Breakfast with Iram Leon, the 2020 Cap10K race ambassador

Breakfast with Iram Leon, the 2020 Cap10K race ambassador

The tiny muffin in front is mine, but Iram Leon ate those three giant pastries all by himself this morning when we met for breakfast at Upper Crust Bakery. Pam LeBlanc photo

Iram Leon thinks it’s pretty amusing that he’s been selected as race ambassador for the 2020 Statesman Capitol 10,000.

Last year, Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross held the post. In 2018, Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano was ambassador.

“They went downhill fast,” Leon jokes about his appointment. But I think he makes a fine ambassador. I had breakfast with Leon this morning at Upper Crust Bakery. He’d already gone for a 6-mile run, and was planning to run again tonight with his 12-year-old daughter.

I watched as he tossed back three giant pastries. That in itself was impressive, but there’s more.

I first wrote about Leon in 2013, just after he’d won the overall title at the Gusher Marathon in Beaumont – while pushing his daughter in a stroller and despite a diagnosis of brain cancer.

A marble-sized tumor is entwined in the memory and language hub of Leon’s brain and has invisible “tentacles” that even doctors can’t detect. The average survival time for the disease is four years; only a third of patients live five years after diagnosis.

Cap10K officials have named Leon the race ambassador for the 2020 Cap10K. He has brain cancer but still logs about 60 miles of running each week. Pam LeBlanc photo

But Leon’s diagnosis came nine years ago. At his most recent checkup in June, doctors told him his tumor is stable. If you didn’t notice the scar that snakes across the side of his head you might never guess he was sick.

He runs – a lot – and he runs fast. The Cap10K was the very first race Leon ran when he came to Austin. He’s done the race five or six times since, alongside his daughter and with his parents and wife Elaine, whom he married last year in a run-themed weddingthat I wrote aboutfor the Austin American-Statesman.

Leon says he likes the Cap10K because it draws runners of all ability levels. For some, a 10K is the longest distance they’ll ever run. When last year’s Cap10K was cancelled due to bad weather, Leon showed up, unsolicited, to help break down the infrastructure.He’s also president of the Austin Runners Club.

So yes, he’s the perfect ambassador for the 43rdannual Cap10K on April 5, 2020.

As race ambassador, Leon will appear at the Cap10K Expo and participate in some of the themed training runs leading up to the race. He’ll also hit the starting horn at the beginning of the race – before he jumps into the crowd and participates himself, a first for a Cap10K ambassador. Afterward, he’ll hand out medals to finishers, something he loves to do.

“It’s like handing out happiness,” he says.

Leon, president of the Austin Runners Club, logs about 60 miles each week. Pam LeBlanc photo

The Cap10K began in 1978 with 3,400 participants. Now more than 20,000 run it.

“The Cap10K is about community and commitment, and who better to represent our 43rd race than inspirational Austin running community member Iram J. Leon,” race director Jeff Simecek wrote in a press release.

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