It can begin as a drunken bet, a New Year's resolution or maybe a spousal mandate ("Get your fat ass in shape!"). Regardless of how it starts, the marathon always ends the same way: Hordes of salt-covered, wan, blistered bodies limp across the finish line, desperate for water and/or beer. Early this Sunday, the participants in the 33rd annual HP Houston Marathon will converge, resplendent in knee braces, tights, custom-made T-shirts and pockets stuffed with PowerBars. Dropping marathon jargon like "fartlek," "IT band" and "gu," they'll assemble by the thousands and then run en masse for 26.2 miles. It's one of the rare moments when human splendor and stupidity are on display side by side.
Yes, watching the elite runners finish is a thrill, especially since Houston's marathon is known as one of the fastest in the world. But stick around for the little people: Even the slightest shout of encouragement (or a Tootsie Roll) will help a passing runner survive the final miles. Wheelchairs start at 6:45 a.m. Sunday, January 16. Races have staggered starts ending at 7:20 a.m. George R. Brown Convention Center. For information and maps, visit www.hphoustonmarathon.com. Register by January 15; $25 to $100. - Julia Ramey
Our Own Michael
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Michael Harris drops double doubles like they're hot. This season, the six-foot-six, 240-pound senior forward from Hillsboro, Texas, is poised to become the Rice Owls' all-time leading scorer and rebounder. He's widely considered not only the nation's top forward but one of its top players -- period. This weekend, the Tulsa Golden Hurricane and their star forward, Jarius Glenn, come to Rice looking to hoist themselves from the bottom of the WAC rankings. Tulsa has defeated Rice in 12 of their last 16 meetings, but this year, the Hurricane is something like a Category 2, while Rice is churning solidly toward postseason play. See Harris in action at 1:05 p.m. Saturday, January 15. Autry Court, Rice University (entrance No. 8 off University Boulevard). For tickets and information, call 713-522-6957 or visit www.riceowls.com. $11 to $18. - Julia Ramey