Gilbert Tuhabonye is a coach, a mentor, a survivor, an Austin celebrity, and one incredible human being. Rumor has it that he takes on the form of a gazelle during trail runs, and like a gazelle tops out at a speed of about 60 mph. The EPIC tribe has teamed up with Gilbert’s running group, Gilbert’s Gazelles, in order to train with the best for the upcoming Run for the Water 10 miler held in the great city of Austin, TX. Now in its 8th year, the event benefits the Gazelle Foundation, an Austin-based non-profit. Each race registration provides access for one citizen in Burundi, Africa (Gilbert’s hometown) with access to fresh water for life.
Gilbert and his right hand man, Michael, sketched out some time for a quick interview, and some insight into the mind of our running coach and friend Gilbert Tuhabonye.
Clint: “What are your earliest memories of running? Was it love at first step?”
Gilbert: “When I was young, running was a part of life. My school was 6 miles away from my home. I would have to run or walk uphill to get to school, then downhill to get back home. It was at school that I was first inspired by running. My P.E. coach believed in my abilities very much and told me I had great potential. I worked very hard not wanting to let him down. As a result, I won 1st place in the first race I would ever run in, and even at a young age I aspired to obtain a college scholarship, as well as qualify for the Olympics with my newfound talent. I continued on as an assistant coach for the boys and girls running groups at camp when I was in middle school. Since I had to wake up both groups for the early morning runs, I was the only boy allowed into the girl’s dorms. I took the job seriously, but now looking back it was pretty comical amongst us kids,” He said with a smile.
Clint: “After I attended my first Gazelle training session it seemed obvious to me why you would name your running group after the gazelle. The name itself stems from the Persian word “Ghazal” which means elegant and quick. You train us in a way that seems to mold our form into something elegant, which in turn creates speed. Is there a deeper meaning behind the mascot?”
Gilbert: “I like the way you put it. Form and speed go hand in hand. I believe the gazelle embodies this essence quite nicely. When I first started training, I did it for free. I was approached by a small group of triathletes one day after work who needed help with their running. I ran them through the drills just as I do today with the Gazelles. They were amazed when in just 30 days they improved from 10 minute miles to 8 minute miles. After that, Gilbert’s Gazelles was born.”
Clint: “What is it like training the EPIC Founders Taylor Collins and Katie Forrest? Do you have any words about our fearless founders, a.k.a. the two fastest people at the EPIC Headquarters?
Gilbert: “Both are extremely hard workers and dedicated to every aspect of their training. Taylor is always positive. Rain or shine, he is out there pushing himself and the team. He is a true pack leader, and always ready for a challenge. As for Katie, she is a woman crusher!”
Clint: “Okay now, Wilke Road. Is this truly about improving our form, or is this some kind of guilty pleasure you put your runners through?” (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Wilke Rd., this training session consists of uphill repeats, some of which are done sprinting or done backwards. Some parts of the incline feel as though they ascend straight up to the clouds and if you listen closely you can hear your leg muscles scream)
Gilbert: (Laughing) “This is a perfect form and strength building exercise. I assure you after training on Wilke your performance on the track and trail has improved.”
Clint: I have to admit, I love your phrase “throwing cookies”. I sometimes catch my arms out wide and flailing a bit when I start getting tired on a run. When I catch myself doing this I’ll say to myself, “throw the cookies”, and all of a sudden my arms are by my side at 90 degree angles in perfect sync with my legs, my posture straightens out, and I get back into a nice rhythm. Where in the world did this phrase come from?”
Gilbert: “I always look to make running fun. This phrase always makes my groups laugh and helps with their form. With a bit of comedy I have brought joy to their run while at the same time coaching them to proper form.”
Clint: “Right before we begin our training sessions you always send us off with the positive statement, “Run with joy”. What does this mean to you?”
Gilbert: “If we start our day with joy, the day will be a good one. If we set out to complete a task with joy and a positive mindset, the task will be completed effortlessly and with great pride. The same goes for our running. When I tell my groups to run with joy I am helping set the tone for a positive and successful experience."
We at EPIC are honored to train with Gilbert’s Gazelles and run everyday with joy. It has strengthened our bodies and minds, but more importantly we have seen our company culture grow stronger by the teachings offered at each run. We are truly inspired by Gilbert’s passion and his story. We are truly grateful to run with the Gazelles!
To learn more about Gilbert’s inspiring story, and to know the real meaning behind the phrase “Run with joy” please visit:
Photo credits: AFM Cover by Brian Fitzsimmons, EPIC in the Wild photo by Spencer Selvidge