by Kelli LeGrande
An old Aesop fable taught us that slow and steady wins the race, but a unique Student Government agency at The University of Texas at Austin, takes it one step further to focus on what happens after the running shoes come off.
As a Longhorn Run participant, you become much more than just a runner; you become a donor to the university. Just by registering and running the race, you are helping the university’s students change the world.
“Being a part of the Longhorn Run ties in everything the university is about; between traditions, healthy lifestyles, and making a difference,” said Charlie Adkins, 2014 Longhorn Run Director. “Not only is it something I will come back and do every single year, but it’s also where some of my fondest college memories have been made.”
Every second Saturday in April, the streets surrounding the Forty Acres shut down to allow thousands of the university’s alumni, students, faculty, and community members to run their mark across campus.
Whether you run the 10-kilometer or the 2-mile, both routes are stocked full of surprises to encounter along the way. From Smokey the Cannon to Hook’em to spirit groups along the route, runners will not have a dull moment during the race.
“We want the runners to have the run of their lives all while they are enveloped in the university’s traditions,” said Ashley Allen, post-race coordinator. “Everything is bigger in Texas, and you can expect nothing less from the Longhorn Run!”
Unlike the many other races that are in Austin, the Longhorn Run is specifically targeted at the university’s community of students, staff, and alumni, so it can cater to all the great traditions that The University of Texas at Austin has to offer.
It is a chance for new Longhorns to learn and veteran Longhorns to feel at home.
“It’s a bunch of Longhorns running around campus, seeing traditions, being a part of a new tradition, and just having a blast,” said Jennifer Speer, full-time staff advisor.
From what started in 2009 as an underdog idea, by former Student Government President Liam O’Rourke, the Longhorn Run is approaching year four. Liam O’Rourke had his dream of creating a completely student-run race come true, but like any dream, his didn’t come without obstacles to overcome.
“It was very grass roots,” said Speer. “We didn’t really know if it was going to take off, and we were connected with Nike and the race logistics fell into place.”
A very generous sponsor believed in the impact Longhorn Run could make and decided to take it to the next level. Nike teamed up with the Longhorn Run committee early in the process to create the students’ vision.
“When Nike stepped in, they stepped in in a big way and were asking us questions we didn’t even think pertained to a race,” said Speer. “We had no idea how much we got ourselves into, but thankfully with Nike we had someone to steer us in the right direction.”
After Nike joined the team it stayed in the hands of the students, which creates one of the unique aspects of Longhorn Run.
Longhorn Run does not just plaster the faces of students on the work someone else really did. The Longhorn Run committee has a not-so-glamorous job of pulling off this race solely on their work.
“It’s so rewarding knowing that each committee puts together this race each year entirely by themselves,” said Adkins. “We put in year round work that literally starts the day after each race for the following year. We put everything we have into our race because we know that by fulfilling our goals, we are really helping other deserving students achieve their goals as well.”
Kick starting in the summer and not breathing until the day after the race, the Longhorn Run committee plans every detail of the race from start to beyond the finish line.
Beyond the runners experience the day of the race, the Longhorn Run makes sure participants are running for a reason; to be healthy and to give back.
“Many hours, many meetings, many emails, and many snacks later, it is totally worth getting to watch all the runners cross the finish line,” said Adkins.
Proceeds from the race go to the Student Government Excellence Fund, which awards deserving student organizations that positively impact the world.
From the beginning of Longhorn Run, the students wanted to make this race not only a fun run, but also a way to benefit other student organizations, because what starts here truly changes the world.
This past year, one of the student organizations that was awarded the funds from the Excellence Fund was Best Buddies, an organization that creates opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
All graduates of the university are more than willing to give back to the school they love so much, but not everyone knows exactly how to do so.
The Longhorn Run also makes it possible for The University of Texas community to give back while gaining something for themselves; a healthier lifestyle.
To run a 10-kilometer run is a big accomplishment and getting your body able to run the distance may be a challenge for some. University alumna Dan I. is a prime example of what the Longhorn Run hopes to accomplish for people and Speer loves sharing his story whenever she can.
“When he volunteered in 2012, he watched all of his peers show pride in crossing the finish line, so he made a deal with himself to start training for the following year,” said Speer. “Being overweight, he was doubtful of his abilities, so he joined the social runs and only a year later found himself finishing the race. He changed his lifestyle, eating and exercise habits, and he became a much healthier person.”
This year’s race date is April 12, 2014. The 10-kilometer will begin at 8:00 a.m. and the 2-mile will begin at 8:20 a.m., both starting at 21st and Speedway.
Registration is NOW OPEN!
For many years to come, the Longhorn Run hopes to instill tradition and life long lessons to its participants; all you need is a pair of shoes and somewhere to run.
Start Here. Run the World.