Author: ARC Secretary


Melissa is part of Kayleigh’s Club and Sonja is her running partner. They are both registered for the 2017-2018 Distance Challenge and we will be getting updates from them after every race!

How did y’all come to know each other? 

Melissa: Through Kayleigh’s running club and Sandy and Kayleigh.

Sonja: I met Melissa when I at Austin High helping with Kayleigh’s Running Club. She was one of many that I ran with that first time. When she mentioned wanting to try to accomplish the distance challenge, I told her about the Ship of Fools and it turns out she lives right by the track.

What is your running background? 

Melissa: I have run in the Race for the Cure once. I ran with my sister some before she moved to Vermont. I trained on my own. I would go run around the neighborhood about two times a week.   didn’t like training by myself.  

Sonja: I started running track in 5th grade up North in Illinois. I didn’t do well my first year but lucky for me, I was held back and that is when I exploded! I became a sprinter and would run with the older students so I could have a challenge. They almost always beat me but it made me faster and I loved it. I did track for nine years as a sprinter; 100, 200, and 400 were my individual races and the relays, which I anchored. Over time the 400 became my race but I hated practicing it. My high school coach made me run cross country for three years, which I despised, but there was no way I could say no to my coach. So I would jack rabbit at the start and then walk until the very end of the race and run in… usually last. I was just out there to make a complete team not to actually do anything. If she could see me running long distance now she would flip.

Why did you start running? 

Melissa: I had done volleyball, swimming, basketball, bowling, and softball with Special Olympics. I started running more so I stay active when I am not doing those sports. I heard about Kayleigh’s club through Kayleigh and Ms. Sandy, her mom, and I like to train with my friends. I liked the fact that it isn’t Special Olympics. We were training for the Zilker Relays and I got to race with my friends and it didn’t involve Special Olympics. I liked being with just everybody.

Sonja: I actually started with the Ship of Fools because I had a friend visiting from out of state and she wanted to do a 5K, so we did the Camp Ben McCullough 5K and stayed for the awards. Everyone who was winning was from some running club in San Marcos and that made me curious if Austin had one, and I found the Austin Runner’s Club. The workout times agreed with my teaching schedule and I love the track workouts. It is more than just “go run 3 miles today,” it’s actually an evolving workout that changes weekly.

How did you hear about the Distance Challenge? 

Melissa: Sandy had asked me if I wanted to do the Distance Challenge. I said, “yes.” I want to try running races other then Komen Race for the Cure. I find training for the Distance Challenge has made my running more interesting. I am going to run three half marathons because not everyone with special needs is able to run. I am running for the people with special needs who can’t run. I want people to see that no matter what your disability is, you can achieve things that others have said you can’t do. I have been told by others, “You can’t read. You are not smart enough to be in school. I was told I wasn’t fast enough or strong to do sports.” Kayleigh’s Club and the Distance Challenge has helped me to overcome what others have said I couldn’t do.

Sonja: I heard runners talk about the Distance Challenge during workouts and I thought it sounded neat but way above anything I could actually do. I was just getting to where I could run two miles without falling over. I went to a packet pick up and they were also having those who had signed up for the Distance Challenge picking up their shirts and I signed up as a spur of the moment whim. 

Now I’m training for my third Distance Challenge and it surprises me still that I have been able to run the distances I have. I heard about Kayleigh through the running newsletters and I meet her and her mom, Sandy, at the Distance Challenge celebration last year. I friended her mom on Facebook and our friendship has grown from there. When I found out that Kayleigh wanted more of her friends to run with her, I signed up to help with her club.

How are you training for the first race in the Distance Challenge?

Melissa: I have been swimming every Saturday for my Special Olympics meet and that has helped me with my breathing as I run. I run with the Ship of Fools on Tuesday and Thursdays at O’Henry. I like the track workouts on Tuesday because it is different every Tuesday and it is challenging. Thursday workouts are not as fun because of hills. Hills are hard but Sonja taught me to say, “What the Hill!” as I run up each one. That has helped me because when I do the longer races I can get up the hill. I will win the hill by getting up it!

