I started running with Austin Fit ten years ago, in 2007. It’s been an amazing journey.

I moved to Austin in the 1970's, and began running so I could run in the Capitol 10,000 race in its second year (now referred to as the Cap 10K). I ran another 10K race that year, and then took a very long break from running.

In 2007, I started running again because I wanted to run in the 30th anniversary of the Cap 10k, and so I joined Austin Fit to begin training. I was a smoker at the time, and had not been exercising much. It was tough to get going again, but I felt like I had been awakened after a long sleep. When I completed that race, I decided to set my sights on a bigger goal, and ended up running a full marathon - the 2008 Austin Marathon - in less than a year after I started training with Austin FIT.

My favorite distance for races is the half marathon. I have run 2 full marathons and about 20 half marathons (I am starting to lose count) and numerous 10K and 5K races. I have enjoyed running half marathons in other cities and places such as New Orleans, San Antonio, Shiner (TX) and have run two long distances races in Big Bend. I have benefited from great coaches at Austin FIT, starting with Coach Monica Beard (my first marathon coach), and have been an assistant coach a few times, which was challenging but very rewarding. I have tried to push myself a little bit the last few years by doing things that were outside of my comfort zone, such as running more than a half marathon in the desert, running my second full marathon, and completing the Austin Distance Challenge.

Running with Austin FIT has been an awesome experience. I have met a lot of people, and made some really good friends. When you run long distances with others, you have the opportunity to really get to know people, and you see each other at your best and worst. Other than the great exercise, the friendships that have been made along the way have been the best part of Austin FIT for me.

I have also enjoyed getting to know Austin in a more intimate way, learning more about the streets and trails and the different parts of town. I have loved experiencing nature and the outdoors in all kinds of weather, from heat and humidity, to pouring rain, to freezing cold. I have discovered that I am a much better runner in the cold than the heat, but summer training keeps me going until the cooler temperatures arrive.

I have discovered that that the most memorable runs tend to be the most difficult ones, including the ones with extreme weather or hills (even though I am not a big fan of hills). I have also learned that the most rewards come from the training, the journey, that you take with other people in Austin FIT. The races you run are fun, but they are just the icing on the cake.

Other than running, my passions include my dog Karlee, movies, and music, especially live music. We live in the Live Music Capital of the World, so I try to take advantage of that. I am also trying to spend more time with my parents, as they are elderly and I know my time with them is precious. I know this is a little long, but I had a lot to say. Thanks to Austin FIT for everything, and for all of the coaches and friends who have made it special.

"I love the friends I have gathered together on this thin raft. We have constructed pyramids in honor of our escaping." ~ The Doors

Hunt "The Shadow" Cooley

Hunt Cooley, USA FIT Austin

I decided the year I turned 30 years old I would run a marathon. I had zero experience and wasn't sure what to expect. I didn't even run track in High School. I was just a High-Jumper. What was I thinking?

I signed up with Round Rock Fit and completed several group runs up until the day we had a field trip and joined Austin Fit for a Saturday group run. After that day, I was hooked. Running downtown with Austin Fit made the longer runs more enjoyable and easier to tackle.

This sounds like such a girl thing to worry about, but starting out my biggest obstacle I had to work thru was WHICH SHOES do I choose. Even 12 years ago the vast options were quite amazing. I visited the Austin Fit sponsored shoe company at that time . This was such a big deal to me. Picking out REAL running shoes was such a cool feeling. I was analyzed by a running shoe guru on a treadmill and then fitted for a pair of super fly looking Mizuno shoes. I wasn't real pleased that he asked me to go up a full size, but later found out I needed that extra foot flex space on those longer runs. Today I wear a shoe designed by Altra which is a Zero Drop and a natural shape toe box. Best shoe to date!

The following year, after RR Fit, I began running in Maria's group and had several PR experiences.  I could care less about the early morning drive from RR. I realized many RR runners were doing the exact same thing.  Maria was amazing. She even treated us to breakfast tacos from her family's restaurant. Maria really took care of her entire group and with that sweet smile she kept us motivated even on those Austin hill runs. Gee Wiz those were tough.

Between my first run and now it has been 12 years. I completed 7 Full marathons, and at least 10 half marathons in a race format. The coolest race I have ever done was in NY. They had us run thru Yankee Stadium and when we entered the field our faces were lit up on the screen. I did this race with my son who was 14 at that time. Running has given me some many great memories. My favorite half is the 3M downhill to downtown. Recommended for any 1st timer... Hence the name Downhill.

I have had such a great experience and look forward to many more years of running with Austin Fit. I want to be healthy enough to have a running life as long as Jim's 🙂

Haley, USA FIT Austin

I picked up my running career in 2011 after many years of being dormant. My very first race was the Schlotzsky's 10K in 2012. That year I decided to sign up for my first half marathon in 2013 in Chicago. I trained for my first half on my own and since then I have done several half marathons. My favorite half marathon was in 2015 the Hapalua half marathon in Hawaii. I have done several!

I started with Austin FIT in the Summer of 2016 after meeting and talking to Monica Lambert while volunteering for a race for the Beef team of which we are both members. I was telling her how I was having a hard time getting back to running constantly. Monica told me about Austin FIT and talked about how great of an organization it was as well as the coaches.

I showed up one Saturday morning to give Austin FIT a try and from the very first run I was hooked. I was so thankful for the awesome Orange team coaches, Debbie and Brian, for helping me get through the Summer season. Since I enjoyed the Summer season so much I signed up for the Fall/Spring seasons.

It has been amaze-balls and the best decision I've made for my health!

Araceli, USA FIT Austin

My name is Praveen Reddy Patlolla and I moved from Portland, Oregon, to Austin a couple of years ago and I am an IBM engineer.

I joined Austin FIT last year with the intention of getting fit.

I am originally from India and I was told that 3Rs are important to succeed in life - Reading, wRiting & aRithmetic; however, I realized after moving to Austin that a fourth R - "Running" is important to stay healthy.

My goal was to log more miles towards getting and staying fit so I initially joined Austin FIT's half marathon program. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every run and made a lot of friends in the process. Then I paused whether to enroll for Austin FIT's full marathon program as the majority of the practice runs were in double digits, but I took a bold step, pushed myself harder, joined the full marathon program the next season and made a personal record by crossing the 20-mile mark. I am yet to finish my first marathon but I would like to get more practice before I sign up for a full marathon. Hence I joined the third installment of Austin FIT's marathon program 2017 summer. I ran 340 miles in a span of 10 months after joining Austin Fit.

The coaches of Austin Fit are great and I am so glad that I discovered "Jim Long,” my coach, as he shares the nuances of long runs, running hills, injury prevention etc...  I really enjoy Jim's interval training regime. A few years ago I had difficulty running 3 miles straight, but interval running is a lot better as I can now run more than 10 miles more often and easily.

Stay fit. Don't quit. Way to go "Austin Fit."

Praveen Patlolla, USA FIT Austin