If you are a runner in Austin, then you know who Gilbert Tuhabonye is. A former Abilene Christian All-American track star, he’s been head coach of Gilbert’s Gazelles for more than 20 years. Additionally, he coaches track and cross country at St. Andrew’s School in Austin, part of the Southwest Preparatory Conference. A dedicated philanthropist, he also raises money every year to help bring a reliable water supply to his homeland, Burundi. Ready to Run caught up with Gilbert this past week and picked up on some of his thoughts on running and coaching.
RTR: What do you like most about coaching high school kids?
GT: I love to set goals and whenever kids meet their goals, it’s always a great moment for me. Coaching a high school team, you learn how not only to achieve their goals, but also to fight for the championship. Something bigger. It’s a great way for kids to connect and make friends. It also helps me reflect on myself growing up.
RTR: What do you tell kids who experience setbacks on their running?
GT: I always try to inspire kids not to give up, find a solution. I hold them accountable to make sure they do those little things to prevent burnout and injuries. I make sure they eat, well, do stretching and strengthening and are hydrated. Regarding setbacks, I always try to make them push for positivity. Be hopeful.
RTR: What do you say to a kid who seems to have plateaued, yet you know has more potential?
GT: Plateaus come from doing the same thing over and over again. I also like to focus on strength. I try to be fresh and be ahead of the game. And keep them from pushing too hard, back-to-back.
RTR: What have you learned as a coach?
GT: I’ve learned patience, especially with kids. Patience has been huge because performance takes time. Kids want to progress quickly, but it’s always going to take incremental growth. I’ve learned a lot about myself, too. I’m very competitive.
RTR: You are surrounded by such a strong running community here. How important is that to you?
GT: COVID really made me appreciate the running community. The community helps youth grow up. It’s a privilege that people know me in the community. It’s a great feeling, especially when we talk about running.
RTR: How is your running going?
GT: I stay fit- mostly I run seven miles a day, and a 10-miler on the weekends. Maybe 45 miles a week. I run with my group and still get in tempo runs. If you don’t train hard, you lose it!
RTR: You’ve continued to support your homeland, Burundi. What does that mean to you?
GT: It means a lot. Giving back to the country that gave me so much. I grew up with no water in the house. If I’m in a position to bring hope and help other people, it makes me happy. Our foundation has done so much to build water systems there to provide water to thousands of people.
Upcoming Races: Saturday, May 27 at 8:00 a.m., Coach’s Big High 5K in San Marcos. Sunday, May 28 at 11:00 a.m., the Bell Springs Winery & Brewery 5K at Bell Springs Winery in Dripping Springs.