Sonja: I am trying to get back into a 3-day week of running, but with teaching it is a struggle. It seems every other week there is some after school activity that I’m required to be there for that interferes with practice – back to school night, math night, science night, but when I have been able to make practice I have been running with Melissa and if time allows I do the same workout later that evening or the next day at my tempo. Otherwise, I am primarily focused on helping Melissa to accomplish her goals this year. There is so much joy to be had in watching someone do something they didn’t think was possible.

Tell us a little more about yourselves!

Melissa: I’ve worked as a bagger at Randall’s for the last 14 years and walks many miles every day there. I have lived on my own since I was 22 and I live near the O’Henry Track so I can get there quickly. My disability is intellectual disabled which means I need some assistance. I struggle with some areas such as reading and finances so my family helps me in these areas. I graduated from Westlake High school in 2002, where I took combined regular classes and special education classes.  

Sonja: I teach ESL First Grade at Rodriguez Elementary in Dove Springs. I have been there for 12 years and enjoy the students and the challenge though at times it can be overwhelming. I have been with my husband, Michael, since I was a junior at Crockett High, graduated in 1989. We married in 1991 and have two children. Aaron is a senior at A&M in College Station and will marry next year. Samantha is a sophomore at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma.

Thank you for sharing your story with us! We are thrilled to have you #DareTheDistance with us this year and can’t wait to see you at the 80’s 8K!!

Sleep and Running

Sleep Number is one of this years sponsors for the Distance Challenge, Daisy 5k, and Decker Challenge Half Marathon, and the IT by sleep number was actually designed for runners. It allows you to incorporate your workout times with you sleeping patterns. They have sent us some useful tips that you may want to consider.

Sleep and Running: Sleep is Training™

  • Most of the benefits of a training program are realized during sleep. When you skimp on sleep, you skimp on your training. During peak training, runners need 8 or more hours of quality sleep.
  • Repetitive motor functions (running!) are honed during a good night’s sleep. Sustained coordination and form factors are preserved.
  • Your body produces the human growth hormone 24 hours a day. But 80% of it is released during the first few hours of deep sleep. Perfect your sleep habits and environment.
  • Caffeine after noon interferes with sleep at bedtime. It takes up to seven hours for our bodies to metabolize just half the caffeine we consume. Deep sleep is particularly affected.
  • Excessive alcohol interferes with REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, critical for optimal cognitive and emotional brain function. 
  • The tired brain impairs our “executive functions” including will-power, adherence to a training plan, workout discipline.
  • Muscle mass, bone density and energy balance are directly influenced by the amount and quality of the sleep you get.
  • Sleep deprivation increases the levels of evening cortisol. This interferes with workout recovery.
  • Recovery from both workouts and injuries are enhanced with quality sleep.
  • When physically tired, you tend to lose running form and mechanics which can quickly lead to injury. Repetitive stress is often a result of inadequate sleep.
  • Insufficient sleep activates our body’s inflammatory systems which can limit flexibility and range of motion.
  • When tired, our immune system is weakened.  You’re 3 – 5 times likely to catch a cold or other airborne virus when sleep deprived.
  • Sleep affects how the body stores and retrieves energy, especially crucial in runs over 90 minutes. Poor sleep diminishes glycogen levels, endurance and stamina.  Miles 15 and beyond are tough.
  • Workouts are inefficient when you’re tired. Your perception of exertion is distorted.
  • Sleep enhances our mental readiness, resolve and emotional stability. Being well-rested diminishes race-day jitters and sharpens our race-day planning and strategy.
  • Tired athletes tend to over-train due to lack of progression, often resulting in injuries. Sleep is preventive medicine. 
  • Your pain threshold is lowered when sleep deprived. Everything hurts more. And pain contributes to sleep deprivation—a viscous cycle.
  • Research shows that an extra hour of sleep reduces pain perception equal to a low dose of codeine, an opioid narcotic. Sleep has no negative side effects.
  • The hormones that regulate hunger, appetite and metabolism are highly sleep dependent.  Sleep deprived people are always hungry and never satisfied with meals. Weight management suffers.
  • Time your last meal to be at least two hours before bedtime. Digestion competes with sleep and usually wins.
  • We sleep best when our body temperature is lowest. Avoid meals, strenuous workouts, caffeine, alcohol near bed time.  All increase heartrate and core body temperature.
  • Exposure to screens an hour before bedtime delays the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep initiation. Resist electronics in the bedroom. If you must, activate the “night modes” on your devices.
  • Sleep quantity, quality and timing are equally important. Maintaining a consistent bed time and wake time seven days per week helps all our internal physiological systems to remain synchronized and efficient.  
  • Not all sleep is created equal. Just as junk food satisfies hunger without nutritional value, a night of junk sleep can leave you unrefreshed and tired the next day.  Routines are important.
  • Optimal sleep conditions: Cool (65 degrees), quiet (or mask unwanted noises with a fan or white noise generator) and pitch dark. 
  • Sleep derived from sleep aids is rarely as restorative as natural sleep. Always consult with your doctor, but most sleep issues are the result of poor sleep habits, routines and/or conditions—issues not solved with medications.

