The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Chicago Marathon

Security is tight.  We are entering our specified entry point on Jackson Street in order to make our way to our assigned corral.  Security personnel are checking bib numbers making sure we are where we are suppose to be.  This is causing a bottle neck, but no one seems to mind.  We feel safer.

The Chicago Marathon is the first World Major Marathon on American soil since the terrorism at the Boston Marathon in April.  Runners everywhere are wearing items in support of Boston - shirts, hats, bracelets.  Pride entwines itself with my pre-race anxiety.

There are 6 World Major Marathons (Berlin, Boston, London, Tokyo, New York, Chicago) and this is my first.  There are 40,000 runners making their way around the start village and never once do I feel like I'm being herded.  It is evident this race is a well-oiled machine.  With the world watching, there are no hiccups.

Stephanie, Pat, Kellan, Kathy, Karen and I are standing in our corral.  Security closes the corral 10 minutes before the start of the race and we are safely tucked inside.  There is music, there is excitement, there is plenty of nervous energy.  Everyone is smiling.  The announcer begins to introduce the elite athletes lining the start.  We can't see them, but it is awe inspiring knowing they are there to race for their countries.

A woman begins to sing the American National Anthem.  Hats are removed and placed over hearts.  There is a sense of pride that one can feel permeating the air.  Her mic cuts out several times.  In unison, 40,000 runners sing the song for her.  Voices raised loudly and proudly singing the words which proclaim the love of our country.  As we sing the final line "...and the home of the brave" we think not only of our military but also of those brave spectators that lined the streets of Boston that day in April.  A single military fighter jet flies over.  I watch men and women wipe tears from their eyes.

The start line the day before the marathon.
At 7:30 the race begins.  It will take 12 minutes for our corral to reach the start line.  It will be well after 8 before the last corral starts.   I pass under the arch of the start and take my first steps of my first World Major Marathon.  I am running the streets of Chicago.

Pat and Stephanie fall into their pace and are gone.  Stephanie would set out and smash her goal of 3:45 and finish with a 3:42:43.  After running a 3:39 a few weeks prior, Pat would later finish with another sub-4.  Kellan takes off and despite little training due to a hectic college schedule and work, finishes with an impressive 4:22:05.

We enter a tunnel almost immediately and laugh at the men lined against the wall using the wall as a relieving station.  Before the race, the porta-potty lines had been long and never moved and one has to do what one has to do I suppose.  We are out of the tunnel and now running downtown Chicago.

There are people lining every side of the course cheering for us.   I have never seen so many people at the start of a marathon solely to cheer us on.  We are weaving through

the streets.  All around me are sights I have seen from my previous 3 days in Chicago.   My first time visiting this city and I am mesmerized by it's beauty.  Things I've only seen in pictures are now in my sights in front of me.  

Kathy, Karen and I try and talk, the crowds are screaming so loudly for us it makes it impossible to hear each other.  It doesn't matter, we are lost in the wonder of it all.  We've run countless miles together and we understand our silence just as much as we understand our thoughts.  Mile 5 comes and I make my first - of what would be later 4 - pit stops.  They continue on.

Around Mile 6 I look to my right and see the lake in the distance.  I try and tell those around me to look but my words are drowned in the excitement of the crowd.  I notice a man up ahead looking up toward a second floor of a building.  He waves.  Upon reaching the building I notice it is a rest home.  It's residents sitting in wheel chairs gazing out the window down on the runners.  I smile and wave.  I thank God for my ability to run.

We reach a turn around point and head back toward the city.  It is mile 8 and the crowds have not thinned out.  People are still screaming for us, their energy propelling us forward.  I see a man dressed in a Sponge Bob Square Pants costume blowing a horn.  I laugh as I know if my youngest son had been there, that would have been him.

The course brings us through a variety of neighborhoods.  Each one proud of their heritage.  Runners from all over the world are running next to me.  Some in shirts proudly declaring their nationality, others carrying flags.  A man standing along the course, in USA attire, screams in excitement for the runner next to me, "GO MEXICO!!!"  The man gives him a smile and a thumbs up.  I love the unconditional acceptance and wish that kind of exuberance was seen every day.

To my right I see a large group of girls, dressed the same, holding encouraging signs all with different slogans, but on the same paper.  I read "This is not your practice life".  And it hits an emotional nerve.  I had hoped this would be my race, but events and situations would prevent me from racing.  Rather than be upset, I took my Mom's mantra of 'It is what it is' and I decide to make the best of every situation.  Although my anemia would keep me from racing this race, it could not keep me from enjoying every single step.  And I was.

I am at the half way mark and knowing the elite athletes are already finished, I wonder who won the race.  Someone comes up next to me and yells in my ear, "Hey Maniac!"  I am in my Marathon Maniac shirt and as I turn I expect to see a fellow Maniac next to me.  I am right.  He tries to talk to me and I to him, but the crowd noise is so loud we can not understand what the other is saying.  He bids me well, and gently pushes me forward.

Aid stations are roughly a mile apart, making it easy to push yourself forward.  "Just get to the next aid station, just get to the next aid station" helped each mile click by.  I would walk the distance of the water tables which was perfect for bringing my heart rate down and keeping my anemia in check.  I was feeling strong.

Compete strangers would bring me bits of inspiration from home.  A song my husband loved while we were dating blared from speakers as I ran through a neighborhood.  Soldiers lined another section handing out high fives remind me of my oldest and his love of everything military.  I spot a woman holding a sign; she has used a four letter word in her effort to tell cancer what she thinks of it.  I think of my mom, and understand that woman's sentiment exactly.

It is somewhere around mile 23 when I hear someone scream my name.  I am completely confused.  I remember I have written my name on my bib, and conclude they are cheering me on.  Then, I hear it again but coming from behind me.  I turn to find Kathy and Karen running to catch up to me.  How did I get ahead of them?  One of the many mysteries of the marathon.  Karen's legs are angry with her and won't let her do what she wants to do.

We try to run together; yet with my mom firmly planted in my mind, I push ahead.  The miles click off and I realize I am in my final miles of the Chicago Marathon.  The crowds are still thick along the course cheering us on.  It is as if the people of Chicago came out in pure defiance against the bombings in Boston.  Nothing was going to stop this town from supporting us.  The thought brings me tears.

The final turn lies ahead.  It is a hill and it is difficult to run against after 26 miles of running.  I push forward knowing how difficult chemo treatments have been for my mom yet you'd never know as she has never once complained.  I am in the chute and the finish line lies ahead.  My mom is in her final battle against the cancer that holds her.  The irony is not lost on me.  I cross the finish line at 4:29:37 with my head held high and my hands raised in victory just as mom has taught us in the way she lives her life.  This is not my practice life.

A volunteer drapes a medal around my neck.  Tears sting my eyes.  I give high fives to every volunteer lining the chute.  I celebrate the finish,  I celebrate every bit of inspiration that got me there, I celebrate the life God gave me that is worth living.  No matter what I am faced with, life is still worth celebrating even while standing at the finish line.  My mom taught me that.