and tosses it between his hands while he is making his way around the trail. He insists that even on the coldest of days, he only needs a half mile jog to warm-up and is never bothered by the chilly air on his bare skin. Last February Jewett was at home when he felt an intense pain in his chest and began blacking out. Finally, he called 911 and was rushed to the hospital with a heart attack. He is convinced that he would have died that day if not for the Houston #firefighters at Stations 13 and 31. After a couple weeks away from the Park, Jewett returned and resumed his regular routine. He also stopped by the fire stations to ask if there was anything he could do for the men who saved his life. They suggested he could bring them food, so he immediately bought 8 of Domino's largest Meat Eater pizzas. A year later, he still follows the same run a lap, walk backwards, walk a lap schedule. He also still only wears shorts, a visor, and tennis shoes. The only difference is today he carries a metal tube with nitroglycerin tablets in his pocket and is 30 pounds lighter. He likes to say that the countryside is peaceful, but living in Houston has its benefits, especially if you need an ambulance to be at your home within minutes! #makesmecoldlookingathim #handwarmer #memorialpark #hfdisthebest #dontforgetthevisor
@daddymaximo22 grew up in Pearland and started running as a young boy. In high school he showed promise, so Maximo’s dad decided to hire a personal coach. They asked for suggestions and learned that former University of Houston coach, Howie Ryan, was highly regarded. The only problem was Howie asked that they meet in Houston at #MemorialPark. Maximo and his dad agreed that the opportunity to run under Howie’s tutelage was worth the sacrifice, and they began making the drive from Pearland to the Park twice a week at 5:00 a.m. Maximo was thankful to have Howie’s wisdom and customized advice. His parents were also delighted when he completed the 2007 Houston Half Marathon in 1:12:38 as a 17 yr-old and was heavily recruited to run in college. Since graduating from Houston Baptist University, Maximo has become a husband and a #daddy. He takes great joy in seeing his son run, but the pride is not about how fast he races. Instead, Maximo loves seeing him work hard and give his best effort, just as Maximo did 15 years ago. In recent years he has continued to be one of the top finishers in local races. He also started volunteering with @team_catapult and has had the privilege of guiding some of the nation’s fastest blind and visually impaired athletes. Just as training under Howie inspired him as a teenager, guiding the Catapult runners gave him a new perspective on what was possible with courage and determination. Maximo is a wealth of knowledge about training, form, running gear, and the Houston running community. Sadly, for Houston, his job at Rogue Running recently transferred him to Austin. He will be missed, but undoubtedly his influence and work ethic will be appreciated in Austin, just as it was in Houston. #runhouston #houstontoaustin
Leah @fitfoodiele is a native Houstonian. She played basketball & volleyball throughout high school and college and met her husband while attending the University of Houston. After graduating & getting married they set out to start their careers, but both of them had an unsettled passion for fitness and a desire to help others improve their lives. Finally in 2012 they decided it was time to stop talking about their dreams & start pursuing them. Leah launched a website and blog that includes recipes, tips on improving your health, & observations about life as a wife and mom. Her husband meets w/ clients in person or online who are wanting to improve their strength & conditioning. Leah says that since she works from home and the demands of life never seem to cease, she has found that one of the best ways to relieve stress is to get outside & go for a run. She spends her time praying for her family, coming up w/ new ideas for her business & being thankful for the time alone, even if it is only an hour. Although she has participated in numerous fun runs, last year she decided it was time to attempt a marathon. She was selected as a 2019 #HoustonMarathonAmbassador, but unlike most of the other representatives Leah has been journaling about her experiences leading up to the race w/ fresh eyes. Each week as her long runs have progressed she has reached a new milestone in the longest distance she has ever run in her life. If truth be told the thought of running the marathon is completely overwhelming & she has struggled to maintain confidence. She says a marathon even seems more intimidating than having a baby! A friend recently assured her that since she has finished 20-miles, she will be fine on race day. This made her feel slightly better, but she freely admits she is extremely nervous. Regardless of her time when she finishes she has treasured the journey getting to the starting line & is thankful for all she has learned about herself along the way. Her husband also likes to offer that the thought of leaving the house at 5:00 am to follow Leah around the marathon course w/ their 8, 5, & 2 yr old kids sounds almost as tough!
