Are you looking for reviews of the best Texas running events? Maybe you’re searching for a local running group to keep you motivated.
We had the distinct pleasure to speak with Texas transplant and experienced ultramarathoner, Olga Varlamova. Olga shares her passion for trail running on her aptly titled blog, Run More Talk Less.
Discover her favorite races, running tips, and personal experiences. Then, be sure to leave your own review of your favorite race in Texas!
What makes Texas a great place to run?
I moved to Austin, TX only 2 years ago, and I moved from a beautiful place for running – from Portland, OR. Is it ever different! But for some reason, these two cities are always compared on any website, and even their car’s stickers are the same: “Keep Portland/Austin weird”. I guess there are similarities more than one can think of at first.
Running in Texas, and especially in Austin, is extremely wide spread. It has grown in the last 10 years tremendously. Along with road running, trail running has become a real staple of Texas running, and deservingly so.
Despite what you may think, green hills make a lot of the area of this huge state. Having no winter helps active folks to never take a break in their approach to health and fun maintenance.
What inspired you to get into running?
I grew up in Soviet Union, and while our PE education was by far much better than anything in US these days, my running as a teenager was a subject of how to stay at certain weight (girl’s stuff). That meant every morning before school I’d make loops for 10 minutes.
I also always loved backpacking trips, and was a great hiker. After having 2 kids I needed to get back in shape, so I signed up for the gym and jogged a couple of times a week for a mile or two. My co-worker signed me up for Mother’s day 5k race at my ripe age of 32. I got hooked and started signing up for races, each longer than previous, and in 3 months I ran my first half-marathon.
Another year and some 50 races later I joined a great group of marathoners, ran a 50km, and never looked back. Because out “there” I had discovered that I am really good on trails, where the path is a single-track, narrow and twisted, where the mountains are looming and you’re going either up or down, and where the vistas take your breath away.
To this date I have run 76 ultramarathons (16 of which are 100M races), 2 trail marathons, 16 road marathons and somewhere over 150 total of shorter distance races.
What’s your favorite pre-race meal? Do you have the same regimen every race?
I don’t believe in pre-race meal any different than any other day before. I race at least once a month now, and that’s with the fact that I only race in trails ultramarathons.
Between traveling and having to work full time and take care of the family, whatever food I find is fine with me. As for the morning of the race, I may have a Lara bar, or a banana, or Cliff-blocks. Definitely no bagels or other staples.
What are your favorite songs to pump you up for a run?
Since I run for hours (and I mean hours) during a race, my iPod has a list lasting 6 hrs, and it goes over again once done. I don’t really care about special, although when my Russian CD comes up, I tend to perk up, as well as Lady Gaga has my attention.
For a serious thought though, Eye of the Tiger and Eminem’s “One Shot” leads me to the edge if it coincides with passing a competition.
Which are the most famous or popular local races?
I would be the wrong person to name a road race (Austin marathon?), but when it comes to trails, anything that is a production of Tejas Trails is awesome. By sheer number the popularity vote would go to Rocky Raccoon in February and Bandera in January.
What’s the one race a visitor should run?
Bandera. It is a trail race not far from San Antonio, in a Bandera Park, on great hills with fantastic views, offering 3 distances (25k, 50k, 100k) and a real feel of Texas Hill Country and camaraderie of trail ultrarunners. It also happens in January, when the weather in Texas is best!
What is your favorite race day memory?
There are few races I think of if you ask me which ones are best.
I think of “best” here in terms of performance, where I was strong all day and only got stronger as the day wore on, like I never had to stop. Zane Grey 50M circa 2006 was one of the prime examples, as well as Miwok 100km in 2005 (I ran both of these races 3 times each, so yes, you can say they fall into the “favorite” category).
But I also have stories that combine good runs with funny memories. Like at Western States 100M in 2005, which I started 2 weeks after racing in a 58M run. Making it to 30M on the 30-hr finish cut off time, I just kept picking up speed – and time. By mile 68 I was close to touch a 25hr time frame, and reaching the American River at 78M on a 24hr pace – and then my intestines decided to disagree.
I don’t think anyone likes to read words “explosive diarrhea”, especially picturing a runner at mile 80, with 20 to go, in the mountains, on steep slopes, poison ivy instead of a toilet paper, and fighting for a top 10 position. Yes, I got that all, but the bond I share with my pacer from that run is very special.
What is the typical weather in your state and how does it vary with the seasons?
Typical is broken into two seasons where I live: winter is December-February, when it’s 30F at night and 70F during a day – best Texas has to offer. The rest of the year it’s summer time and often unpleasant for outdoor enthusiasts.
Between mid-April and the end of September temperatures don’t fall below 80F, and during July-August get stuck in 100’s. That comes with high humidity as well, and I mean high. So, we often switch the seasons here, taking a break when most of the country goes breaking records in their miles.
What is your “must-have” running gear? What gear do you recommend for each race?
Since I run trails, my only two pieces I care for are La Sportiva running shoes and Drymax socks. All you need is happy feet – and these two products do the trick.
What are your favorite running shoes?
La Sportiva Crosslites. They are light, minimalistic, yet with rock protection, somewhat wide in forefoot, yet not wide to make much movement, close to the ground (heel to midsole drop), flexible, tight around ankle, great grip on trails. I don’t really care for what road shoe to buy (I do train on roads), as long as it’s light and neutral.
What are your favorite parks or trails to run? Which locations are best? Which should you avoid?
Favorites are the Barton Creek trail system, Bull Creek trails, Bastrop Park, and Forest Ridge Park. I love NW Hills of Austin – the hillier the better. I will not venture much South because it’s too flat and boring for me, but it doesn’t mean someone else won’t.
If you could run a race with any person, who would it be?
I’ve run with every person I ever wanted to – I am blessed with great friends and running partners.
What are your favorite running tips for fellow RunPals?
Don’t feel sorry for yourself in a race. Train hard. Run with joy.
On the training front, there is no magic. Hard work is the only thing that ever allowed real people to reach real goals. At some time a few years back, I was able to train by combining all the best methods together – high volume and high quality. Then for various reasons one year, “quality” had to go, but volume stayed (and was saving me from the possibility of depression).
Then it was time to bring some serious work back – but I met time constraints, and at this time it’s all about quality, not quantity. And you know, coming from a regular 100 mile a week runner, getting back to 40 works just as well – as long as you’re willing to put an effort into those miles!
On fueling. After having troubles most of my running “career”, and in the meantime discovering I am gluten-intolerant, I keep things simple: ice-cold water and Power-gels every 25 minutes, along with a Succeed! Cap on the hour. I always bring my own fueling and locate it into drop bags, thus the only things I ask from race organizers are water and ice. I believe races shouldn’t be catered walks in the park, and when things are simplified, the goal is much easier to achieve, because there are no distractions.
Participate in the sport of your choice more than simply being a “racer”. Help out, join local group, volunteer, cheer on, talk about it, invite friends, family and strangers. Speak up, show your passion!
Discover all of Olga's trail running adventures at her blog, Run More Talk Less!
Got a favorite running event in your state?
Share your experience in a recent 5k, 10k, half or full marathon!
Tejas Trails Ultra Endurance Trail Running - Austin, Texas
North Texas Trail Runners - Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
Dallas Running Club - Dallas, Texas
Al Lawrence Running Club - Houston, Texas
Bayou City Road Runners - Houston, Texas
Bay Area Running Club - Houston, Texas
West Texas Running Club - Lubbock, Texas
San Antonio Road Runners - San Antonio, Texas
If you would like your Texas running group added, just send us an email.