Marathon participants gather to train, sweat, bond, laugh, cry and celebrate victories – together.

The university called for participants, and they came out in droves. In fact, 97 people joined The Rock’n Red Birds, the highest number of team participants in the division. They were ready for the challenge of the Rock n’ Roll Marathon and Half Marathon, and to prove it, they placed first in the Get Fit Challenge, a competition among businesses in San Antonio to create a team for race day. They also beat out top UTSA and Trinity in their division. It wasn’t easy, though. Read on.

Story by Karen DeMello, as told to Ashley Festa
DeMello graduated in 2004, while working full time and raising a family.

Alice Oldmixon, secretary for the UIW School of Nursing and Health Professions, celebrates at the finish line.

Natural curiosity prompted me to get involved with UIW’s team for the Rock n’ Roll Marathon. I always wondered how people got involved with things like that, and then I got an e-mail from Rick Smith (the assistant director of Alumni Relations) to see what kind of interest there might be to participate as a group. I jumped at the chance.

I had already wanted to get a jump start on a physical fitness routine and to lose weight, and this was better than a gym membership. There were names like Michael Hennessey (who holds the record for most Ironman triathlons in one year) to guide you and inspire you.

When we started to train in the summer, temperatures were hot, so practice was really difficult in the beginning. I saw people who looked like they knew what they were doing, and I kept thinking, ‘What am I doing here?’ But Rick and the coaches let us know – the race is all about YOU. You’re not trying to beat the guy next to you; you’re doing this for yourself.

Aida Albiar and Karen DeMello ’04 get ready for the race at the starting line.

One day in practice, I hurt my back, and because of it, I missed months of practice. But when I came back, the team rallied around me. They all said the same thing: baby steps. How can you fail when you have all these people around you?

One of the most memorable things about this journey to recovery was one day when practice was over, I was still coming slowly around the track. The other team members came back to help me, and some of them stayed late so I wouldn’t feel like I was all alone. This was a bonding experience I’ll never forget.

I made a one hundred percent recovery from my injury and eventually lost 14 pounds. We were taking classes, too, helping us learn about nutrition, rest, stretching and our mind-set. The coaches kept telling us, ‘It’s mind over matter.’ But there were times when my mind would tell me, ‘This doesn’t matter!’

Then the big day arrived. The whole event was just electric. I’m glad I put myself through all the work. No one can ever take that away from me. And I would do anything for anyone on that team. The Rock’n Red Birds really do rock!