Welcome to the Ken Lewis Blawg
[This is the initial posting to the Ken Lewis Blawg, a new legal blog. Future postings will address different legal issues that relate to the various areas of law practice in which the lawyers at Bush Lewis, PLLC regularly engage.]
It was still totally dark when the great mass of runners registered for the Aramco Half-Marathon portion of the 2008 Chevron Houston Marathon emerged from the George R. Brown Convention Center into the crisp, dry 40 degree chill of the early Sunday morning in downtown Houston on January 13. We were quickly relieved to see an uniformed official holding aloft two lighted flashlights with long barrelled red portions making it easy for us to follow him through the predawn darkness to the starting area. Fifty yards later, we got to a gate with another uniformed official who turned away all but about a dozen runners who were classified as the elite runners for this half-marathon and were being led to the front of the starting line through a shorter route. The rest of us turned around, retraced our steps and found a longer route to the starting area at La Branch and Prairie, in the shadow of the main entrance to the Houston Astros' beautiful Minute Maid Park.
Nine thousand of us were split into two groups (the Green and Black waves) for the start of the race on La Branch Street, with the eight thousand full marathon runners starting parallel to us one block over on Crawford Street. The sun begins to lighten the horizon about 10 minutes before the 7:00 start and some runners begin to shed sweatshirts and other warm outer clothing, but many are undecided about what they want to wear. Having tried to cover 10+ mile runs in training bundled up on cold days, I knew that it was better if at all possible to try to run the entire race in shorts and T-shirt. Strangers are striking up conversations with each other and trying to find out about race details they do not know. At 6:50, the one or two incredible wheelchair marathoners are started. There are brief speeches but no one in the crowd of runners can hear the words in the windy morning. Everyone's shivers and wet eyes are multiplied beyond what is caused by the weather as we clearly hear the Star-Spangled Banner sung beautifully by a local singer whose name we never caught.
The starting gun is up as the sun first brightens a beautifully clear morning, goes off, and the races are on! Sort of. With this many runners in the first wave, you actually do not move unless you are at the very front. Jammed shoulder to shoulder, thousands of runners deep, you actually stand still, then begin to walk, then jog--all very cautiously to prevent tripping that causes yourself or someone else to fall. Since every runner has a computer chip laced into his or her shoe and time does not begin to run for the runner until crossing the starting line, this slow packed start is alright.
La Branch Street is lined with cheering spectators as soon as we clear the starting line. Every runner is trying to find their target pace for the race. I remember from running the mile in high school races over forty years ago that I need to be careful on race day not to let the excitement make me start the race too fast but yet not to fail to ride the adrenaline a little so that I do not finish the race without having used up all my energy. Less than a mile into the race the full marathoners merge with us creating a temporarily increased congestion. I notice that at this point the leaders in the marathon are already well in front of our pack of half marathoners. As we swing on to Elysian Street, we quickly go up our first bridge as we cross White Oak Bayou. At Mile 1 the race officials are calling out our pace time. I am a little surprised to hear that we are at about an 8:30 mile pace when my training goal had been to be between 9:00 and 10:00 minutes per mile. I feel good and decide that the weather is perfect and change the goal to 9:00 minutes per mile, subject to revision after three miles if warranted.
The spectators are amazing! They are almost continuous along the entire route and vigorously cheering all the runners. Many have signs exhorting us on. Most neighborhoods have groups of residents welcoming us with signs into their neighborhood and then others hold signs telling runners they are leaving the neighborhood and wishing them well for the rest of the race. There are bands playing every one or two miles, radio stations vans blaring music every few miles, individual musicians playing violins, fiddles and even a saxophone (I really think Bill Clinton was somewhere else during this race!), and several pairs of musicians playing duets, along with lots of drummers. One church had a large part of its congregation on its steps with signs and loudly cheered the passing runners. A middle school band played fight songs in front of its school. All of us from this part of the country already knew that the people of Southeast Texas and Houston rock, but anyone who ran this race had that truth strongly reinforced.
