Posted On August 1, 2015 By In Interviews And 1004 Views

RT: Randall Turner

He’s got a smooth Texas drawl that drapes over his words, that’s as subtle as a fine wine. It’s there, but you really hardly notice it. Being from Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, communities known from being laid back, it’s understandable.

“Growing up on the ocean cannot be compared to living inland. There is just too much to do, see and be.” He loves the coast.

RANDALL TURNER is nothing if not competitive. In everything. But couldn’t care less how he dresses to run. “If it does not match, plus it’s out of date, I like it and go run.” On his feet he’s proud to tell he wears worn Asics. Not those new, spangly kind. Luke’s and RunOn share responsibility in dressing him.

“I grew up in a very driven, hard charging family with lots of expectations,” he says, but there were also times to be laid back and adventurous, “for a lot of fun and many, many parties and festivals that my parents hosted.”

As a runner, his training and racing strategy could be tweaked from time to time (he goes out too fast). You can be guaranteed he’ll give it his all during every race he ever runs. He won’t give you an easy win, that’s for sure. If you win against Randall Turner, it’s because you were the better athlete that day.

“Winning the race IS the goal,” he says. “It IS the why. Whether it is an overall win, age group win, multiple age group wins, Master winner, or now, Senior Master Winner.”

He loves the comradery of running, especially, “before, during, and after the race or just training.  People are the joy of running. It’s often why the comradery of other runners is so important to me. If I am running alone I am either training for a big event like a half or full marathon, or I will reduce my running days until I find one or more runners to run with.  So it’s my fellow runners who make it happen and do it.”

He includes a host of people as running partners in his life. Jason Bogardus, Brandon and Lauren Barnett, Dan Clubb, Josh Terry, Bob Smeby, Bill Shipley, John Nance, Jeff Roth and Frances and Scott McKissick are included by name. They, “and many, many others make it fun and competitive,” he adds.

He was born March 31, 1957 (Age 58) in Corpus Christi. He has one brother, Jay Turner, who is an investment banker and founding partner of Dos Rios Partners, a ¼ billion dollar fund. His parents, Jack and Betty Turner, are accomplished people with drive in their own right.

Betty was a New Yorker who graduated from Vassar, Cum Laude, and served on over 28 non-profit and for profit boards. She was on the Corpus Christi City Council for 10 years, then was the Mayor Pro Tem (the first female Mayor of Corpus Christi) for two terms as the City’s most popular elected Mayor at the time. Later, she was elected the President and CEO of the Corpus Chamber of Commerce and became a Commercial Real Estate Broker. She is currently 84 and still working.

But she was merely following in the footsteps of her lineage. Her grandfather was G. Clifford Noble who graduated from Harvard and partnered up with William Barnes and started the largest book store and publishing company in New York City.  Betty’s great uncle, a dean at Harvard University, co-founded the Harvard Business School.

Randall’s dad, Jack Turner, graduated as an architect from The University of Texas, and studied directly under FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT. Jack has designed countless hospitals, office buildings, factories, and recently US Army, Navy and Air Force military base facilities in Dallas, Austin, and Corpus Christi. According to Randall, he is one of the oldest practicing commercial architects in the south west at the age of 86.

So, what makes Randall, this man who survived three near death experiences, get up early on the weekend to sweat and huff and puff his way to near exhaustion for just a training run? The experiences were in a private plane, scuba diving, and shark fishing. He says those events shaped him into believing, “Life is precious and not to be taken for granted.” Randall says he was always, “ready to go on the spur of the moment rather than planning weeks in advance,” when he was younger.

He’s been running for 40 years, since college and definitely feels running is a good thing for everyone, and has seen the benefits himself.

“Running cures us, protects us, and insulates us from anxiety and depression in many circumstances. I was once a partner in a 128 million dollar office building conversion to apartments in downtown Dallas and lost it to foreclosure in the great recession in 2011.  It was a huge financial setback but the running kept me grounded for the next opportunity.”

