Houston is accustomed to stampedes -- after all, this city of nearly 6 million people arose in a land of hardcore cattle ranchers. So it's no surprise that Houston hosts a giant stampede of humans, in a race that's fittingly called the Rodeo Run.
The ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run (formerly known as the Houston Rodeo 10K) is held in Houston every year on the last Saturday in February. Entrants can choose between the competitive 10K run and a just-for-fun 5K run.
The rodeo moniker isn't just to add local flavor to the event. The race actually kicks off the annual livestock parade, which precedes the 20-day-long Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which per Texas standards, is the biggest and most extravagant livestock show on the planet. The rodeo is over the top, too, as it's the biggest money event on the PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) circuit.
The show also features major concerts, so everyone from Elvis to the Black Eyed Peas and ZZ Top have played there. These kinds of events draw huge crowds -- more than 2.2 million people attended the show in 2010.
Show organizers want to make their event even more popular, so adding a footrace made sense. They started the 10K race in 1988.
ConocoPhilips is the major sponsor of the race, thus, the name. There are other major corporate sponsors, including Continental Airlines, Halliburton, and GE Oil & Gas, among others.
Race entry fees go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Educational Fund, which is used to fund scholarships. In 2010, early registration cost $22 and late registration was $27. Those entry fees meant about $300,000 went to the education fund, which has now gathered more than $2.5 million from the race since it was added to the schedule of events 23 years ago [source: Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo]
Houston Rodeo 10K Route
In essence, the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run is a parade before the parade, with thousands of people donning their running shoes to take part. For the 2010 run, race organizers capped registration at 13,000 due to safety and congestion concerns. There were so many people excited about the race that race planners specifically asked that so-called bandits (unregistered runners) stay home.
The 10K and 5K runs start in downtown Houston at the corners of Texas Avenue and Smith Street. The competitive 10K starts first, with the non-competitive 5K fun run beginning a few minutes later. With the staggered start, there's reduced congestion and less likelihood that a casual 5K walker will be trampled by a faster 10K competitor.
The footraces blaze up the parade route for about three-quarters of a mile (about 1.2 kilometers). Then, after about a mile (1.6 kilometers), the 10K and 5K runs part ways, leaving the parade route and moving into different parts of downtown. Both runs and the parade all wind up at Minute Maid Park.
This is a special run for multiple reasons. For one, it's not a loop. It's the only large-scale, point-to-point run in Houston. Also, routes for both distances are planned carefully with runners' abilities in mind. The 5K route is completely flat.
The 10K route, however, does have a mile with significant elevation gain. These hills give runners a nice overlook to see the downtown skyline. Ultra-competitive runners looking to set records can do so here, because the 10K is sanctioned by USA Track & Field and the Gulf Association of USA Track & Field.
Overall, the race route is fairly tame, offering a flat, fast route that many experienced runners might use to set a personal record in the 10K event. Runners and walkers both receive an assist from the weather, too. In areas north of Texas, February would be a miserably cold time of year for a run. However, the average high temperature in Houston at that time is a mild 67 degrees Fahrenheit (19.4 degrees Celsius), and the average low is 48 degrees (8.9 degrees Celsius). That means cool conditions that make for comfortable, fun runs.
The end of the race doesn't mean the end of the fun. When runners arrive at Minute Maid Park, a gigantic post-race celebration starts. As the rodeo parade ends, parade participants and watchers descend on the party, too. Thousands of people mingle for hours after the primary events have ended.
Houston Rodeo 10K Results
With 5,500 people running frantically during the 10K, race organizers use high-tech products to track each person's time. Runners attach a disposable transponder tag to their race bibs. Electronic pads at the finish line provide an exact finishing time for every runner, although the overall men's and women's winners are timed the old-fashioned way, with a stopwatch and visual confirmation of them crossing the finish line. Because the 5K is a non-competitive event, participants aren't timed.
The 2010 10K featured some fast runners and some familiar faces. In the men's division, Sean Wade, age 41, was the overall winner, with a time of 31:27. Mary Davies, 27, won the women's division with a time of 35:32. Both winners are Houston residents, and this was the first win in this event for Davies.
Wade has won the Rodeo Run a whopping eight times. He first won the race in 1993, when he was 24 years old and finished in 30:44. He also holds the course record of 29:20, which he set in 1995.
Like many races, the Rodeo Run features a Master's division that includes runners age 40 and older. Rudy Rocha, 40, of Baytown, TX, won the men's Master's division in 2010 with his time of 34:19. Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, 50, won the Master's division on the women's side, by running 35:26. Ayala-Troncoso is no stranger to the winner's circle in Houston. She also won in 2005 and 2006, and in 2005, she set the Master's record with a 35:26.
The 2010 men's wheelchair winner was was Juan Rios, of Houston. He finished in 27:08. There were no female wheelchair racers in 2009 or 2010.
If the Rodeo Run 10K sounds sounds like a fun event, you may want to consider hitting Houston for the next event. The most comprehensive site you'll find for the race is at the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run Web site. You'll see all of the registration and logistical information you'll need to add your name to the long list of race supporters.
For more on 10K runs and other athletic events, jog your memory with the links on the next page.
- Alvarez, Oiliva Flores. "23rd Annual ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run." HoustonPress.com. Feb. 25, 2010. (July 23, 2010)http://www.houstonpress.com/2010-02-25/calendar/23rd-annual-conocophillips-rodeo-run/
- Chron.com. "ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run Results." Feb. 2, 2010. (July 23, 2010)http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/run/6889726.html
- CityRating.com. "Houston Average Temperature." (July 23, 2010)http://www.cityrating.com/citytemperature.asp?City=Houston
- ConocoPhillipsRodeoRun.com. "Rodeo Run Brochure." (July 23, 2010)http://www.conocophillipsrodeorun.com/EN/Documents/RodeoRunbrochure.pdf
- ConocoPhillipsRodeoRun.com. "What Makes the ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run Different?" (July 23, 2010)http://www.conocophillipsrodeorun.com/EN/whatMakesUsGreat/Pages/index.aspx
- Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. (July 23, 2010)http://www.hlsr.com/
- Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. "ConocoPhillips Rodeo Run." (July 23, 2010)http://www.rodeohouston.com/events/rodeo-run.aspx
- Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. "Show Wrap." (July 23, 2010)http://www.hlsr.com/downloads/2010Show_Wrap.pdf
- Texas Department of State Health Services. "Projected Texas Population by Area, 2010." (July 23, 2010)http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/chs/popdat/ST2010.shtm
- Weather.com. "Monthly Averages for Houston, TX." (July 23, 2010)http://www.weather.com/outlook/driving/interstate/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/77002