In 2005 @josephcarey9615 started thinking about what he wanted to do for his upcoming 50th birthday. Although he had never run before, he stumbled upon the Bolder Boulder 10K website. The race is one of the largest in the country, but Joe was not deterred. Instead, he hired an online coach who promised he could complete the race w/o walking if he followed her training plan. That’s exactly what happened, and Joe was so excited about his progress that he began entering every Houston Area Road Runners Association race in Houston. He soon joined the Bay Area Running Club and started volunteering as well as running. That led to Joe being on the HARRA board, and he eventually agreed to be President for a 3-yr term. He says Houston has a great running community w/ strong civic support resulting in many diverse clubs and events to choose from. Joe is perhaps most proud of how well the Houston Marathon Committee and the City of Houston, w/ significant volunteer support from HARRA and its membership, carried out the 2012 Marathon Olympic Trials. The event was a tremendous success, and the nation’s elite athletes were thankful for the hospitality & quality of the race. Since getting involved w/ the Houston Marathon Committee, Joe has led the planning for the 19 water stations on course for past 6 yrs. He thinks every runner should strive to volunteer for at least 1 running-related event per year b/c most area races raise money for charitable causes and rely on volunteers. One other benefit Joe has realized in his 13 yrs as a runner is that he slowly lost 50 lbs and was even able to keep it off during times of injury. He says it helps that his wife is a talented cook! It also helps that he became a cyclist and rode over 12,000 miles in 2018 including cross country from Oregon to Maine. Joe’s favorite races are 5k/10k distances such as the Bellaire #TrolleyRun, which he says is the most competitive age group 5k in the area. He also likes the LP Run, the oldest and perhaps oddest race in town, and the Buffalo Wallow 6k, a cross country race no longer held. Joe’s mantra is run (and/or cycle), volunteer, repeat. #runhou #runhouston #memorialpark #boulderboulder #volunteer
@monicavgutierrez grew up in the valley of south Texas where she ran cross country & track. She ran well and enjoyed training, but decided not to pursue the sport in college because racing was tremendously stressful for her. She was overcome with fear before the start of every race and says she would stand on the starting line crying because she was so nervous. However, as soon as the gun went off, her mind cleared, and the tears stopped. Although she was not running, Monica remained active during her time at #RiceUniversity. She was on the dance team, played powder puff football, and spent a great deal of time organizing Rice’s annual #BeerBike event (she is still not sure her parents were as proud as she was about that volunteer effort). When Monica entered medical school, she began running regularly again b/c she wanted to do well academically and knew running would help her clear her mind & focus on her studies. Then, in 2012, her daughter entered Kindergarten and Monica wanted to find a way to connect socially w/ other parents. She met 2 moms who worked out together in the mornings, and they all decided to train for a half-marathon. They joke now that their friendship w/ Monica #createdamonster. Although it had been 15-yrs since Monica’s last race, she began looking forward to competing. After the half, Monica’s patients inspired her to run a marathon, and she joined #KenyanWay. There, she made several other friends and ended up qualifying for the Boston Marathon in her first attempt at 26.2! By day she is a #physiatrist at #TIRR who works to help patients overcome debilitating accidents or illnesses. She tells her patients that the saying #practicemakesperfect is not true. Instead, only perfect practice makes perfect. In recent months, a friend teased that Monica had the same poor running form as the emoji runner girl who is an over-striding heal striker. So today, in addition to training for another marathon, she is working to maintain a more perfect running form. Monica also says she still gets nervous before races, but instead of standing at the starting line w/ tears running down her cheeks, she has learned to channel her emotions and run even faster!
After Hurricane Harvey I uploaded a summary video of most of the PoMP photos I had collected up to that point. During this holiday season, I wanted to once again thank the incredible people who have given me their time and been willing to share their stories with me. I am eternally grateful for you all! Also, thank you to the talented and fun Jack Potts @bohemian.photo who took most of these photos. Here is a brief recap of the beautiful people who have been featured in the last 16 months (and a couple teaser photos of stories still to come). #memorialpark #thankful #recap #inspiration #love #beautifulpeople #joy #houston #cityofhouston
Looking for a last-minute gift idea? This colorful book is perfect for anyone who loves Memorial Park or needs inspiration to exercise. All orders at peopleofmemorialpark.com are signed and shipped in 2-3 business days.
