AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin pastry chef Anna Mendoza beams with joy as she pictures herself crossing the finish line of her first half marathon — an accomplishment she will achieve Sunday.

“I dreaded my first run,” laughs Mendoza, as she remembers she took on that challenge in Converse shoes. “I didn’t want to do it.”

It took her 14 minutes to run one mile.

But Mendoza was motivated to take her first strides through Comedor Run Club, a local running community intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle for food service industry workers.

Anna Mendoza speaks to Philip Speer as they prepare to go on a run with Comedor Run Club. (KXAN Photo/Chelsea Moreno)
Anna Mendoza and Philip Speer prepare for a run with Comedor Run Club (KXAN/Chelsea Moreno)

“We’re just like a little pack,” Mendoza says. “We stick with each other, we protect each other, we run with each other.”

It’s the reason Philip Speer, co-leader of the club and also a chef at Comedor in downtown Austin, takes refuge in it as well.

“This is a great way for me to work through some of the inherent stresses that come with the restaurant industry as well as any personal, mental or spiritual problems or issues I’m going through,” Speer says.

It takes a strong mind, discipline and a higher level of physical fitness to commit to running about nine miles a week. It takes even more to commit to running a little over 13 miles in one day.

But many in Comedor Run Club share more in common than lacing up three times a week.

Comedor Run Club meets for a run every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m. (KXAN Photo/Chelsea Moreno)
Comedor Run Club meets Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. (KXAN/Chelsea Moreno)

“A lot of us are in recovery,” Mendoza says. “I struggled with drugs and alcohol a little over two years ago and I got sober and found this community.”

It’s a set time for each of them to fight what she calls an unfortunate and unhealthy norm among those who also work in the food service industry.

“The main purpose of Comedor is to promote a healthier outlet for industry folks and shift the post shift culture — which is notoriously drinking and drugs and it’s not a super healthy lifestyle to live,” she explains.

When she joined a little over one year ago, Mendoza decided she’d run toward a different future.

I can picture myself crossing the finish line and just thinking of where I was two years ago and how I would’ve never in a million years guessed that I would be running a half marathon as a sober, healthy runner!

Anna Mendoza

That includes taking on the Ascension Seton Austin Half Marathon — only the second race she has run.

“My goal going into this is to just finish it and accomplish this while running with my run club,” she says. “It’s a dream come true to be able to represent.”