Iram and Kiana run their first and last stroller race at the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot
“They say it’s not happy people who are thankful. It’s thankful people who are happy. This is perhaps why there are no days, no holidays for sure, that I’m more grateful for than Thanksgiving,” says Iram J. Leon.
Iram, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2010, is perhaps one of the most inspirational and well-known members of the Austin running community. He has participated in the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot for many years, and the event has marked several important milestones and memories for him and his daughter Kiana.
The Trot was the first race Iram participated in after he was released from the hospital in 2010 following his surgery.
In 2011, the Trot was the first race (of many more to come) that he participated in while pushing his then 4-year-old daughter Kiana in a stroller. This was also Kiana’s first-ever “race” to participate in by herself, completing the Stepping Stone Kid’s K with her father jogging along the sideline trying to capture every adorable moment on camera. She finished smiling, and Iram took second in the stroller division that year.
Although the Trot was the first time he did a race with a stroller, Iram was no stranger to the pastime. He originally started stroller running with Kiana before bedtime to try to get her to fall asleep as a replacement for the car rides he would take her on before he couldn’t drive due to seizures from his brain cancer. Iram’s stroller runs didn’t have the same sleep-inducing effect on Kiana as his car rides; She came back even more wired and wide awake, but it quickly became their new favorite bonding activity to do together.
In 2012 and 2013, Iram and Kiana won first place in the stroller division of the five-miler (and each year Kiana ran faster and faster in the Kid’s K).
In 2014, the dynamic duo took first place in the stroller division yet again; however, Iram says they were given a real “run” for their money. As the trusty co-pilot, Kiana’s job is to look back and tell her dad if any stroller runners are approaching. When they were only about a mile into the run, Kiana said: “Daddy, somebody coming…. He’s closer… Daddy, he has in a DOUBLE stroller…. He’s right there, daddy…. Daddy, he passed you!”
The double stroller runner continued gaining on them, pushing further and further ahead, while they passed non-stroller runners left and right in their attempt to catch up. Iram and Kiana managed to pass him, and forged ahead full speed while he remained on their heels. Iram and Kiana wound up winning by a hair, averaging a lightning fast speed of 29.09! This was Iram’s fastest five-miler ever including during his college days, and the only distance race he’s ever run faster with a stroller than without. The 2014 Trot was also a special year because a new division, the Fastest Team Challenge, was added to the Thanksgiving tradition and the Austin Runners Club won. (Iram has been a member of the Austin Runners Club since 2009 and currently serves as president of the nonprofit running group.)
When the 2015 ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot approached, 8-year-old Kiana had already completed two 5Ks on her own and hadn’t been in the stroller since January. By Iram’s standards, she was getting too big for it even if she was still enjoying the ride. Kiana insisted she wanted to do one last stroller race, and Iram agreed but said it would be their last one no matter what the outcome…
Iram says the Trot is the only race Kiana has ever cared where they placed in because the top three winners receive gift certificates to ThunderCloud Subs, and she loves celebrating their win with a few meals shared over a few weeks.
Fortunately for Kiana, they triumphed in their last stroller race and went out with a bang! It was their fifth time placing in the stroller division and fourth consecutive win, and by the biggest margin of victory they’d ever taken.
Every medal they’ve won together hangs in their living room. Iram says it’s fitting the ThunderCloud Subs Turkey Trot was his first and last stroller race with Kiana.
“There were some stroller races that only happened once, others that I have done with a stroller every year of their existence, but it certainly felt right that the one that I’d never missed, the one that I had five stroller trophies from, was the one I was retiring on the Thanksgiving ThunderCloud Turkey Trot,” says Iram.
Last year was the first Thanksgiving the father-daughter pair missed the Trot because Iram was in Egypt for a friend’s wedding. He and Kiana will be returning to participate in the 2017 Trot again this year, sans stroller for the first time.
Iram is 37, and Kiana is now 10. She has started doing her own “grown up” races and will even be participating in a 10-mile race this November. They’re both looking forward to competing in the five-mile run with their friends, family, and fellow Austin Runners Club members.
November 5 is Iram’s seventh “cancerversary,” marking seven years since his surgery. While doctors say statistically speaking it’s not likely he’ll live past 40, he continues to live every day to the fullest, doing what he loves, with the cutest running partner you’ve ever seen.
A tattoo of a lion and lion cub on Leon’s right shoulder portrays the strength of their love and relationship.