In 2007 Dustin @dustintexan and his wife @theresajames5 decided they would join a group from church, Team Butterfly, in walking to raise funds for Presbyterian Children's Homes and Services. They also joined #fortbendfit, but Theresa's lupus prevented her from going more than 6 miles. Dustin, whose race alias is Dustinator, finished his 1st half in 2008 and has now completed many more halfs and even finished 4 full marathons. Dustinator says that when he participates in a race, he always holds his hand in the American Sign Language sign for “I love you” because he wants the spectators to know that he loves them just as God does. He also likes to give a #high5 to anyone who is willing to hit his hand. When asked if he realizes that he could probably run much faster if he just focused on the race instead of talking to so many people who are running or on the sidelines, he just shrugs and says he’s not really worried about his time. Instead, he is there to have fun. In Nov 2012 Dustinator was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After he and his wife left the doctor's office, he told his kids and family first, then discussed it on the long Saturday run with his #fbfit running buddies, especially Irish Tracy. He had surgery 8 days after the 2013 Chevron Houston Marathon. Dustinator is grateful to be cancer free now, but during his diagnosis, treatment and recovery he also realized another thing about the running community. He says that the people he was doing his long runs with on Saturdays were really his second family. When he was exhausted, they encouraged him to not lose hope or stop running. Now, Dustinator is still racing and returning the love to his running family. After a long run, his recovery drink of choice is a good margarita and he is always up for reading or just relaxing with his wife. More than anything, he is thankful to be alive and for sweet friends and family to enjoy life with. #familyman #familyismorethanblood #cancerfree #thankful #memorialpark #runhou #runhouston
When JoMarie @jfloresfd was in the 7th grade, she was tasked with drawing a picture of what she wanted to be when she grew up. The majority of the class turned in pictures of doctors, teachers, & professional athletes, but JoMarie’s stood out. She was wearing high heels, a black suit, and a lab coat, her mouth was covered by a mask, & she was standing next to a dead body. Even at 12 yrs old, she knew she wanted to be a #funeraldirector and was fascinated w/ the job. As soon as she graduated from high school, she started working towards obtaining her license at Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Services. JoMarie is thankful for her grandfather who encouraged her to pursue her dream, even while other members of her family were less than supportive. In high school, she also started running. She has a family history of obesity & decided she did not want to suffer like she had seen others do. She says that she used to run w/ headphones, but during a stressful time in her career, she left the headphones at home in hopes of being able to clear her mind during the workout. To her delight, it worked, and she felt refreshed & relaxed when she finished running. After her son was born, she took him to #MemorialPark to run, but when he turned 2, he did not want to sit in the baby jogger any more. JoMarie became frustrated w/ trying to get her workout in, and thought about quitting, but then she met the Houston Striders’ Bob Schamus. He encouraged her to join the club, and when she finally did, she found the encouragement & support she needed to continue running. She appreciated that there were other moms who could relate to her situation, and she felt valued when they invited her to be on their relay team, even though she did not consider herself fast. This year, JoMarie is part of the Houston’s Marathon’s #RunForAReason campaign. She is raising money for 3A Bereavement, which helps w/ the burial expenses of Houston’s working poor. After 15-yrs as a funeral director, she has found a way to combine her love for running with her compassionate heart & enthusiasm for her job! #runhou #runhouston #houstonstriders #mommy #followyourdreams
One more random thought about President George H.W. Bush and my experience writing People of Memorial Park: When I set out to write the book, someone told me that no matter how many times I reviewed the rough draft, there would always be a mistake that I or the publisher did not catch. Sure enough, that turned out to be true! At first I struggled to decide what order I would present the 45 stories in the book. Finally, I settled on arranging them alphabetically by last name. Sure enough, when I finally held the book in my hands, it dawned on me that President Bush’s story was before Bob (The Birdman) Bunoza’s story. I’m guessing there were at least 1,000 sets of eyes that looked at that list and never caught the mistake. Oh well…it’s too late now. These photos are from Bob. He ran with President Bush a couple times and loves to recount how someone informed Bush, “You are President of the United States, but did you know you are running with the Mayor of Memorial Park?” #serviceaboveself #stories #memorialpark #mistake #duh #mayor #presidentgeorgehwbush #bush41 #presidentbush #bush
Do you have a memory of seeing President George H. W. Bush at Memorial Park? I remember seeing him and his dog, Millie, there a few times after he moved back to Houston. I love how the Park is a gathering place for all types of people, from the President of the United States to the homeless man on the streets. President Bush was also a fan of Memorial Park and was always gracious when people spoke to him on the trail. #memorialpark #gatheringplace #presidentgeorgehwbush #bush41 #stretchingonthetrail