He has a solid list of PR’s from around the area as well as outside DFW.

5K – 16:49 (’01)

8 mile Turkey Trot – 51:06 (’08)

13.1 – 1:24:21

26.2 – 3:08:20 (1990), 3:11:22 (Boston, ’10), and 3:11:28 (Cowtown, ’09)

“I regret not ever breaking 3 hours in a marathon or winning an overall in a large attendance 5K.  The rub is I believe I could have achieved both but I did not train hard enough to make it happen.”

He knows he’s going fast because of his breathing when he’s in the home stretch of a race. He calls it his “after burner.”

“When I see, taste, and come close to touching the finish line, I almost always sprint in. I have won many age groups in the final minutes of the race. It’s not a pretty sight at the end. My breathing becomes very labored and is a downer for those I am approaching or passing. They worry I am having a heart attack or it just annoys them, such as Jeff Roth.”

Though his body is screaming at him to stop, to quit, he doesn’t. “But I always finish the race without quitting. The Dallas Summer 5K Jogger series when it was 101 or more degrees did stop me for a few times to walk a bit and then finish running.”

Randall met his wife Niki while she was a commercial real estate broker with partner Christine Kim. “They had a client looking for office buildings to buy in downtown Dallas in 2006 and I was the only broker working exclusively downtown at the time.” They were married October 6, 2007 (8 Years). “I cherish being married to my sweet and beautiful Greek wife for nine years.  She has no children and I have four.” Randall’s children include kids from a previous marriage. But all toll there’s Kate 14, Jack 16 (“Driving Now!”), Gracie 25 (married two years ago, just gave birth to a girl, the first grandchild), and Joanie 27.

Randall relies on his faith in all he does.

“I was agnostic until college. I wasn’t sure of what the true religion was. But I studied all of the faiths in detail until I discovered through apologetics that Christ and the Father were true; intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.” Today, he attends Park Cities Presbyterian and the Watermark churches with his family.

He cites Jesus Christ and his mom as his heroes, quoting 1 Corinthians 9:24 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize!” and 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

And though he was very active as a boy growing up along the Gulf, his interests did not include running: Scuba diving, black and blue diamond snow skiing, water skiing, tennis, racquet ball, Hobie catting (a small sailing catamaran), surfing, deep sea fishing, “any entrepreneurial business that made more money than I spent. I got my US Coast Guard Captain’s license at the earliest possible age of 18 and had the privilege of taking clients out fishing on a 32’ Bertram Sport Fisherman in the Gulf of Mexico on special large game shark charters where I guaranteed an 8 foot shark or larger.”

What scared you most as a kid? “I don’t recall being scared as a kid. Probably the dark when I was young.”

His schooling was spent in four different institutions growing up. There was Westminster Prep school in Connecticut (freshman), St. Stephens Prep School in Austin (sophomore), King High School, Corpus Christi (Junior), and Carroll High School, Corpus Christi (senior year).

In 1980 he graduated from the Univ. of Texas in business with a minor in commercial real estate. About seven years later, he began running at a 10K, taking an age group medal. He was influenced by John Baer and Race Director James Thruston. “I won 1st place in a James Thruston race in my age group and got hooked. When 5K racing became common, that was my niche race where I would have my best overall results. Thruston was a pioneer of 5K races when 10K races dominated.”

Randall knows there are more races than ever in DFW. While that just gives the runners more choices, he feels, it also means less competition because everyone is so spread out.

“The competition appears to me to be the same as compared to 10 years ago with the big exception of trophy races. The majority of half and full marathons attract many racers now. I think it is better to have more choices to race on weekends. Now some races are even on weekdays, like the now famous Thursday night Katy Trail 5K with 8,000 runners now racing and 5K Summer Jogger Series on Wednesday nights.”

But while there are more races, he feels the area’s support of running is weak.