When is it okay to push through the pain?

Select Physical Therapy is once again joining the Austin Runners Club as our Presenting Sponsor for the 2017-18 Austin Distance Challenge. For us, they are more than just a sponsor; they are a trusted and valued resource providing invaluable knowledge and support to our runners. We want to thank them and highlight their great work, while sharing some great information with you about common injuries that runners may face during training.

When is it okay to push through pain?

Most athletes accept a certain level of pain and muscle soreness as part of training for particular events. Often times many people will push through a certain pain in hopes it will resolve itself. Some pains are worth being concerned about and should be addressed before it advances to a more serious injury. Signs to look for include:

  • Pain that continues to persist hours after running
  • Pain greater than a 3/10 while running
  • Pain that gets worse the longer you run
  • Pain that wakes you at night

If experiencing these symptoms it is good to reassess your training regimen. Are you running too long or too frequently? Are your running shoes too old? Has your running form changed recently? If you are still unable to resolve these “bad” pains, it is a good idea to consult a physical therapist or running specialist for treatment. The sooner you get treated the faster the recovery process!

Identifying stress fracture versus shin splints

Lower leg stress fractures are a common injury in runners that form after repetitive stress to the bone. When there is not enough rest time for bone remodeling to occur, it causes a stress reaction to the area of the bone taking the most stress. This stress reaction eventually turns into a stress fracture. Drastic increase in amount of activity is the greatest risk factor to developing stress fractures.

Signs to watch for include:

  • Tenderness to palpation at the site of pain
  • Pain will be local to site of pain, and will not be tender above or below fracture site
  • Swelling is associated with this change
  • Symptoms will subside with rest

The greatest difference between stress fracture and shin splints is that shin splints will be tender to the touch above and below the tender point. Swelling is usually not associated with shin splints. If a stress fracture is suspected, it’s important to stop training and see a medical professional. X-ray or bone scan can determine if there is a stress reaction or fracture. Treatment usually includes temporary non-weight bearing with crutches and waiting for fracture to heal which can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks.

Hip Flexor Tightness

For many distance runners, hip flexor tightness and pain can be a problem when building mileage. Hip flexors get tight when sitting for too long. When the hip flexors get tight it will lengthen and weaken the glutes, making them less engaged during the gait cycle. The glutes are powerful muscles that are important for propulsion and shock absorption. If they do not engage as they should, other muscles throughout the lower body take on more force, leading to potential injury. Hip flexor static stretching throughout the day is a good way to maintain mobility. Dynamic warm up of the hip flexors prior to a run will ensure the hip flexor is open in order to allow for more glute activity. The following stretches are great to add to a training regimen.

