Gonzales will again serve as the raucous starting point for the annual Texas Independence Relay as staggered cannon booms and gun smoke will announce the departure of teams from the Gonzales Memorial Museum on Saturday, March 25.
The nearly 200-mile relay race course ushers runners from Gonzales to downtown Houston in celebration of Texas independence and competitive sport.
Teams of up to 12 runners will be announced by their chosen theme song and a cannon blast beginning at 6 a.m. and continuing until 2 p.m. Saturday in this relay that was begun in 2008 by the husband-and-wife team of Jay and Joy Hilscher of Lone Star Relays LLC.
Team members run together twice during the race — once in Gonzales at the beginning and once approaching the San Jacinto monument — but otherwise the 40 legs of the journey are assigned to individual runners and team vans shuttle team members to designated points for pickup and drop-off and the exchange of team wristbands. These legs vary by length and elevation.
Completing a Texas Independence Relay becomes not only a physical test for runners, but also a strategic test for team and race organizers as well. It is also not uncommon for residents in the towns along the way to come out to cheer on racers and show them some hospitality during their brief stops in their communities.
It takes the majority of teams between 27 to 32 hours to completely finish the Texas Independence Relay. The fastest teams — some comprised of collegiate runners — do not depart until after 1 p.m. Saturday, but will overtake the slower runners around Fulshear and may finish the race around 9 a.m. Sunday, while the slowest teams may not finish until 4:30 p.m. or 5 p.m. Sunday.
The race itself traces the route Sam Houston and the Texian army took during the “Runaway Scrape” as they burned down and moved from Gonzales following the losses at the Alamo and Goliad and eventually ended up at the site of the Battle of San Jacinto, where the Texians surprised and routed the Mexican Army, captured Santa Anna and gained their independence.
Of course, the cannon blast is reminiscent of the scene in Gonzales from Oct. 1, 1835, when a ragtag group of Texians dared the Mexican Army to “come and take” their six-pound cast-iron swivel cannon used for defense.
Some 115 teams more than 3,000 participants and spectators took part in the 2022 Texas Independence Relay with as many or more expected in 2023.
The city of Gonzales again entered into a contract with Lone Star Relays LLC that allows use of the lawn at the Memorial Museum and permits the consumption of alcoholic beverages on March 24 during packet pickup for the racers and the closure of the 400 block of Smith Street on March 24-25 for the relay. The Gonzales Convention and Visitors Bureau also provided $2,500 to Lone Star Relays LLC for advertising the event statewide.