“Look, healthy exercise and diet are no longer revered like it was in our youth.  Obesity, up 27.7% in 2014, and the overweight are at record highs and climbing.”

Randall’s favorite races include the KRLD Run for The Radio 5K on November 11, 2000 (16:55), Turkey Trot Three Mile race on November 23, 2000 (16:13), and Rise School race April 21, 2001 (16:49).  “My daughter ran with me at the Rise School race and placed 2nd in the 10-14 age group as a 10 year old.”

Another is running with Dr. Riva Rahl Graeme at the 2009 Cowtown Marathon. “She won the women’s overall in the year before. I caught her at about mile 18 and a mile into our pace one of her buddies handed her a concoction drink that she grimaced as she drank, and then handed it to me to drink. I am sure it was nitro exclusively for top fuel dragsters. It launched my ‘fire in the belly’ and helped me finish my first marathon without severe cramping. I never asked her what was in that drink and never really wanted to know.” When training or racing, Randall’s mind is always at work.

“I think often of commercial real estate – running and location, location, location. When I run for fun with people, I talk and listen to what they are doing in their lives, races they are running and times they are achieving. When I train, I think, “Why am I not running more, training more, racing more.” When I race, I think, “Win, win, win!”

His training is not as high in mileage as other runners. For his marathons, he only ran a few 18-20 mile runs. Given what he ran at the race, he did very well. That probably explains why he’s had so few injuries, only the occasional Achilles tendon problem.

His typical schedule is as follows:

  • Sunday
    Loop around White Rock Lake, plus 50 pushups and 100 sit-ups
  • Monday
    Light workout at health club plus 50 pushups and 100 sit-ups or occasionally 6 a.m. six mile run at Park Cities Running Club
  • Tuesday
    Off running but 50 pushups and 100 sit-ups
  • Wednesday
    6 a.m. six mile run at Luke’s Locker – Park Cities Running Club, plus 50 pushups and 100 sit-ups
  • Thursday
    Off running, but 50 pushups and 100 sit-ups
  • Friday
    Light workout at health club plus 50 pushups and 100 sit-ups or occasionally 6 mile run in Preston Hollow neighborhood
  • Saturday
    Race! If not at my Cedar Creek lake house.

Outside of running, Randall likes hanging out with friends, traveling to Colorado or the lake house with family. He enjoys tennis, golf, and deep sea, blue marlin, sport shark fishing, Caribbean reef scuba diving, water and snow skiing, and relaxing with his chocolate labs. He likes the band Boston and just finished reading “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, and “The Power of Who” by Bob Beaudine. “These are great books that teach us that we need friends, family, and other runners in our lives to enrich us and add meaning and purpose in all that we do and say.” Amen!

He calls his diet “Vegetarian punctuated by steak, chicken and sushi.” He loves Sushi Sake and Nick & Sam’s restaurants.

He was on the board of directors for Young Life International, founding board member of Dallas’ Katy Trail from funding to construction, and two fraternities, and is part of a special project with the Mayor’s Office called Goals for Dallas. He’s written up on three web sites (HarvardCo.com, DowntownUptown.blogspot.com, and TheTexasRiveria.com).

He’s the President of Harvard Companies, Inc., a 10 year old commercial real estate investment, brokerage, and development company based in Uptown. On their web site, it says Randall is “’The Rainmaker,’ for his ability to broker distressed commercial and residential properties and bank notes. Randall’s tenant rep client list reads like a ‘Who’s-Who’ of the Fortune 500, a list that includes: Columbia/HCA, FedEx, GE, Halliburton, IBM, ITT, Office Depot, Sears, TXU and United Parcel Service.”

“I love commercial real estate brokerage, investment and development,” Randall says. “And I have had some spectacular accomplishments and incredibly profound financial defeats sprinkled in with some significant hits and misses. Buying the entire town of Angel Fire, NM out of bankruptcy in the 1990’s with a group of sophisticated investors was an experience. More recently, partnering up in the redevelopment of two high rise office buildings and a 800 car garage into a $128,000,000 apartment complex called the Mosaic, downtown Dallas, was as exciting as any I had been involved in when we opened it in 2008 just in time for the great recession, Lehman failing and later getting foreclosed by GE Capital Bank.

