The Cowtown Marathon: Stories from the finish line

There was plenty of sweat and tears at the close of the 39th Annual Cowtown Marathon.

Over 1,480 people of all ages ran the 26.2 mile full marathon Sunday morning. Runners began and ended their route at the Will Rogers Memorial Center with detours through Stockyards Station, the Trinity River, Downtown Fort Worth, Overton Park, and TCU.
Participants shared their stories after crossing the finish line. Topics ranged from hardships, trials, and motivation.
Sam Pernice finishes his seventh Cowtown Marathon. (Photo by Shane Battis.)

Sam Pernice, 50, has run cowtown seven times and said everyone should run the race at least once in their lifetime. He gave an exasperated smile as he looked around at the cheering crowd and fellow runners.

Despite the grin, his return to the tracks was bittersweet. He talked about how it was this Fort Worth race that qualified him for the 2013 Boston Marathon, the year of the terror attack. Pernice ran the marathon that year and has since continued chasing his hobby.

"I love the challenge. I even love the pain. If you could run this race without the pain, anyone could do it. The pain, the suffering, the sacrifice, the commitment is what makes it all so special and worthwhile."

-- Sam Pernice

Brittany Yowell, 35, finished her first full marathon after being impeded by a lung-related illness she developed two years ago. (Photo by Shane Battis.)

Sunday marked the first full marathon completed by Brittany Yowell, who has been recovering from a lung-related illness for the past two years. Her condition, she said, almost forced her to put away her running shoes forever.

She's been training for this year's marathon since July and finally achieved her goal after restricting herself to the half marathon event last year. Yowell thanked "the grace of God" for her ability to finish all 26.2 miles.

"My hips hurt and my feet hurt, but I'm so thankful that God gave me legs to be able to run, this great family to be able to enjoy," she said, as tears streamed down her smiling cheeks. "This is just amazing."

Yowell's family greeted her at the close of the race. She said these people are the most important thing to her. (Photo by Shane Battis.)

Jogging under the finish banner, the thirty-five-year-old wept tears of joy at the sight of her loud fans waving from the stands. About a dozen members of the Yowell family hollered and cheered for the triumphant runner as she completed the race.

Yowell talked about how her family has supported her through this "faith-filled journey" as she trained. While she expressed pride for achieving this longtime goal, she showed the most gratitude toward her family.

"We're each other's support group and we get through life with each other. We lift each other up when we're down. We don't do life without each other and that's the most important thing--having a family."

-- Brittany Yowell

Scymentress Williams, 46, has run the Cowtown Marathon every year since 2011. Her goal for this year is to run 2,017 miles. (Photo by Shane Battis.)

While Yowell wiped away tears, one 46-year-old woman let out a contagious giggle as she skipped her way to the end of the marathon. Scymentress Williams talked about how she looks forward to the Cowtown Marathon every year and has run every distance the weekend-long event has to offer.

However, it wasn't always so easy for the veteran runner who had to make some serious lifestyle changes to find that skip in her step.

"I was overweight and on my 40th birthday I decided that I was not going to take being overweight anymore," Williams said. "I started walking as a way to keep the weight off and then I got a little competitive and decided I wanted to run and I've been running ever since."

Williams before she resolved to lose weight in 2000 (left) and when she ran a marathon in 2015. (Photos courtesy of Scymentress Williams.)

Since committing to improving her personal fitness in 2000, Williams has run 30 marathons and shows no sign of slowing down. Her goal is to run 2,017 miles this year and she's completed about 300 of them so far.

Williams has kept herself in shape and said she's focused on nutrition and hydration in preparation for long-distance runs. Laughing, she said winning certainly isn't on her mind as she just wants to enjoy the exercise.

Completing these marathons makes her feel strong, she said, and now the Cowtown Marathon regular is "hooked on running."

"To cross the finish line is the ultimate, ultimate, ultimate feeling."

-- Scymentress Williams

Childhood friends Barrett Conway and Ryan Hays both ran the full marathon for the first time.

The twenty-five-year-olds donned matching Batman bandanas and ditched their shirts to the amusement of some observers. Hays said spectators would sing the Batman theme music when they saw the pair jog past in their scant super suits.

"It was a terrible decision," said Conway, while shaking his head and laughing "But it's awesome."

Tracy Hays, father of Ryan Hays, inspired his son to run, but couldn't join his son for the race due to medical problems. (Photo by Shane Battis.)

Hays said he and Conway had planned to run the marathon with his dad, Tracy Hays, who was injured in an accident two years ago. He said running the marathon was meant to help him get through his recovery, but Tracy couldn't go this time because of a recent hernia operation.

Although he couldn't join the superhero duo on the course, Tracy waited at the finish line to congratulate them. Ryan pointed and waved at his father as he approached the final stretch of the race.

"He's a great guy, he's an inspiration," he said.

Spectators cheered marathon runners on through the late afternoon as their exhausted friends and family members finished their races.

At the end of the day, runners made their way to the true finish line--home.

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