San Antonio might have the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon, but starting in 2012, Austin will have its own music-themed run. And isn't it about time, considering we're the Live Music Capital of the World?
Organizers recently unveiled the Austin 10/20, a new 10-mile race scheduled for April 15, 2012.
A stage will be set up every half-mile along the race course near The Domain, and more than 30 bands will serenade runners as they stream past. (Confusing, I know. That's 20 stages, hence the name — but more than 30 bands because stages on the last half of the race will have two bands that take turns performing.)
A yet-to-be-named nationally known artist will perform at a finish line concert and post-race party.
Race director Peter Douglass, 49, was a founding partner of San Diego-based Elite Racing, creator of the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series, which is now 18 races strong. He moved to Austin in 2009 and started Turnkey Operations, a barricade and road closure company whose clients include the LiveStrong Austin Marathon.
"I really love the 10-mile distance," Douglass says. "It's sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of running — it doesn't get much respect and people don't pay much attention to it, but it's a great distance."
Douglass expects at least 10,000 runners for the first-time event. Every Rock 'n' Roll Marathon has debuted with at least 20,000 runners.
Will the 10/20 spawn a whole new series of races? "Probably, but I can't say yes for sure," Douglass says. "There's another city or two that has shown some interest."
Bands interested in performing along the route should go to www.austin1020.com. Registration for the race is open at the same site.
Car dealerships offer loaner bikes
I've heard of dealerships providing loaner vehicles when you drop off a car for service, but here's a new one: loaner bicycles.
At First Texas Honda, Austin Subaru and Austin Infiniti, all part of Austin's Continental Automotive Group, you can borrow a bicycle while your car is in the shop.
The Felt Cafe cruiser bikes come with a lock, bell, light, rack, bottle holder and helmet. You have to supply the muscle power.
"If this were to work anywhere, we figure Austin's a great environment for it," says Will Hardeman, managing partner of Continental Automotive Group. "A lot of people are into cycling and care about the environment and don't want to use any carbon emissions just to run unimportant errands."
On the business side, it's also cheaper. "There's almost zero maintenance costs," Hardeman says.
The only dealership in the group that's not offering loaner bikes is Mercedes-Benz of Austin. "We're not sure it would be used there," Hardeman says.
Each participating dealership has three loaner bikes, versus a loaner fleet of 19 motor vehicles at Austin Subaru. "If that number were reversed, that would be a good world to live in," Hardeman says.
The idea came from a Subaru dealership in Denver that lends bikes, and Austin customers who for years have brought their own bikes to the dealerships, then ridden them to work while their car is in the shop, Hardeman says.
Slackers need not worry. Loaner cars are still available at the Subaru and Infiniti dealerships, and the Honda dealership offers shuttle service.
Trailhead to become more user-friendly
"The Rock" is getting a makeover.
Construction will begin in the next few weeks on a renovation of the Johnson Creek Trailhead, underneath Loop 1 near Austin High School.
The popular meeting point, which gets its nickname from the chunk of granite at its center, is little more than packed dirt, some underutilized stretching bars and a table full of water jugs provided free by RunTex.
It's crowded and chaotic, with drainage problems and places where the sidewalks are so narrow people hop out into Stephen F. Austin Drive.
When the renovation is finished, the trailhead will feature pocket gardens filled with native plants, more blocks of granite like the Rock for sitting and stretching, a longer retaining wall, wider crushed-gravel pathways and a water fountain with spigots for 10 humans and a dog.
"Given the exponential growth in the trail, one of most important things we're going to do is make the trail flow much better," says Susan Rankin, executive director of the Trail Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to maintain the hike-and-bike trail around Lady Bird Lake.
The trail will remain open during construction, which is expected to take three to five months.
Plans also call for either improving the existing restroom across the street near Austin High School or installing a new facility, but that portion of the project will lag behind the trailhead improvements, Rankin says.
The Trail Foundation still needs $65,000 to reach its campaign goal of $475,000 for the combined projects. The trailhead portion of the project will cost about $350,000.
The Austin Parks Foundation, the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and numerous family foundations and individuals are among donors.
Austin-based Bosse & Pharis Associates Inc. designed the new trailhead. The company studied time-lapse photographs before coming up with a plan.
About a third of the 1.5 million visits to the trail around Lady Bird Lake each year begin at the Johnson Creek Trailhead.
"This spot really sets the tone for people's trail-use experience. Right now, that area is so degraded that it doesn't show the best of Austin and the best of the trail," Rankin says.
For more information or to donate to the project, go to www.thetrailfoundation.org.
Workout partners in a flash
A flash mob for exercise?
Creators of Training Mobs were in Austin to launch their website and social fitness community during SXSW Interactive.
The site, www.trainingmobs.com, helps people find spur-of-the-moment workout partners, says co-founder Jonas Caruana. If your afternoon meeting is suddenly canceled, for example, you can post on the site and find others to join you for an impromptu run around Lady Bird Lake.
"It helps you find a workout online, then get offline to do it," Caruana says. "We're less about the online experience — the product is a great workout."
Membership is free to individuals. Eventually, trainers and gyms will be charged for upgraded memberships.
"It helps you find the kind of workout you like whenever and wherever you are," Caruana says. "As we grow and get more mobs, we are hoping it will become more flash mob-like."
About 40 mobs, from runs to yoga sessions to boot camps, formed in Austin during the festival.
Eventually, the site might offer incentives. Participants would earn points for attending mobs, and top exercisers might win awards.
While in Austin, Caruana co-hosted a SXSW Interactive panel dubbed "Fitness 2.0: Reverse Engineering Your Excuse Compiler." The session focused on how to use technology to encourage people to exercise more often.