TheTexasRiveria.com web site (http://harvardco.com/properties/the-texas-riviera-love-field/) show cases Randall’s dream of having a place in Dallas that would rival The River Walk in San Antonio.

“Co-Develop with a billionaire real estate family a $10 billion dollar international river walk mixed use community called The Texas Riviera® in a north Texas suburb.” He says it is to be announced later this year. “It will have a 250,000 square foot entertainment facility with 18 stages and 365 live events, festivals annually, jogging and bike trails, theatres, museums, hotels, Fortune 100 Corporate park, office buildings, office parks, condos, retail, 50 restaurants along the two mile river walk. [It would be] much nicer and more pedestrian friendly than San Antonio’s river walk, apartments, hospital, schools, landscaped parks and lakes.”

Randall took time to think of how running has benefited him over the years and what it means to him.

“While at UT, I would run the greater Austin hills to get clarity of thinking about everything going on in my life and a much needed break from school, FIJI fraternity athletics, and running a startup commercial sign company. Life is full of surprises. And I have always taken on more than I should. So running is one of my few constants that I need and want, to be and feel physically successful.

“Running is also my escape from the arduous work days or a less than happy discussion with my wife. It helps me clear out my selfishness and enjoy the sanctity of life at the most beautiful and basic level – the fellowship of other runners, the air, the trees, and sweat running down my face.  I just don’t feel I am living if I am not running.

“Now racing is a different philosophy, I race to compete and place in the race. There is not much fun in racing during the event, particularly in a 5K. It’s almost a sprint. Although when I ran Boston in 2010, I felt really good up to Heart Break Hill.

“To run regularly means I am also in the best mental shape to be creative and on top of my game at work, brokering and repositioning commercial real estate, in good financial times and bad.

Then he remembers the early days of his running career. “Running was euphoric, easy and fun in the early years. I seldom ran with others because I was just too spur of the moment. Later, in my late 30’s, I discovered racing and that motivated me to accelerate my running with some training.  I would often attend Tuesday track workouts with friends at 6am or Tuesday nights at Hillcrest High School with TNT-Tuesday Night Track.” His favorite training partners used to be TNT-Tuesday Night Track, Jason Bogardus, Brandon Barnett, and Dan Club. But recently it’s been Josh Terry. “I call someone to meet me. People inspire me more than the run. If they run and I can keep up with them, I love to run with people as opposed to running alone.”

His longevity in running is remarkable. Few can say they’ve ran as long (40 years) without time out for injuries, burn out, or kids.

“Runners with four decades on their heels innately know we have a need to be off the couch and outdoors in the sun, in the rain, on the street, at the track running many times each week. If I don’t get out and run often, not only do I regret it, I feel it.”

His tips for the younger runners in their 30’s coming up?

“If God gave you some talent, then seek out a mentor or coach. Always go to a Tuesday track workout and run White Rock Lake every weekend that you are in town. Then see how far you can excel. If you are not into racing, great! Join the Park Cities Running Club. They run every weekday but Friday, at 6am sharp. They meet at different locations in Highland Park and their biggest run is Wednesday mornings at Luke’s Locker on Mockingbird and 75 in front of SMU.  Don’t be surprised to see more (well dressed) women than men ready to roll at 6am.”

When asked about his future race plans, he answered, “I am not a planner, but rather a spur of the moment racer and short time frame trainer – not a good recipe for PR’s. I signed up for the Plano Pacers races, another year of DRC races, and any 5K race that is close to home in the city limits of Dallas. [I want to] continue to run and compete in 5K races and at a minimum win first place in my age group.”

