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On the Ground in Houston and How to Help

During the Labor Day weekend, most mother runners had the luxury of lacing up and heading out for a run without giving a second thought to when the floodwaters would recede from their neighborhood. Mother runners in the Houston area are dealing with a different reality.

Like Janelle Williams, mom of two girls, ages 8 and 12.

Janelle documents the deep water crossings on the way to her house.

“It’s weird and it’s surreal being in the middle of it,” she says.

Initially, she and her husband decided to weather Hurricane Harvey in their Katy home. But as the storms slowed down, the flooding sped up. By Thursday, the family decided to head for higher ground. Fortunately, one of their triathlon friends was out kayaking people to safety and was able to get them someplace dry.

“There were a lot of people who didn’t leave their houses because they could not walk through the water. They didn’t have the strength,” she says. “We had to walk a mile once we got out of the house to get to a car. I feel so blessed to be strong so that I could get out and I could get my kids out. A couple of my friends were in the waist-deep water and they walked out pushing their kids on rafts. One had four kids so they had to do more than one trip.”

Janelle and family are staying with a running friend. She and her husband are also part of a triathlon group in nearby Cypress. Four members of that team were displaced by the flood; three of those folks have houses that are underwater still. The rest of the team has been coming to Katy to pitch in.

Katy's Gotta Run group takes a quick break.

“So far, they’ve mucked out about 12-15 houses. The folks who are leading the cleaning groups are saying the runners and the triathletes are so strong and that the houses go fast,” she says. “They get it done.”

The damage to Janelle’s house has been, all things considered, minimal. Their roof has a leak and a front corner will need to be watched for mold. But, as of Monday, the roads in her subdivision were impassable. There are still places with 3 feet of water in them, she says, and parts of the community are under severe water and sewage restrictions.

“Our running community, the Gotta Run group,  has been our rock,” Janelle says. “They have a clean-up crew. They have a food crew. They’re begging to take our laundry. They’ll call and ask ‘Do you need a run? We’ll come run.’”

The running group is also providing gear, if needed.

“I forgot to get Jonathan’s shoes on a trip back to the house so everybody checked their shoes to find him a pair. I can’t find my running bottoms so somebody brought me a running skirt. One of the gals in the group has her own athletic wear company. She offered two outfits to everybody who had to evacuate,” Janelle says.

Getting in the miles... and the donuts.

While every Houstonian is getting through this time in his or her own way, running has helped runners maintain some sense of normalcy and of teamwork.

“The night before Harvey hit, my friend wanted to get 15 miles in. She started at like 8 p.m. and she had three groups go with her and each one did five miles. I did the 9 p.m. loop,” Janelle says. “This Saturday, we had a big group run, which was awesome. Friends who houses are completely flooded and they can’t get into them, they have been running every day.”

Of course, it’s going to take more than sweaty miles to get this city of seven million Americans back on its feet – but miles are a place to start. There are other ways to help, too.

Mother runner Ginny, the #UnderpantsFairy, has the most practical plan. She’s collecting cash to buy undies, which she’s distributing to shelters. “People are so happy and relieved to have their own underwear,” Ginny says. “It’s an obvious statement but during times like this, it's often a forgotten donation.” Email her at [email protected] and #leavenobootybare.


Runners World has a list of runner-related fundraisers and campaigns. Along with Help for Harvey races, both actual and virtual, the list notes that Fleet Feet Sports stores are holding individual shoe and clothing donation drives in addition to participating in “Shoes for Houston,” an event asking customers to bring new or gently used footwear and socks into stores. More information is on their website.

Coach MK has a few words about her favorite running spot and a run to help clean it up:

“In 2011, I was laid off en route to my wedding, we found out I was pregnant exactly 6 weeks later, and that my husband's job would be relocated to Katy, Texas. Shortly after that, my mother-in-law passed away unexpectedly, and 7 days later our first child was born.  Holmes and Rahe's scale couldn't contain us.

Running was the glue that held me together through 2012.  Houston's running community is unsurpassed; I have truly never seen anything like it.  Their support got me through that terrible year and I am forever grateful. I consider them family.

Y'all, my family is in trouble. During Harvey, Houston and the surrounding areas received upwards of 52 inches of rain in 72 hours. It will be months before most running trails are cleared to run again.

The running community in Houston is one of the strongest I have ever seen -- but it's gonna take more than grit to pull through this mess. We owe our fellow runners more than lip service. We can start by joining in the cleanup and rebuilding of the Buffalo Bayou trail system.

Deep in the Heart of Houston, a virtual run, is September 1-29. All proceeds will go directly to the Buffalo Bayou Partnership to help clean and restore this popular running spot, which was completely flooded during the storm."

Finally, we at TLAM want to offer #motherrunners affected by Harvey free training in either the Monthly Heart Rate-Based Programs or Stride into the School Year. We know you are #TexasStrong and have been inspired by all of the flood runfies you've sent our way. If you are going to run hell or high water, then we are determined to support you in kind. (And if it feels like you're not ready to train, no worries...we just want to support you as best as possible and remind you that running and exercise needs to not be forgotten as you file insurance claims.) Please email us at [email protected] with "Harvey Runner" in the subject line and we'll get you set up asap.

2 responses to “On the Ground in Houston and How to Help

  1. This post is tugging at my heart big time! What a great offer! What an outpouring of love and support! I wish we could come in person to help muck out the houses. Maybe we can. Meanwhile, one of our Downtown Run Group members organized a donation drive and a number of carloads of necessities to be distributed to those in need are on their way. What a great inspiring response everyone has had. Hold on to your hope, everyone. We are thinking of you with miles and smiles, prayers and hands to help!

  2. Wow, this post makes me so grateful for normal days & normal life. I hope you’ll be back to that very soon, Janelle! I’m blown away by the strength & heart of your running group!! Just registered for the Deep in the Heart of Houston Virtual Race you referenced above so I’ll be doing my 24 mi run this week (on my 52nd bday) with you guys in my thoughts! Stay strong!

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