Traci and I traveled to Fort Worth, Texas for the annual National Black Marathoners Association (NBMA) meeting. With diseases such as diabetes and hypertension affecting the African American community in relatively high numbers, the NBMA aims to promote running as a fitness tool that can be used to reduce the risks of these conditions in the community. Despite the name, not every member of the NBMA runs marathons. All fitness levels are welcome. There are walkers, 5-K (3.1 miles) runners, 10-K runners, and up to ultra-marathoners (more than 26.2 miles). The group meets face-to-face once per year at a run somewhere in the U.S.. They host a booth at the fitness and runners' expo and participate in the run.
This year, the annual NBMA meeting was in Fort Worth, Texas at the Cowtown Marathon. One of Traci's favorite pastimes is running long distances. She signed up to run the half-marathon (13.1 miles). I am not a runner or walker, so I was simply there to support Traci and to enjoy a winter getaway.
This was the second year Traci and I attended a NBMA meeting. Last year, it was held at the Lost Dutchman Marathon in Apache Junction, Arizona. We had a great time out there. Unfortunately, I never got around to writing a trip report about our Arizona sightseeing weekend.
The age ranges of the NBMA members are from teens to over 70. The members all have interesting stories. The president, Tony Reed, is the first black man to run a marathon on all seven continents (including Antarctica). He has written a book (Running Shoes are Cheaper Than Insulin) in which he details his fascinating running stories from all over the world. This year's Cowtown Marathon would be another milestone for him - his 100th marathon!
We met NBMA members that run ultras of more than 100 miles as a hobby! There was one member who is a heart transplant recipient and still runs marathons! The list of fascinating stories goes on and on.
Traci booked the Courtyard Marriott Downtown/Blackstone many months in advanced. This turned out to be a smart move on her part. The hotel had an excellent location for getting to and from the race. The starting line was 3 blocks away; the expo was two blocks away; the finish line was in front of the hotel. In fact, we could watch runners cross the finish line from the comfort of our 9th floor window. The hotel's location also offered other advantages such as being located across the street from the theater where the NBMA held their meetings and being located in the heart of Fort Worth's Sundance Square. This section of the city has restaurants, shopping, concert halls, and theaters. For dinner our first evening, we walked two blocks to the Ferre Italian Restaurant for Traci's ritual carb-loading pasta meal the night before a race. I thought the food was okay but over-priced. On the other hand, the apple/ricotta ravioli dessert that Traci and I shared was worth every calorie-loaded spoonful.
our view of downtown Fort Worth
viewing the finish line from our room
We had a nice room on the ninth floor (Room 907) with a view of downtown. Our stay was not without some minor annoyances. We had to return to the front desk for a room change because the initial one we were given appeared to be already occupied. We saw someone else's luggage when we entered. Fortunately, the owners of the luggage were not there when we opened the door.
There is not much free street parking in the area. When Traci inquired at the front desk, she was given the impression that our only parking option for our rental car was the hotel's valet parking garage at a rate of $12 per day. We found out the next day that there is a large free parking garage 2 blocks away.
The final annoyance was not limited to the hotel. It had more to do with me not being used to the chemical treatment of the city's tap water. It seemed to always have an earthy/soil smell.
Since the NBMA members were not successful in convincing me to participate in at least a walking event, I was put on photography duty. They needed me to show up at 6:45 AM to take a group photo of the runners before they headed to the starting line for a 7:30 AM start. I also photographed as many of the 50 or so NBMA members as I could during the race consisting of more than 12,000 runners.
Traci and I were not prepared for the weather. We had checked the Fort Worth forecast on the internet before packing for this trip. We were expecting highs in the 60's and low's in the 30's. The morning of the run, the temperature was 29 degrees with a wind chill that made it feel like the teens. The temperature never got above the low 40's the whole weekend. I had to wear two shirts under my light spring jacket. Traci was glad that she had decided to pack her long running tights for race day as a last minute precaution.
"Mike, hurry up and take the picture. It's cold!"
Traci at mile 13...still smiling
Traci tied her PR (Personal Record) for the 13.1 mile half-marathon event. She was a little disappointed because she was hoping to beat her PR by 3 minutes. As for me, I'm always proud and amazed that she has the will to run in these events.
After Traci cleaned up and got changed, we joined other NBMA members holding a banner to congratulate Tony when he crossed the marathon finish line for the 100th time. It was a joyous time for all as Tony and other marathoners crossed the finish. The announcer gave a special shout-out to Tony over the PA system.
congratulating Tony on completing his 100th marathon
Now that the Cowtown Marathon events of the morning were behind us, Traci and I were anxious to hop in the car and do some sightseeing. I had done some internet research before arriving in Fort Worth to find out the must-see attractions for first time visitors. Over and over, the top recommendation was the Fort Worth Stockyards.
The Stockyards is where livestock are bought and sold. It was about a 3-mile drive from our hotel. Everyday at 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM, the cattle are herded through the streets. Unfortunately, Traci and I arrived just after the last migration had completed; therefore, we had to settle for looking at the long horns in their pen. I had no idea these bovine are so large.
Fort Worth Stockyards
saddle bar stool
cattle are bought and sold at the Stockyards
"Yep, I'm in Texas. Check out these chairs."
In addition to being a business area for ranchers, the historic Stockyards district has a worthwhile tourist infrastructure. There are Old West store fronts for general stores, saloons, honky tonks, souvenir shops, museums, and plenty of steakhouses. Traci and I found a great parking spot on the street and then wandered in and out of a few souvenir shops each greeting us with their own distinctive aroma - leather, scented candles, etc.. We also took a peek inside the Stockyards Hotel where we were intrigued by the saddle bar stools of the hotel's saloon. Continue...