“I am on the other side of the bell curve age wise but I am content and happy as I was when I was a kid growing up on the ocean in Corpus Christi.  As long as I can get out of bed, slip on a mismatched outfit, tie my running shoes and exit the house running in the morning – the future is bright and full of surprises – both good and bad. And it’s the way I like it!”

Three Near Death Experiences


When I was 15, in 1972, I just got certified to dive by an instructor who was area wide famous for near death experiences himself, including flying a single engine plane from Corpus Christi to Cancun and running out of fuel on final approach. They landed on the edge of the runway safely but his girlfriend took the first commercial flight home. Today he is a multi-millionaire surgeon and real estate developer.

His instruction and check out dives saved my life just three weeks later when my family vacationed in Acapulco, Mexico. I took my first dive in Acapulco bay and went down about 60 feet to an old ship wreck. It was very murky that morning and our equipment was seriously antiquated with “Sea Hunt” [60’s TV show] double hose regulators mounted behind your neck on the tank. About the time I lost my fellow divers in the silt, I felt and heard an explosion in the back of my neck.  Air was rushing into my mouth and from behind my neck with 3000 PSI force.

I started to panic a little but focused on shooting to the surface as fast as I could, knowing I had six stories to surface for air. Half way up my tank was empty and water was coming into my mouth. I had expelled much of the air out of my lungs to avoid an air embolism (lung blow out and near instant death from compressed air expanding as you surface too quickly). At about 15 feet I was in full panic mode and fading from oxygen deprivation. The boat captain seeing me come up, jumped in, and pulled me up the rest of the way into the boat. I recovered but it changed my life.


In the summer of 1976, I just passed the grueling 4-hour US Coast Guard Captain’s license exam at the Port Aransas Coast Guard Station when I turned 18. I immediately started chartering my dad’s 33’ Bertram Sport Fishing boat on daily trips. My deck hand and I specialized in large game shark fishing that I learned from a true pro, Paul Dirk, captain of the famous 1979 “Shark Hunter” movie. I deck handed with him for years while documenting my required 365 days on the open ocean to qualify for USCG.

On my very first shark charter, I was the youngest captain in the state at the time, and the cockiest – a formula for death in the ensuing hours. As I commanded 1000 HP engines out into the Gulf of Mexico, my deck hand prepared 16 hooks the size of your fists onto 15 lbs King and Jack Fish. The hooks were attached to 3,000 lbs. test steel leaders attached to 130 lbs. Dacron line onto the largest rod and reels in the world called “Pen 16.” He prepared the bang stick with a 12-gauge buck shot, to quickly kill the shark once we got him secured, by a flying gaff the size of a slaughter house cow hook that detaches from a long aluminum pole.

So we make it out 13 miles offshore and drop over the weighted baits about 100 yards apart for a total of four reels and baits laid on the bottom of the Gulf. Then we anchored several hundred yards away with a special buoy and quick disconnect in case we hooked a 10-foot or larger beast.

Hours passed and nothing was happening. Shark can smell blood and dead bait for miles and it may take that shark hours to find the bait, but they always do.  Suddenly, number 3 Penn starts spinning slowly (we leave the reels in free spin – no drag) which means it’s a large enough shark to pick up a 15 lbs bait with large hooks protruding. Quickly, my CEO oil executive from a large Houston oil company throws on his belly plate and shoulder harness. I hand him the spinning reel. I locked the drag down and he cranked all of the bow in the line until he felt about 30 lbs. of pressure on his hands and wrists. As earlier instructed and practiced, he throws his entire 210 lbs. into whipping the rod and reel in hopes of setting the hooks. We knew we had a solid set when the reel started screaming with 35 lbs. of drag pressure distributed on his hands and shoulder harness.

