Forward is a Pace!

“I’ve learned that finishing a marathon isn’t just an athletic achievement. It’s a state of mind; a state of mind that says anything is possible.” John Hanc, running writer

Well…I did it! I have the aches and pains to prove it. I did not set any records nor did I come close but I FINISHED! I finished with my head high and a smile on my face! I got through it with the help of some very special angels on my shoulders….or under my feet helping with each step!

I got up at 4 on Sunday and was chauffeured downtown by a friend. My running buddy and I were dropped off and chose to walk the 2 blocks to the Congress Hotel where we would meet our fellow runners. The streets were alive with the activity of runners and spectators. We arrived at the hotel, met up with our friends, ate a little something, used the bathroom and then it was time for prayer.

We headed for our start corral about 7am to wait for the start of the race. It was a beautiful morning! We watched the sun rise over Buckingham Fountain as we waited for the race to begin and chatted with other runners. At 7:30 we heard the start gun go off yet it would take us about 30 additional minutes to get to the actual starting line to begin our run. We crossed the starting line and we were off….the beginning of the last part of my journey had begun.

The first few miles went well until my friend realized she had forgotten her inhaler. While running we made a few quick phone calls (thank goodness for cell phones!) and made arrangements for the inhaler to show up at mile 14. Now we just had to get that far. We slowed our pace a bit and kept moving forward.

Running through Lincoln Park a little boy stuck out his hand for a ‘slap’ as I ran by. I had slapped him ‘five’ and kept running. I heard him tell his dad, “That lady slapped me five. A real Marathoner slapped me five, Dad!” “WOW! The kid thinks I am a real marathoner” I thought to myself!!

Moving into mile 7 I saw a man dressed in full fatigues with a pack on his back. I caught up to him at the water area and as he slowed, I could read what was pinned to his pack….he was running in his brother’s fatigues because his brother had been killed in Afghanistan a year earlier. I was crying as I looked at him and just said, “Wow!” “That is all I need,” he replied as he disappeared into the crowd of runners.

At mile 13 we met up with a member of our running group who had planned to run with us about 10 miles. She was welcome support! She kept us talking and moving in the right direction. Forward!

Mile 14 finally arrived and my friend got her inhaler from my kids….and got a bear hug from her! My son ran into my arms and yelling “Yea Mommy!” The rest of my kids were there cheering along with my ‘other daughters’! I am blessed with the greatest support team a girl could ask for! We took a few pictures and I was off again. A few yards away the Girls On The Run group saw me and slapped a bracelet on me that said “Dream. Run. Celebrate.” Words to keep me moving…forward!

We headed out and then back into the city and onto mile 16. At this point I saw my dad and beyond him my mom and my Aunt. They were so happy to see me looking good at this point in the run. Hugs and kisses and I was off again ….only to see my family and all the kids again about a half a mile further down the course! This time I did not stop…I waved and headed towards the tough part of the course….forward.

At mile 17 there were two men sitting on the grass with carbon graphite running prosthesis. They were icing their legs….and then passed me a short while later. Just another reason to keep moving forward.

At this point the alert level had gone from yellow to red…meaning severe conditions. I was in the difficult part of the course as there is little to no shade, no relief from the heat and the crowds are scarce. I kept moving forward.

At mile 19 there were firefighters spraying the runners with water. What a welcome relief! My feet got soaked and I knew this meant blisters in my future but at that point the only thing that mattered was a cool down!

Finally I saw the marker for mile 20. I knew the end was in sight I just had to keep moving forward. Every medical tent I passed was filled with runners in distress. I lost count of the times I had to move to the side so that an ambulance could pass. I realized that I had stopped sweating and was so very hot. It was at this point I had to make a choice. I could continue on at my pace and risk injury, I could slow down and finish, or I could walk into the nearest medical tent and quit. Quitting is not something I considered for anything longer than a split second. I had come too far …….I decided to slow down and finish. Forward is a pace. I had been moving forward all day…now it was time to move forward a little slower.

At Mile 22 I saw runners from my group again. This was so great! They gave me a hug and told me to keep moving forward. I knew I could have sat down right then and there and called it a day…but didn’t! I turned onto Michigan Avenue and headed towards the finish line.

This is the part of the course that always gets to me…it is lined with pictures of fallen police officers. This is so moving for me as I worry about my husband and his friends every day….I also know that 3 additional pictures were added this year as three more officers had given the ultimate sacrifice…they had given their lives in the line of duty this year. I started to pray the rosary and kept moving forward ….

At mile 24 I passed a man who was running wearing a giant Eiffel Tower. I have no idea why he was wearing it or running with it on but it made me giggle as I continued moving forward.

There were three young men at mile 25 made me laugh so hard I started to cry. I had moved as far to the side of the street as possible to find some shade and relief from the heat. They saw me coming and started singing, “Kris is gonna finish! Go Kris” over and over. I soldiered on forward laughing……towards the HILL!

I turned the corner and faced my last challenge…Mount Roosevelt. As I headed up the hill, I knew this was the end. I knew I could finish! I crested the hill and turned the corner. There it was……the finish line! I tapped into the last bit of energy I had left and started running again…forward….as fast as my worn out legs would carry me.

I crossed the finish line and was met by a wonderful high school volunteer who, as he put the medal around my neck, said, “Dang, Girl! You did it! You finished! I could never do what you just did!” “Yes you can!” I replied, “Never say never!” and I moved to the next volunteer who wrapped me in a warming blanket and on to water…….then I got a text. It was from one of my girls….’Tears of joy, Mommy! I am so proud of you!’ I spent the next few minutes in tears trying to explain to the medical team that I was fine, just crying tears of joy that I had done it….I had finished a marathon….a second time!

What a day! What a journey! My first marathon was all about the finish. The goal was to get across the finish line. This time the journey was so much more important. Crossing the finish line was icing on the cake.

On this journey I learned so many things about myself. Every lesson learned got me to the finish. I learned that I am a better, stronger, smarter runner/person than I was a year ago. I learned that people can change you for the better in a split second. I learned that a finish time is just that…numbers on the clock. Sometimes other things are more important than the numbers. I showed my kids…all of them…that quitting is not an option. If you work towards a goal you can achieve it…one way or another. I realized that I did something that many people can’t do, won’t ever start…or finish….I ran a marathon…TWICE!

Thank you to all of you for your months of encouragement, generous donations, and abundant prayers. I am forever changed……
A mom
A teacher
A 2 TIME marathon FINISHER!

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