I had decided to drink Gatorade only 25 to 30 minutes because that had seemed to be about what I needed to prevent leg cramps in training, so I skipped the first drink station on Hardy Street just past Mile 2. We turn left (west) on Quitman and quickly reach Mile 3. The pace is around 8:30 and I still feel good so I settle on the 9:00 overall pace, figuring I will slow down some by the end of the race. All the runners around me are still smiling and everyone seems happy to be involved in the race. Some runners see people they know and match paces to visit briefly before the faster one moves on. I am passing runners and being passed by other runners but can never get good enough looks at their bibs to distinguish marathoners from half-marathoners. All the runners are very courteous and everyone continues to try to avoid any jostling or tripping. This never changes at any time during the race. The volunteers are amazing in their numbers, enthusiasm, demeanor and knowledge at what they are doing. There are thousands of them and they have been well trained. They know exactly how to hand out drinks as runners come past the drink stations so that runners need not break stride, they call out the pace times very clearly, they point runners in the right directions at turns, trash cans are properly placed, store and retrieve runner's gear, are ready at first aid stations, and its is just an incredibly well managed event.
We wind under Interstate 45, past Houston Avenue and on to White Oak as we pass Mile 4, right (north) on Michaux Street, left (west) on 11th Street for two blocks as we reach Mile 5, and then south again on Studewood Street, passing Mile 6 as we cross over White Oak Bayou again, under Interstate 10, and then on to Studemont Street as we reach the half-way point of the 13.1 mile half marathon. At Mile 7 we go over Memorial Drive, the Buffalo Bayou Park, and then onto Montrose, where at Allen Parkway we begin to see runners coming toward us on the other side of the street who have already reached the Richmond turnaround for half marathoners. Everything still feels good but the pain on the right ankle sprained weeks earlier during training is present each time the right foot hits the pavement.
Continuing south on Montrose, we cross Gray, then pass Mile 8. Only a little over 5 miles left. The spring is beginning to leave my legs but my wind is still fine. Past Westheimer, then West Alabama and we can see the turnaround point at Richmond Avenue. We have had faster half marathoners passing us going back toward the finish since we crossed Allen Parkway. We make the turnaround at Richmond as the full marathoners continue south on Montrose. The marathoners' race route will wind on through Houston for a total of 26 miles, 385 yards (26.2 miles), the exact distance the Greek runner ran from the site of the great battle at Marathon where the Athenians defeated the Persians in 490 B.C. to Athens to deliver the news of victory.
Soon after we turn back north on Montrose, we pass Mile 9. My pace is an 8:38 mile but I know that my legs are tiring quickly and I am beginning to slow somewhat. The runners are much less bunched together now and spectators continue to cheer each runner, reading their names off the front of the bibs and calling out name specific encouragement as you approach and pass. Children are reaching out to high-five runners as they pass. Occasionally, runners will recognize family members and run over to give or get a quick hug or even hoist a young child into the air for a moment. It is very emotional to be part of this event.
We pass Mile 10 as we again cross Gray. I will later learn that as I crossed Mile 10, the winner of my age division was crossing the finish line more than 3 miles ahead of me. We turn right on Allen Parkway and head east back toward downtown Houston. Past Mile 11. I could slow down now and still beat my original goal of finishing the race under a 10-minute mile pace but the new goal set during the race was to finish under two hours with a 9:00 pace and I push my tired legs onward. I know that my pace is slowing but I cannot seem to make my legs move any faster. As we pass under Interstate 45, a big banner proclaims "Just Over 1 Mile Left" just before we reach Mile 12.
