On Sunday morning, more than a thousand Galveston County runners will toe the line at the Chevron Houston Marathon or the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. Thousands more of their friends and family will be cheering them on, either along the course, from a comfortable spot in front of the TV or while watching a streaming broadcast of the race on a mobile app.
The race is Houston’s largest one-day sporting event, and more than a million people are spectators somewhere along the 26.2-mile course. Because the course circles a large swatch of central and western Houston, it’s easy to drive from one spot to another along the course to watch the action unfold and provide encouragement where it is most needed.
The marathon and half marathon follow the same course for the first 7 1/2 miles, so a vantage point along Washington Avenue is a prime spot for seeing the runners en masse before they begin to spread out as the faster runners pull away.
The runners head down West Gray, making the River Oaks Shopping Center, with its array of breakfast restaurants and two Starbucks, a congenial place to wait for the runners. The course then heads down Kirby, also full of restaurants and coffee shops for taking refuge from the elements while waiting for the thundering horde.
By the time marathoners reach Memorial Park, they’ve covered 20 miles and can use some encouragement. For spectators, Memorial Park offers parking, restrooms and even a Beck’s Prime for brunch.
While it can be hard to get close enough to see runners actually cross the finish line, the whole race, including hours of finish line coverage, will be viewable on Jumbotron screens at RunFest, a free public celebration at Discovery Green, just steps from the finish line.
For those who think speeding from one vantage point to another is too much like actually running, there’s the option of watching the race on television. Coverage on Channel 13 runs from 7 a.m. until 10 a.m., with sports analysis, human interest stories, and athlete interviews, followed by a race recap at 10:35 p.m.