Static stretching:                                                               

Dynamic stretching:

About the Author: Lauren Queenan, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS

Lauren is a physical therapist currently working out of Select Physical Therapy’s Cedar Park clinic. Prior to moving to the Austin area, Lauren received her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Northeastern University in Boston, MA. While living and working in Boston, Lauren was very involved with local run clubs and running events, particularly the Boston Marathon. She treated many runners who were training for the marathon and volunteered as a therapist every year in the medical tent at the marathon’s finish line. Administering comprehensive therapy and exercise plans that enable her patients to recover from their injuries to reach their goals, whether the goal is to finish a marathon or simply get back to running is what has always fueled Lauren’s passion for running rehabilitation.

Outside of work, Lauren enjoys staying active through outdoor activities such as running, swimming, and hiking. Lauren has trained and participated in countless road races and track events throughout her lifetime. Through her own training errors and injuries, she has gained a stronger appreciation for how the body works as a whole. The human body is an amazing machine, but the smallest error in mechanics can start to affect other areas of the body in an instant. Over time, the growing number of symptoms from poor mechanics can make it difficult to diagnose the root cause of the problem. To find this root cause, Lauren relies heavily on functional movement screens and gait analysis. This helps Lauren pinpoint the source of a problem to not only reduce current symptoms and get her patients back on track, but to ensure that they have the knowledge and mechanics to stay injury free in the future. 

Select Physical Therapy is a leading provider of physical therapy, hand/occupational therapy, sports medicine and work health services.  Our highly trained team of physical therapists and athletic trainers is available to serve all of your sports injury prevention, recovery and performance needs. 

Whether you are a weekend warrior or dedicated athlete, Select Physical Therapy is committed to working collaboratively with each patient to develop an evidence-based plan of care that achieves individual goals in a safe, compassionate and efficient manner. We offer running assessments, functional movement screens, the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill, care for orthopaedic injuries (including sprains and strains!) and so much more.

Select Physical Therapy has 20 convenient locations throughout Central Texas, 10 of which have provided specialty running programs in partnership with the Austin Runners Club since 2014. For more information or to request an appointment, please visit


Last month several members of the ARC board joined the #SportsBraSquadATX for their global running day and felt so inspired that Amber Wadey caught up with Jessie Barnes to learn more about this movement.


Tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start running and what are your running goals?

I started running three and a half years ago. I had never been very active, but a few life changes had me feeling lost and I needed an outlet, and even though I couldn’t run even a mile at first, running was exactly what I needed. In the beginning it really helped me work through some emotion that no amount of wine or talking could process. Something about getting out there and sweating and pushing through physical barriers was what my mind needed. I’ve found it to be so empowering and freeing, and over time as I’ve tapped into the running community locally and online I’ve really loved the connection that can be found with fellow runners.

I’m currently training for the Chicago Marathon. It will be my fourth marathon and I’m really excited to see what I’m capable of this time around. Long term I just want to be that lady who’s still running when she’s 80.

How did the Sports Bra Squad movement get started?

Last summer my friends and I saw Kelly Roberts post on Instagram about running in her sports bra for the first time and it came up during a girls night. As we talked we realized we all wanted to be brave enough to run in our sports bras on hot days–and we all know there are plenty of those in Austin–but we all had some anxiety and fear about showing the world our stomachs while we ran. I think we all have this idea of what we’re “supposed” to look like to run that confidently and we didn’t feel like we met that standard. But as we talked we started encouraging each other to give it a try and then we started actually running in our sports bras with each other. I think we all felt pretty self conscious at first but together we created this really supportive, encouraging environment and we wanted to share that with other ladies. We were already putting together group runs pretty regularly so we decided to make a local sports bra squad run last summer where we encouraged everyone to come and run in their sports bras. We thought the group would probably be comprised of our friends and that’s it so we were so happy when word started to spread beyond that group! We had about 35 people at that first run and it was so exciting! Just so amazing to look around at this group of 35 women with all different body types and different running abilities all coming together. It was pretty clear this message really resonated with a lot of people! This year there were even more.