Adam @kid_a_rob started running as a teenager to spend time with his dad, but says that over time, his athletic achievements, along with his career, became idols. His thoughts and time were consumed with what he needed to do to get faster, even though he felt God convicting him to have other priorities. Then, during the 2015 Woodlands Marathon, Adam says he lost his vision around the 23-mile mark and spent the last 3 miles alternating between walking and running while his eyesight faded in and out. Adam’s wife, Carissa @carissajrobertson, insisted he see a doctor. They had 4 young girls and she was not interested in Adam waiting to see if it would go away. Finally, in December 2015, Adam was diagnosed with a brain tumor that needed to be removed immediately. His doctor warned that he may not remember his family when he woke up from the surgery, but the risks associated with not going forward with the procedure were far greater. However, when the surgeon opened Adam’s skull, he was shocked to find that the massive tumor did not have “roots” growing into Adam’s brain. Instead, it was easily removed. Not only did he remember everyone in his family, when Carissa left the hospital late after the surgery, Adam had to remind her where she put her keys that morning when they parked the car! Instead of being hospitalized for 30 days after the surgery, he was sent home the following day with a clean bill of health. Adam says that event changed his outlook in life. He believed his life was miraculously spared, and felt like he should devote his life to sharing God’s love with everyone he knew. He quit his job in oil and gas and began working for #visionrescue, a non-profit that feeds, educates, and provides hope of a better life to kids in the slums of India. Adam also began focusing his time and energy on being the best husband and father instead of the best runner. He started running with his oldest daughter, Lillian, and says he finds more joy in spending time with her than he ever did in seeing his times improve. #daddy #priorities #walkingmiracle #jesusfirst #philippeans413
Rick grew up in Tupelo, Mississippi, and in his job as a civil /structural engineer, has lived in numerous cities throughout the world. He says that regardless of where he goes, people tell him they like his thick, slow southern drawl. As a young boy he took pride in the fact that he was faster at distance running than all of his friends. Rick’s family was poor, so he started betting his friends that he could run the mile-long block around their neighborhood faster than anyone else. They all agreed the losers had to chip in and buy the winner a bottle of RC Cola and a bag of peanuts. Rick says he always won the races, which was the only time he was able to enjoy the treat since someone else was paying. He loved pouring the salty peanuts in the cold soda before drinking it. He says his favorite city to live in was Perth, Australia because the views of the ocean are gorgeous, there is an abundance of fresh air and friendly people, and there is a rich culture of being active. He appreciates similar aspects that Memorial Park offers where he often meets his friends at the stretching deck after he has worked out. About 17 yrs ago, Rick started experiencing numbness of the feet and ankles, as well as a loss of muscle tissue, cramping, and a squeezing sensation in the lower legs. Ten yrs passed with visits to numerous medical experts and unending tests, with no answers or diagnosis to the slowly worsening condition. Finally, a mutation was discovered on the DRP2 gene, a sister gene to the gene which causes muscular dystrophy. He was diagnosed with Charcot Marie Tooth disease caused by the DRP2 gene mutation and told there was only 1 other person with the same diagnosis. Rick says he continued to run because he enjoys exercising and being outdoors, and he believes it is a vital contribution to his overall health. Rick’s doctor, who is a world expert on Charcot Marie Tooth disease, reluctantly accepts Rick's running, knowing that mild exercise and staying healthy is paramount. Today Rick is looking forward to retirement and spending more time with his sweet wife. He will continue to run as long as he is able.
Anastasia @anastasiachansen grew up in Houston, but left the city for 4-years to attend Notre Dame. She played water polo in high school & college and was a sprinter on her team. This meant it was her responsibility to swim as fast as possible to try and retrieve the ball from the middle of the pool before the opposing team could. In college she began jogging because she was looking for a way to cross train. Her only constraint was that she had a sprinter mentality, so attempting to jog without stopping for an extended period of time was a challenge. A few years after graduating from college, a couple of Anastasia’s friends suggested they all train for a half marathon. She says she was excited about the opportunity to spend time w/ her friends but had anxiety about how far she would have to run. Each week, as they would meet for their long runs & plan to run one more mile than the week before, Anastasia would have to constantly remind herself, “You can do it! It’s only 10 more minutes than you ran last week.” She blogged about her adventures in a series called “Chronicles of a Swimmer Who Dabbles in Running” and then was honored to be selected as an Ambassador for the Houston Half Marathon. Now her perspective has changed & she considers herself a Runner instead of a Swimmer. Anastasia’s job as a consultant has her based in Houston, but she also travels extensively. She thinks runners have an advantage when they travel, because it is the best way to explore a new city. However, she says she is grateful to live in Houston. Four years ago, Anastasia & her friend created a blog called @ItsNotHouItsMe. They wanted to highlight and celebrate different aspects of the city including the arts, festivals, restaurants, & parks, along w/ its diversity and the low cost of living. Anastasia says she does not want to run a marathon because she believes she should have moderation in all things. However, one thing she will quickly confess is that she thinks Houston is the best city in the world. She hopes others will also realize her passion & appreciate all it has to offer. #houston #youcandoit #runhou #runhouston #notredame #htxblogger #ilovehtx #houstonproud #itsnothouitsme