, Port Arthur, Texas

March 7, 2013

Mid-County runners prep for Gusher events Saturday

Julie Garcia
The Port Arthur News

BEAUMONT — BEAUMONT — The indicator arrows have been painted. The mile markers have been erected. Vendor booths have been set up and packets are being picked up.

It’s time for the 2013 Gusher 5K, Half Marathon and Marathon on Saturday in downtown Beaumont.

The fourth annual race has attrached more than 1,700 runners, joggers and walkers already and co-race director Amie James is hoping to cross the 2,000 person threshold by the end of registration today at 9 p.m.

“The first year was the biggest year but only by 100, so we’ve been pretty consistent,” James said.

James and her husband, Richard, knew that hosting a marathon in a “non-running community” would be a stretch when they started in 2010.

“That’s why we chose to put on the event — we were hoping to increase that and thus impact health and fitness,” she said.

The community impact has been evident with a steady number of runners, joggers and walkers on the streets in Mid-County and Beaumont, she said.

There are several groups in the area that offer runners of every pace and ability — from marathoners to those looking to complete their first 5K.

The Sports Society for American Health, the James’ non-profit organization which hosts sanctioned sports and events to improve education and health, especially for children, has created a kids marathon club to improve attitudes toward exercise at an early age.

“They log 23 hours of play, either 23 miles of running or walking, turn it in and complete the 5K distance of the Gusher,” James said. “We go to their school and present them with a medal — we’ve really been seeing a younger generation of runners crop up.”

Nederland resident Kara Baker began running after she felt the need to “walk the walk.”

“I’m very involved with the American Cancer Society and it was during one of the trainings, we learned that one-third of all cancers can be prevented by lifestyle changes,” Baker, 36, said. “As a trainer, I got to the point where I couldn’t stand up there and tell people to be healthy if I wasn’t healthy myself.”

Though pretty active in her everyday life and not one to sit around and watch TV all the time, Baker knew she had to push herself further.

“I wanted to start running 5Ks — it was always a dream of mine to do one,” she said.

Her first race was the ACS Making Strides Against Breast Cancer last October followed by the Turkey Trot in November.

To train for the Gusher, Baker has been running three miles, three times a week.

“I’m not shooting for a particular time — just finishing without dying is my goal,” she laughed.

For 39-year-old Willie Hochstrasser, running and bicycling has become an integral part of his everyday life.

The Groves father of two daughters has participated in more than 20 5Ks, 10 triathalons, three marathons, four half marathons and a half-Iron Man competition since he started running again about three years ago.

Hochstrasser will be running the half marathon distance (13.1 miles) Saturday and is hoping to finish in 1 hour and 40 minutes.

While training for a triathalon last May, Hochstrasser was riding his bicycle on TX 73 near the Veterans Memorial Bridge when he was hit by a truck.

After an extended amount of time in the hospital and surgeries to repair his shoulder and pectoral muscles and six months of physical therapy, Hochstrasser put on 15 pounds.

Since starting up training again in October, he has run several local 5Ks and the Houston Half-Marathon and hasn’t looked back.

“I am really thankful for God because my accident could have been much worse,” he said.

His motivation?

“I want to motivate my daughter and be a good example for her,” Hochstrasser said.

Registration is open until 9 p.m. tonight at packet pickup at Edison Plaza, 350 Pine Street in Beaumont, On the Run, 229 Dowlen in Beaumont or online at


Twitter: @julesBMT