At the #SportsBraSquadATX group run you said you never thought you’d be running in a sports bra, let alone addressing a group in a sports bra. How did you find that confidence?

The whole sports bra squad experience since last summer has been transformative. There have been a few key moments that stand out. First was that initial conversation I had with my friends where we all expressed wanting to run in a sports bra but not feeling brave enough to do so. When I thought of running in my sports bra I thought of all the reasons why it wasn’t for me–all the physical “flaws” I had ran through my mind. But then I was looking at my friends–friends that I didn’t think should be insecure in the least–and they were expressing all the same insecurities I was. So I realized if I could look at them and tell them with sincerity that they should run in a sports bra if that’s what they want to do regardless of what they look like, I had to direct that message to myself as well. Secondly, in February of this year I had a moment early one morning where I was scared to weigh myself because I worried I had gained a couple pounds. Standing there in my bathroom at 6am I realized how ridiculous it was to wrap so much of my personal value up in the number on the scale because this was three days after I ran the Austin marathon. How could I be worried about a couple pounds when I had this incredibly strong body and mind that was capable of carrying me through a marathon? I made an instagram post about that moment and the response was so positive! It was a vulnerable moment to share, but I’m so glad I did because the response told me that this is a big issue for a lot of people and I was determined to share this feeling of empowerment with as many people as I can. We have to change the idea that our appearance is our value. Ultimately I just keep thinking of what I would tell other women who are insecure about their bodies and running in their sports bra and it gets me so fired up.  

When is the next Sports Bra Squad run?

Sunday, August 6th. Meet at 6:45am at the Capitol, running at 7am. It will be a 3-4 mile run, route TBD. Invite anyone and everyone! Running in a sports bra isn’t required, just show up and I guarantee you’ll be inspired! Men are also welcome to join, shirt or no shirts. All paces and abilities are welcome! Here is the link to the Facebook event.

Is there anything else we should know?

Regardless of whether you run or whether you run in a sports bra, I think the message of celebrating our strength rather than focusing on appearances can apply to everyone. Work on building yourself and your friends up and you can build an empowering community.  

Also, if anyone would like to hear more about our local Sports Bra Squad, how it got started, and what it means to us they can listen to our episode of the Runified podcast! Runified also did a follow up episode that includes what Teresa and I spoke about before the run along with some brief interview with others who were at the run.

  • Interview by Amber Wadey.

2016 Board of Directors Elections

It’s that time of the year again–for ARC Members to weigh in on who they’d like to represent them on the Board of Directors. Read below for brief candidate bios, and start thinking about who you’d like to see on next year’s board. (You can descriptions of each Board Member role here.)

A few quick notes on the election rules:

  • Nominations can still be accepted throughout the month of April (email
  • In addition to the candidates listed below, members will also have the option to write-in their preferred candidates on the ballot.
  • Online elections will be held from Sunday April 17th through Monday, May 2nd.
  • There will be a chance to cast your ballot in-person on Monday, May 2nd at a special edition of our weekly Monday run, held at Ready to Run at 6:30PM.

Winners will be announced on social media and in our weekly member newsletter once they are determined.

Continue reading »

2015 Board of Directors Elections

Time for elections at Austin Runners Club! We’ve taken the election process online this year in order to reach more members. Below you can read candidate bios, then head over to our election survey to cast your vote. Winners will be announced at our annual spring party, as well as on our website and social media after the party is held.



Iram J. Leon

I’ve been lucky enough to have trained with ARC since my first marathon in 2010. Before that I had helped put together events for both sporting and non-athletic events.  Since then, I’ve volunteered for ARC and other organizations that help put on various running events from track meets to 5Ks to serving on Austin race director’s committee. I’ve been fortunate to make connections within the running community and believe I would be helpful in helping connect people and organizations to continue to make ARC the great organization that it is.



