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Austin Runners Club seeks to tie community together

Brom Hoban, Central Texas Running

Staff Writer
Austin 360
Megan Baker, 32, is president of the Austin Runners Club. 'It's not just a social organization. Volunteerism is a big part,' she says.

Megan Baker ran an unusual half marathon in the hilly countryside east of Austin Saturday morning.

Every mile, she stopped and spray-painted the pavement with an arrow and a triangle that had a number in it.

Those marks will define the route of the Austin Runners Club Decker Challenge 2010 Half Marathon, Marathon and Relay, scheduled Sunday near the Travis County Exposition Center.

Baker, president of the Austin Runners Club, is a 3:32 marathoner, and to her the process of marking each mile with the triangular direction guide is a labor of love.

"We're a volunteer-based organization," says the 32-year-old business analyst consultant. "Our goal is to support the Austin running community. Folks who join the club tend to volunteer at races and contribute to the Austin running scene. It's not just a social organization. Volunteerism is a big part of ARC."

The Decker Half Marathon is one of the longest-running races in the Austin area, tracing its roots to 1979 when a handful of runners ran an 11.2-mile loop course that followed an old University of Texas cross country training route.

Over the years the original race has been extended to 13.1 miles, a marathon or "Double Decker" has been added, and teams of two can compete relay-style. Now the event ranks as ARC's biggest event of the year, drawing more than 1,000 runners.

"We want to make sure that Decker is a great experience for fellow Austin runners," says ARC member and Decker race director Christina Conklin, who is 26 and a 3:24 marathoner. She accompanied Baker on the prep run last weekend.

ARC was formed in 1974 and claims 600 members, who help stage running events and participate in group runs throughout the week. In addition to the Decker Challenge, ARC puts on the Daisy 5K, which is considered the oldest 5K in Austin and is usually held in May.

"Everyone's running needs are different," Baker says. "Some are just social, others want serious training. We're all looking for where to buy the best shoes, find the best running routes, and to find information about races. ARC is what ties that all together."

Upcoming races

Saturday

• St. Judes Jingle Bell 5K, 9 a.m. at Gruene Hall in Gruene. See www.athleteguild.com.

Sunday

• ARC Decker Challenge 2010 Half Marathon, Marathon, & Relay at the Travis County Expo Center. Double Decker Marathon, 7:30 a.m.; Decker Half Marathon and Relay, 8 a.m. See http://decker.austinrunners.org.

• Brown Santa 5K, 8:15 a.m. at the Travis County Exposition Center. See www.tcsheriff.org/brownsanta.asp.

• Jinglebell 5K, 8:30 a.m. at the Domain. See www.redlicoriceevents.com/events.

• Esmeralda's Run 5K/10K, 9:30 a.m. at the Austin Tennis Academy in Spanish Oaks. See www.esmeraldasrun.com.