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, on the sidelines and under my feet helping with each step!
This year my mantra was ‘Forward is a Pace’. I have said this and preached this to others but this year I really lived it!
I was up at 4:00 on Sunday and was chauffeured downtown by my husband. He dropped me off at the Club Quarters hotel to meet a friend of mine and then he headed to work. He was scheduled to work blocking streets for the runners.
My friend and I had some coffee together and then chose to walk the 10 or so blocks to the Congress Hotel where we would meet our fellow runners. The streets were filled with activity of runners, spectators and volunteers. We arrived at the hotel, met up with our friends and checked our gear bags. I got a text from my friend Kelly, Director of Alexander Leigh Center for Autism, and a photo of her daughter, Gilly. Motivation to run well and finish strong!
We headed for the start corral about 7am as the sun was rising over the lake. It was a glorious morning! We sat on the ground in the start corral chatting with each other and other runners. At about 7:20 Jim Cornelison sang the national anthem and the gun went off for the Elite field of runners. We hit the start line about 15 minutes later…..and the beginning of the last part of my long adventure Forward had begun!
I knew my mom and dad would be at mile 14. All I had to do was get there. The rest of the course was up for grabs! I didn’t know when or where or even if there would be anyone else cheering for me. Just keep moving forward, I told myself. Everything will work out.
I flew through the first few miles and was feeling great! It was a gorgeous morning and the crowds were wonderful. Running through Lincoln Park and up into Wrigleyville along the lake was perfect. My friend was doing even better than I was so she took off ahead of me. As I rounded the corner at Addison Street between miles 7 and 8 there was a sign that made me smile “Do Epic Stuff” (it was the other ‘s’ word though!). I knew that sign was for ME!
As I headed back down into the city, I was in the zone, running forward well and feeling good. Perhaps I was feeling too good and got a bit overconfident. Through Old Town at mile 10 things were still feeling great and so was I! Forward….
Just after Mile 12, at the Adams Street turn I saw Officer Mirek Dobek! What a nice surprise! I told him I was feeling great! His daughter, Juilanne, was one of my Girls on the Run! Forward….
I was almost to family now heading out into Greektown and the West Loop! I ran through the 13.1 mile marker and headed towards mile 14. Just before mile 14 I saw Mrs. Melissa McCallister and her husband! She was smiling and cheering. We hugged (I think!) and I took off again…only to hear someone shouting my name from the other side of the street. It was Mr. TOB and his son, J, who is one of my students! I said Hi and told them I could not stop. I had to keep moving forward. I asked where J’s sister was and he told me up the street, so I grabbed J and away we ran. J was running the marathon with me! What a great running buddy! About a block or so up we found my Girls on the Run, MOB and MW with their moms holding a “Go Teacher” sign!! They were standing next to my parents and my Aunt. I stopped for a second and took a picture with my mom and J. I could feel my legs tightening and did not want to stop moving. I told them I had to keep moving…forward. I took off again heading out to mile 15. This part of the course is all sun and it was getting hotter by the minute.
I headed back into the city hoping the see family again near mile 16 but we missed each other. I was feeling hot and my legs were getting tighter with each step. This was not going to be an easy finish.
Just after mile 16 I was running in the shade of the buildings but was still hot. If front of Jak’s Tap there was a “20 something” guy eating an ice cream. I looked at him and said, “Really?!?” He said, “Want it?” I ran over, grabbed what was left of the ice cream, kissed him on the cheek…to the cheers of the others around him…and kept running…happily eating my ice cream. Never has a SpongeBob popsicle tasted so good!
It was off to Little Italy and mile 18 now where I saw the leader of my running group, Keith and his wife, Liz. They asked how I was doing and I told them I was hot…but still moving forward. And then I took off again up Ashland Avenue toward mile 19. My legs were still a little tight but I thought the popsicle and Gu I had eaten were helping….I was wrong.
I rounded the corner of 18th and Halsted to see the bank sign read “81” degrees. It was getting hotter….then things got bad. Just past the 20 mile marker I stepped down and one calf cramped…total Charlie horse. I shifted my weight to the other leg and that one cramped as well. I was in pain and not happy. I hobbled into the medical tent and sat down. I told them what was happening to my legs. They gave me a salt packet to eat along with a banana, a massage of my calves and water. I walked around the tent a bit and felt better…so back out I went. My dreams of beating my time from last year vanished…Now it was just about finishing….Forward.
Miles 21-23 were slow but I was still moving forward. I kept pushing on thinking that I could not quit. The thought of facing the disappointment of my own children, my students, or my Girls on the Run having quit was enough to keep me moving! So I pushed forward.
This is a tough stretch as there are not a lot of spectators on this part of the course and it is all sun but I knew the end was getting closer…no quitting now…just forward motion. Then at the turn at 35th street….I thought I was seeing things….there was Mrs. LD with S and E!! S is one of my Girls on the Run and was leaping up and down when she saw me! They asked how I was doing and I said I was hot. Mrs. D wanted to give me water but her bottle was empty! That was ok I said…I had to keep moving as I was afraid my legs would give out again…..and off I went. I started to cry now as the reality of everything began to hit me. I needed to stop doubting myself, beating myself up and getting mad at myself for slowing down. Too many people were already proud of me and how far I had come on the adventure. This was the home stretch and I knew it. I also knew that this was the hardest part of the course…all sun and then the HILL! I just had to keep moving forward.
So up Michigan Avenue I headed into Mile 24. I was moving forward and feeling better. I knew this was the home stretch. I knew the end was near and I was going to get this job done!
Now it was up to me. I was making deals and saying prayers at this point…please God! Just let me finish…I have come too far not to finish. One foot in front of the other…moving forward.
I rounded the corner and headed up the hill…terrified that my legs would cramp again, I powered up the hill with what little strength I had left. Now it was all about determination and heart. As I crested the hill I could feel the momentum building…. I could see the finish line. This was it…months of work for this moment!
I crossed the finish line and was met by wonderful volunteers who wrapped me in a warming blanket and sent me on to get my medal. As the volunteer hung the medal on my neck I thought how hard earned that medal was….this was a tough finish for me.
What a day! What an adventure! My first marathon was all about the finish. The goal was to get across the finish line. The second time was about the journey. Crossing the finish line was icing on the cake. This time it was all about determination. Always moving forward despite the obstacles.
During this adventure 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 just when you least expect it, people surprise you. I learned that everyone needs inspiration. Some days you inspire and some days you need to be inspired. I learned that a finish time is just that…numbers on the clock. Numbers don’t mean a thing to anyone but me. 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. If you simply put one foot in front of the other…you move forward. Forward IS a Pace. I realized that I did something that many people can’t do, won’t ever start….I completed a marathon…not once, not twice but THREE times!!
Thank you to all of you for your months of encouragement, generous donations, and abundant prayers. I am forever changed…..…..
A 3 TIME marathon FINISHER!