Elaine Chung

Hey it’s me, Elaine, your favorite improvising, engineering runner. I’ve been a member of the Austin Runners Club and the Ship since 2013, when I moved to Austin. I’ve volunteered at Decker and other ARC events over the past year and I’ve been really impressed by the work that our current board members do. I want to be ARC vice president because I want to lead the ARC in continuing to produce some of the best races and events in Austin. 



Heather Pagano

I ran my first half-marathon in 2011, and since it left me with a fractured left shin, I of course had to do it again. Since then, I’ve run 3 full marathons, including the 2015 Austin Marathon–my first year running with ARC’s training group Al’s Ship of Fools! Running with ARC breathed new life into my workout regimen, helped smash my PRs to pieces, and my only injury was a sprained wrist and a couple of scraped knees. In real life, I’m a Project Manager for a publishing company. Taking notes, keeping track of details, and helping things run smoothly is what I do for a living, and I’m excited for the opportunity to donate those skills to ARC as secretary.



Kate Gurfein

I have been running with ARC for three years.  Over this time, I’ve become more involved, made some great friends, and gotten much faster!  Serving on the board feels like a natural step in my growth with this group.  I would be grateful for the chance to volunteer and give back to ARC as its treasurer.  I’m a data scientist and math nerd, so numbers are really my thing. Please vote for me!


Member Services

Josh Matthys

I love running and haven’t let a childhood battle with guillain-barré syndrome or a ruptured Achilles as an adult stop me! ARC is the best running club in Austin and I will do all I can in my power to make that known to the greater Austin area, as well as work to provide even more benefits to members. I love spreadsheets, breakfast tacos, and the Texas Longhorns. Hook ’em!


Volunteer Coordinator

Shirley Allaway

I was a late bloomer when it comes to running, but I’ve been a member of the Austin Runners Club and Al’s Ship of Fools for the last several years. When not running around in circles, I work for the good state of Texas as a web developer. I’ve done my share of wrangling volunteers – from my community arts festival to the information desks at SXSW.


Information Services

Ryan Becerra

If elected to the position of Information Services for Austin Runners club, I intend to use technology to our advantage. I work as a Software Developer for The University of Texas at Austin and I feel that my experience from my day to day job will give us a unique opportunity to increase the engagement of our members via the ARC website. Whether it be year round leaderboards or more flexibility with the website, I feel that we can try some new approaches and make running even more social. I have completed 3 marathons and am scheduled for the Los Angeles Marathon and New York City Marathon in 2015. I currently run with the ARC group Ship of Fools.

Evan Powell

 Four years of running with ARC and Al’s Ship of Fools has taught me just how much we all depend on great volunteers for everything from hydration to coordination – and some of the hardest-working volunteers we have sit on the ARC board and coordinate two races and a series each year. It would be an honor and a privilege to be one of these people you depend on! As a software developer, I have the skills to make technology a transparent tool to accomplish our goals, and automate as much as possible so you can get back to what’s important – running!

Back on My Feet Austin- A Non-Profit Giving Hope on The Run

Austin is a city that thrives on collaboration, which in turn fuels its innovative spirit. As a non-profit, Austin Runners Club is honored to partner with several other organizations and businesses in our community to work toward our mission. Throughout the next few months we’ll be highlighting other great organizations that strive to promote fitness and wellness in the Austin community.

Continue reading »

Distance Challenge Training

Austin is a great city for many reasons- a plethora of parks and outdoor activities, live music on every corner, tacos, and an incredible running community. Our city loves running so much that you can practically count on being able to run some kind of race on any given weekend throughout the year. What makes Austin unique compared to other running cities? The Austin Distance Challenge and training groups that help you dare the distance. This series of 6 races lets hundreds of local runners test their mettle and maybe even win some medals along the way. It ain’t easy, but these training groups have programs designed to make the challenge less arduous and way fun.  Continue reading »