• Thursday, September 02, 2010
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Juan, the clubs other foreign runner slept in last Saturday. the rest of us assembled early in the local park for the weekly park run, a three mile time trial, free, and open to all runners. Juan sent his flame haired wife in his place. when he gets out of bed Juan is blindingly fast but unfortunately he doesn’t get out of bed very often - Saturday and Sunday “ are for resting” and on club nights he is tired from work and needs to go to bed early. his flame haired wife is usually deputised to represent him at club meets and is like a firecracker, full of fizz and noise and only fast for the first hundred yards. sometimes we wish that she would use her breath for running. or to provide commentary on horse racing. it was the first anniversary of the park run being held and the local press had sent a photographer to cover it. however the lensman had forgotten his camera and had to stand on a box and use his mobile phone to take the pictures. the runners stood in a large huddle as speeches were made, photo’s taken and awards handed out. then the folk who had been given awards handed out flowers to the people who had given them the awards. more speeches of thanks, love and appreciation ensued, and more mobile phone photography. i began to admire Juan's foresight and envied him for the warmth of his duvet. i wondered aloud if i could slip away to my car without anyone noticing. eventually the race director stacked his awards at the base of a tree and stood before us to let off a blast from his klaxon. i had a race plan and sprang forward to execute it, neatly ankle tapping the twelve year old kid in front of me, elbowing past Sabina the cyclist and getting my head down. this way i could justifiably cut the first corner and gain twenty places by claiming not to have seen the marker cone. all this tactical maneuvering meant that i was comfortably in the top third of the pack and i made sure that i stayed there as the route wound its way around the park, dodging dog walkers, power walkers, geriatric joggers in tracksuits and children on tricycles. every time i noticed someone watching with a mobile phone i composed my features into one of steely resolve. thus my race was lung busting, arm pumping and accompanied with a look of extreme constipation which allowed me to cement an almost top 30 finish in 22:00. this was at 7 min mile pace and i took 3923 steps to achieve it. a pretty good result all in all. afterwards we ate lots of celebratory cake and drank lots of celebratory coffee as we waited for Juan's flame haired wife to finish.
  • Wednesday, September 01, 2010
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Man I respect, a fellow African.

Gilbert Tuhabonye was born on November 22, 1974, in the southern county of Songa in Burundi, a small mountainous country in east central Africa. He is the third of four children. His parents were part of the Tutsi tribe and were farmers by profession. They kept milk cows and raised potatoes, peas, corn and beans.
His love of running was forged early. Gilbert loved to run everywhere. He ran to the valley’s edge to get water for his family. He ran to school, five miles away, and he loved to race his friends. His favorite thing to do was to chase his family’s cows. He was baptized as a Catholic in the sixth grade and moved 150 miles away the next year to board at a Protestant school in Kibimba.

While attending the Kibimba school, Gilbert began running competitively. Running barefoot, he won an 8K race while only a freshman. As a sophomore, he met a man who taught him how to change his running technique by getting his knees up and holding his arms correctly. The coach encouraged him to work hard and try for the Olympics. Gilbert became national champion in the 400 and 800 meters as an 11th grader. As a senior, Gilbert was already an extraordinary runner whose goal was to get a scholarship to an American school, get an education and return home to Burundi.

Fate had another plan for Gilbert.
On October 21, 1993, the centuries-old war between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes erupted in horrific reality one afternoon as Gilbert and his classmates were in school. The Hutu classmates at the Kibimba school, their parents, some teachers and other Hutu tribesmen, forced more than a hundred Tutsi children and teachers into a room where they beat and burned them to death. After nine hours of being buried by the corpses of his beloved friends, and himself on fire, Gilbert used the charred bone of one of his classmates to break through a window. He jumped free of the burning building and ran into the night, on charred feet, surviving one of the most horrible massacres in the long Tutsi-Hutu war. He ran from that horror into a new life.
Now, 16 years later and more than 8,000 miles from Burundi, Gilbert Tuhabonye is a celebrity in the world of running. He went on to graduate college at Abilene Christian University where, despite being covered with scar tissue from his extensive burns, he was a national champion runner. He is now, by all accounts, the most popular running coach in Austin, Texas where he lives with his wife Triphine and two daughters, Emma and Grace.
Gilbert coaches runners at Run Tex in Austin where they call themselves Gilbert’s Gazelles. He speaks English, French, Swahili and his own native Kirunde.
Media Inquiries: please contact Alicia Quinn Sankar, 1-512-394-1275.