We return to the shadows of the downtown skyscrapers on Dallas but exhaustion prevents any notice of the sudden drop in temperature. Left on Milam and right on Rusk, which is lined with cheering spectators urging the now strung out runners not to slow up. We can see the finish line banner in the distance ahead as we cross the Metrorail track on Main. We pass Mile 13 at San Jacinto and I just cannot find any leg energy to sprint or even increase my speed at all for the last hundred plus yards to the finish line. I click the timer on my wrist watch and see I have finished in 1:56:12 and know that at least no marathoners running twice as far as me have beaten me. I also know that I ran a race that used all of my energy by the time I crossed the finish line. I later learn that for the last 4.1 miles from Mile 9 to the finish line my pace dropped to 9:24/mile, bringing my pace for the entire race down to 8:52, just under my best case race scenario. The race was blessed with great organization, weather, road condition, and spectator and volunteer support that made meeting that goal not only possible but joyful.
Smiling volunteers rush forward to put a finisher's medal on each runner, directing each of us into the proper part of the convention center, where we picked up their stored belongings, a half marathon finisher's T-shirt and a delicious hot breakfast--all with the help of smiling, competent volunteers. I sit at a table with a male runner from Russia and a female from Scotland listening to them discuss both prior runs and their homelands as we eat breakfast. I marveled at how very much F.E.M.A. could learn from how well Houston organized and handled this event with 18,000 runners and thousands more spectators and volunteers. What an exciting event in which to participate!
Maybe you are thinking: What the heck does running a half marathon have to do with the law? My answer is: The analogies between a long distance race like the marathon or half marathon and the law are numerous and worthy of serious consideration.
First, when you have a serious legal problem, it is seldom something that can be handled quickly if it is handled properly. Whether it is a business dispute or a serious personal injury or death case, it is usually a long haul. Just as a distance race involves training, a lawsuit involves serious preparation--both for that specific case and in handling previous cases and becoming an expert before you ever needed a lawyer for your current problem. It is important that the lawyer be committed to properly finishing what he or she started, just as the distance runner has to finish the race when it gets difficult and perhaps painful. Commitment counts in both distance racing and the law.
Second, it takes a great team to put together events like the Houston Marathon and Half Marathon. The runners who participate are only part of the event. There could be no world class distance run without the sponsors, volunteers, and spectators. Likewise, a lawyer involved in handling serious legal matters and litigation must have great team of staff, experts, technological resources, consultants, and financial resources to be successful in today's competitive legal world. A complete, competent team is necessary to get the right result.
Third, just as the organizers and participants in a half marathon must follow the rules, so must the law be known, followed and used by lawyers in litigation. The marathon is always exactly 26.2 miles; the half marathon always 13.1 miles. Certain proof or evidence must be procured and properly presented in a lawsuit to be able to move forward and prevail in a case. Details matter whether in preparing for and running a half marathon or in preparing and handling a major trial. Just as the non-elite runners when blocked by the rules from going with the elite runners to the choice starting route and positions had to find another route to the starting line, so must the lawyer blocked by one rule or piece of evidence in a case find an acceptable alternative. Just as there are formal and informal rules in distance races, there are actual laws that must be known and followed in law and there are non-legal advocacy concepts that must be understood and used in litigation.
Fourth, in marathons and half marathons
there are elite runners who are given preferential treatment in where and how they are placed to start the race because their past performances indicate the winners are probably going to come from that group and who will usually turn in superior performances int he race. (Of course, they still have to compete and show that they are remain elite in the race, but it is the fact that they have done so repeatedly that puts them there and they seldom fail to finish among the leaders.) Likewise, there is an elite in the legal profession based on excellence in repeated past performances. Those in the legal elite are identified by state and national certifications and rankings by independent agencies or companies. Such rankings consider expertise, experience and ethics, as well as peer review and objective testing. These ratings or rankings include Board Certifications by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
, the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Martindale-Hubbell's ratings
and Texas Monthly's Super Lawyers
Fifth and finally, the best marathoners and half marathoners really enjoy running and the running world. Similarly, the best lawyers really enjoy and appreciate their profession and helping other people solve their legal problems. If a lawyer is not serious about the law and doing things right for their clients or is miserable being a lawyer, that lawyer is probably the wrong for your or for anyone else with a serious legal problem. You should have a lawyer who enjoys working on your specific legal problems.
So you see, I think law and distance running have a lot in common. Don't you agree?
Talk to you next time. God Bless!