Freshmen compete in the Texas Independence Relay


John Eikenburg

The relay team visits a monument in Gonzales, where the race began.

Megan Chang, Staff Writer

Runners used giant neon light belts to illuminate their path in the darkness. It was even harder for the contestants to see the path in front of them due to the absence of twinkling stars. They ran on rocky highways in the countryside while a van drove nearby. These runners slept only two and a half hours and ran between nine to 18 miles.

From March 30 to 31, freshmen Ellie Eikenburg, Bo Farnell, Jackson Harvey, Will Smith and Rahul Lal competed in the Texas Independence Relay. This race is a 183-mile course starting in Gonzales, where the first battle of the Texas Revolution took place, and ending in Houston.

Eikenburg and her father first read about the race in a magazine. Having participated in cross country, a half marathon and various fun runs, Eikenburg was immediately interested. Eikenburg and her father informed classmates, co-workers, neighbors and family friends about the race. They convinced 10 other people to join them in the competition, making their relay team a total of 12 runners.

“I had been really excited for the past year and really looking forward to it,” Eikenburg said. “It was fun, and I wasn’t that nervous.”

The relay race consisted of 36 legs that varied from three to seven miles. Because there were 12 runners on the team, everyone ran three legs — one in the afternoon and evening, one in the middle of the night and one in the morning. Farnell ran the longest leg, the slurpee, which was 7.11 miles.

In addition to looking out for markers throughout the course, the runners studied their maps ahead of time. According to Farnell, one of the key factors that led to their success was learning their route. While Farnell was running one of the legs, he beat the van to the destination because he had looked at his map beforehand.

In addition to running in the relay race, both Eikenburg and Farnell’s most memorable experience from the trip was spending time with the team in the van. Spending over 24 hours in the van with everybody allowed these two freshmen and the other members to grow closer with one another.

“The conditions were miserable,” Eikenburg said, “but if you’re miserable with the right people, you’re not really miserable.”

Despite running mostly against adults, the team persevered and ended up placing in the top 28 percent of the overall relay for the Men’s Open Division. Because Eikenburg was the only female, the group did not qualify for a mixed team, and she said she didn’t feel any different from the rest of the team.  

Eikenburg and Farnell both enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when they crossed the finish line. The other 11 members joined Smith, who ran the last leg, at the last quarter mile. The team ran this last segment together as an inflatable cannon waited for them at the end.

“It felt surreal that we had actually made it to Houston,” Eikenburg said.

Despite wind, rain and little sleep, Farnell, among other team members, enjoyed the run.

“The thoughtless movement of [running] is relaxing,” Farnell said. “I don’t really care about the pain of wearing yourself out. It’s nice to clear your brain.”