With the sun rising 25,000 feet in the sky, on my way to the 2019 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on Chicago Marathon 1.0.
It was pre-dawn early, announcements were going to be made sometime that day so I logged into my participant account. I entered my user name and password, all I needed to do was click the login button. What if I got in? Could I do it? What if I didn’t get in? Would I be upset? Would my husband be disappointed? The glaring light of my phone in the dark finally drew me to click into my account.
“Congratulations! You’ve been selected to run the 2017 Bank of America Chicago Marathon!”
Yikes. What have I actually done? I had thrown my name into the marathon lottery on a whim. My husband was already in with a guaranteed spot but he had already run three marathons. I hadn’t even completed a half marathon yet! In reality, I was barely running after kicking MS to the curb with HSCT. This was absolutely a crazy, terrible idea.
I let my husband know that I had been selected. He was excited and encouraging. Happy he thought I could do it! I decided not to tell anyone until I was fully committed. I ran a couple of half marathons and they went surprisingly okay, well unless you count the face plant at mile seven followed by a bunch of stitches after finishing. But I digress, we don’t need that negative energy here today. I followed my training plan and toed the start line slightly worse for wear than what is ideal. Thinking ibuprofen and my mind set would get me through, I started to run. It felt great! The cool air compared to the heat and humidity in Florida had me flying through the first miles.
Rookie mistake. Those early miles are the make or break miles. Every seasoned runner knows to take those easy. Not me, I was running the streets of Chicago!!! The very city that gave me my running legs back after MS tried to rob them. Mile 9 came and the nurses of Prentice were out cheering! Wow! That was certainly a sign that this was going to be the best run ever!
Until it wasn’t. Those nagging overuse training injuries started to scream at me shortly after that. Mile 12 was a tough one. A quick aid stop to get Biofreeze helped. Things got real at mile 18, I was in so much pain. My ankle, foot and knee were on fire. I stopped and stretched but nothing helped. Basically I was a zombie runner/walker, interrupted with moments of tears when the pain got too much. The crowd was encouraging but I was upset with my performance and thought I was a loser, a sham. At mile 21 I prayed to the old and new gods that if I could make it to that finish line, I’d never run again.
Mile 25. Well anyone can make it from here right? The crowds of spectators were screaming, the air was thick with excitement. Strangers were encouraging me to run! But at this point, every time I would run, I would hyperventilate from the pain. I knew that I would accept whatever time I got, but a slow jog/ walk was all I had in me.
They say the .2 of the 26.2 is the hardest distance of the marathon…. I concur. That .2 was the longest distance of my life. My legs were done, I didn’t even know if I had the energy to pretend I was having fun for the customary finish line photo. I barely crossed that finish line. The tears started immediately. It’s funny though, in those tears and in that moment, all the pain of the past 5 hours and 6 mins evaporated.
I JUST RAN A MARATHON! I WAS A MARATHONER!!!
Like childbirth, the body easily forgets the hell you put it through.
My husband had a tough run too, I met him at the finish line when he crossed and I started to cry all over again. All the support he gave me through the years with MS, the support he showed through my HSCT treatment, the support and encouragement he showed through the months of marathon training. This man was and is my rock. To share a finish line photo with him still brings me such joy.
People often ask, what is your why? Why do you run? My why is easy, I run because I can. I run for those who can’t.
I obviously lied to those old and new gods. I didn’t hang up my running shoes. I’ve run two more marathons, both had their own challenges. I still haven’t crossed that finish line happy with my performance. I’m a work in progress. On Sunday, I will toe the Chicago Marathon start line again, a little more stronger, a little less beat up and whole lot smarter. Running injuries are and always will be a thing for me. I still have deficits that other runners don’t have to overcome. Managing those injuries and deficits and expectations are what I work on most.
If you think about it on Sunday, please send good vibes to Chicago for all the runners out there but in particular two very special runners: Hannah and Amanda. Sunday will be Chicago 2.0 for me but it will be 1.0 for my daughter and stem cell sister. They will both become marathoners and I get to be there!
Please click this link if you would like to donate to AIMS charity in my aim to run London. Raising pounds while I pound the pavement!