Hours later, both the angler and the shark at near exhaustion, we could see the stainless steel leader and we could now see the 9-foot Tiger shark as a shadow in the deep blue ocean. I held the flying gaff and my deckhand began to hand pull the steel cable inch by inch with very heavy thick leather gloves. Just as he would pull the tired shark up close enough, the shark would take off and I missed my opportunity to gaff the fish and call it a victory. In my cockiness, I commanded my deckhand to switch roles and I would hand pull in the beast. But as I pulled him closer to the boat I was just inches from the deckhand gaffing him in the 2 ½ – foot gills. So I wrapped the cable around my hand so I could get the extra leverage to pull him closer that one more inch. The shark made eye-to-eye contact with me and burst to life heading straight down to the bottom with me four feet behind him heading down. The force of his tail is equivalent to a 40 hp outboard motor, and when he took off, the cable tightened up around my hand like a bull rider at a rodeo who is thrown off the bull, but is still being thrashed like a rag doll because he wrapped his hand too tightly.

In seconds, I am already 30 feet down. I see the boat look smaller as I panic to get the cable off my hand. At that second, I was freed.  The shark kept descending and I was ascending as fast as humanly possible. The deckhand said I looked like a scared seal coming out of the water escaping a Great White Shark. Everyone on the boat reached out and pulled me out of the water and into the boat to lay down and collect myself and my mortality. The CEO, wiping the sweat off his brow said emphatically, “If nothing else happens today son, we got our money’s worth!!!”

We landed that shark and made the newspaper. And once again, I was reminded of my fragile humanity. I also became considerably more humble thereafter.


Around 1984 I bought a high rise condo and my esteemed roommate, Andy Briscoe (nephew of former Governor Dolph Briscoe) was running for Governor against Mark White. He campaigned all over the great state of Texas in a private plane – a high performance Mooney, the equivalent to a Maseratti car of the sky.

We planned a weekend at my parent’s beach house in Port Aransas. We left Love Field in the early evening while the sun was still shining, but setting soon. When we passed the San Antonio air space, fog quickly set in behind us and we were told it would be somewhat clear as we approached the coast. It was dark and Andy was flying VFR (Visual Flight Rules).

As we approached within 40 miles of Port Aransas fog suddenly showed up 360 degrees and Andy was only rated VFR.  We aborted the Port Aransas airport in lieu of Corpus Christi International Airport. Andy took IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) lessons and felt pretty confident on flying instruments, but I was less confident having a diving and fishing incident to ponder while I was looking at solid fog out our windshield at 171 knots per hour. So, as we are coming up to a turn on final

approach, Andy was too low and too far left to line up on the instrument only approach (ILS). The traffic controller abruptly radioed us saying “N1895! Pull UP! Pull UP NOW!! You’re heading directly into a Radio Tower!”

Andy, punched the throttle full power, hit the right rudder and the controls into what I am sure was a 4G nose up and hard turn away from the tower in pitch black fog. The blood was momentarily draining from my eyes with the G force and I was sure if we missed the guide wire tower we would pull the wings off the plane. Well….we made the great escape from instant death and Andy wisely decided to have the control tower vector (guide) us in step by step until the ILS lined up on final approach and we landed safely.

Chris Phelan has written, laid out, photographed, and published The Phast Times News since 2001. He’s crisscrossed Texas on his bike three times, swam 5 miles across Lake Ray Hubbard three times, completed three Ironman triathlons, and has represented the US in completion three times, and run with the Olympic Torch. He maintained All-American status for five years and has also biked across the country, 3600 miles in 30 days. The running/triathlon coach has PR’s of 2:27 marathon, 15:40 5K, 3:55 at the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred, and 10:00:52 Ironman. Chris is the only person to have won overall and Master’s at Dallas’ Crosson Dannis road racing series, DRC road racing series, and the USAT/SMW duathlon series. In 1988 he began Dallas’ oldest track workout, 1998 started north Texas’ first treadmill class, and 2003 he founded the world-wide Ride Of Silence. He’s been twice nominated Master’s Road Runner of the Year, highlighted in a variety of magazines and is frequently asked to speak at camps and organizations about fitness. Outside of swimming, biking, and running, Chris has summited several mountains including Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.