On The Podium: The Original Gazelles
By Denise Sechelski
Maeve, Anjanette, and Leslie
Every culture, each community, has an origin story, the tale that explains how it came to be. The Gazelle community is no different. The creation story of Gilbert’s Gazelles started with One, which became Three, then grew to Hundreds. Gilbert, of course, is the center, the anchor, the One. This is the story of the Three: Leslie Asaka, Anjanette Gonzales, and Maeve Magner.
Long ago, in the days of Run Tex when the hike-and-bike trail circled something called Town Lake, Leslie decided to become a triathlete. Having already run a few marathons in the late 1990s, she worked on events and did accounting at the iconic running store where Gilbert was selling shoes. She met him in the early 2000s, and they got to know each other volunteering for RunTex events.
As triathlon season began, the seeds of what would become the Gazelles were about to be sown, although no one knew it at the time, of course. Leslie decided to train with RunTex, and it was there that she met Maeve. “We were both at the meeting to kick off training for the Danskin triathlon,” Leslie explains, “and we decided to train together. Maeve knew Anjanette, so she joined in, too.”
Maeve says, “I wasn't much of an athlete, a bit of running, no swimming or cycling, but the Danskin approach appealed to me. I had no idea what that would lead to—not only opening up a new world of fitness and wellness, it also got me involved in RunTex race logistics, gave me long-term friendships, and most of all it led to meeting Gilbert, such a special and unique person.”
Both Leslie and Maeve, now also working on RunTex events, have fond memories of cold, early mornings in the RunTex van, heading out to set up for races. Maeve remembers “being huddled in the van with Gilbert, and, as we sipped on coffee, drilling him for his advice.”
Maeve, Leslie, and Anjanette wanted to improve their performance in triathlon’s run segment, so they asked Gilbert to coach them. It was 2002, and Anjanette recalls her first encounter with Gilbert, which was “on a track near Town Lake—fitting, isn’t it?”
She continues, “We met at a high school track to do some laps. I almost died because I was running faster than I should have been and was out of breath trying to impress him. Leslie and Maeve were definitely fitter and faster!”
These Three trained with the One about twice a week. There were runs around Town Lake (Maeve insists on using the longtime former name of Lady Bird Lake), sprints and stretching, carb-loading dinners, and breakfasts at Magnolia Café. The energy and friendship between Gilbert and the Originals was clearly contagious, because other people starting asking if they could join and the Three became Twenty, then more and more. Maeve says of the early days, “We had many Gazelle gatherings, small and fun and with such a diverse group, which grew over time.”
Leslie would go on to run more marathons, hitting a Boston Qualifying time in 2005. The Three have sometimes run less and sometimes more over the past 16 years. Some days a three-miler is the perfect run, yet on other days it’s a half-marathon. Often a jog around a local favorite loop is the ideal way to unwind after a long day. Their addresses have also changed, and only Leslie still lives in Austin. Maeve is in Ireland, and Anjanette calls Seattle home. But one thing has not changed: the One.
Speaking separately, they all say that Gilbert has always been Gilbert. First impressions? “He was just happy,” Leslie says. “He was running with joy, even back then. I just remember having so much fun being together, always laughing. It was a family—and now it’s a big family!”
Anjanette says the same: “When I have seen him through the years, he is the same as he has always been. He accepts people as they are, and his ‘fame’ has not changed him”
The Original Gazelles all say that Gilbert’s training has stayed with them. They offer up advice they heard years ago that we hear now: “I utilize all of the lessons I learned—butt kicks, keeping my arms loose, using hills to build strength and using my legs, not back, to get up them,” “pace yourself,” “rinsing out your mouth with water during a run is sometimes better than gulping down a whole glass.”
Maeve adds, “Whenever I am running and struggling, I hear Gilbert’s voice in my head: ‘you can do it.’”
A story about the beginning of Gilbert’s Gazelles would not be complete without reflection on the Gazelle name. Maeve explains that Gilbert often said that “the gazelle must run faster than the fastest lion… So we strived to be the gazelle, and I thought it was very appropriate that the group be called that.”
Leslie summed up the journey of Gilbert’s Gazelles—the journey of the One, the Three, the Many—and her insight is echoed by Gazelles from then to now. “Good things should happen to good people,” she says. “Gilbert is 100% genuine, inspiring, faithful, and deserves to be able to see his dream grow. And it has.”
Thanks to these three runners, the Gazelles origin story began on that track by the trail. Maeve, Leslie, and Anjanette shared a common goal—to run faster— and found an inspired and inspiring coach. Now hundreds of people come to the One to find their inner gazelle, outrun the lion, and learn the secret of running with joy.
Anjanette recalls, “My Dad and I had always run as a form of exercise. The motivation behind meeting with Gilbert was to improve our triathlon times in the running portion and personally it was for me to get involved with a group that would encourage me to maintain an exercise program.”
The Three also have life lessons learned from seeds that were planted back then, lessons such as “I learned I could set a goal and accomplish it,” and “most of running or exercising or life is a mind game. You can talk yourself into or out of anything … if you try hard enough.”