This morning I received a call from one of my good friends Steve. I could tell that something was wrong and I hung on every word as he talked. After going through some normal conversation he spilled the bad news. His Father In-Law has been diagnosed with Myeloma. The good news is that he will be starting treatment next week and the doctors are giving him a positive outlook. After hanging up the phone I was in a combination of sadness and shock. Another person close to me has cancer? Not again! I simply pray that the outcome this time is much better than the last person we lost. This new development has fueled my dedication to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society even more. I want to thank everyone at the society, volunteers, and everyone that has supported the society. All of your hard work has provided the support and the financial means to develop treatments for cancer like Steve’s Father-In Law will be undergoing. Lets all continue to fight towards our goal of finding a cure!
The morning started off great. After waking up I felt confident that today was going to be a good day. Yes it is true that an actual person can look forward to running a marathon. The temperature outside felt good and the wind was not as bad as it was from last years Detroit Marathon. As this point in my running career any weather that is better than what we experienced in Chicago is perfect for me. But this morning did feel a little different than other mornings before a big event. I did not feel nervous or scared. I was excited and calm at the same time. The reason for this attitude was due to the fact that I knew I was not shooting for a certain time today. My main goal of the day was to make sure my younger brother, Jonathan, completed his first marathon. From the day that he told me he was going to sign up for the full marathon I felt a little “responsible” and wanted to make sure that everything went as well as it could for him. He had trained hard, did the long runs, and did not sound too nervous when I talked to him last so I knew he would do well. At the starting line area I ran into Jonathan and my Dad. After the usual pre-race activities we headed to the start line and got nestled into our corral. The plan was to start with the four hour pace group and see how Jonathan felt. The last final minutes before the gun sounded felt like forever like they always do.
Finally the gun sounded and we were off! Well not exactly. For anyone that has done a larger race you know that getting 15,000 people across a starting line is a not a fast affair. We did however have the luxury of being in the 4th corral from the starting line so our walk to the actual start line was not that bad. Our chip time was actually only about 1:30 off of the race clock. As the miles moved on by we talked and I ran into various people that I knew that were running. Even though this was my 3rd time running this marathon the course felt a little new since I only visit it on a yearly basis. As we made our way over the Ambassador Bridge into Canada the sun was just beginning to rise over the buildings and it was a beautiful view. We were still on pace and coasting along with the four hour pace group. Coming down the bridge we began to speed up due to the natural down push and picked up our pace a little bit. From then on we were at about an 8 – 8:30 minute pace. The pace did not feel too hard for either of us, and I think were simply going with the wave of people. Running through the Windsor Tunnel was very hot and muggy. Reminders of the Chicago Marathon. Thankfully the tunnel is only a little over a mile long so I welcomed the cold air as we exited out onto Jefferson Avenue, what I call the best part of the marathon. By the way in case you were wondering we ran an 8:12 mile under water. As usual the walls and streets were filed with people all cheering and welcoming us back to the USA. It is really cool to see everyone there and welcoming all of the runners back. As we continued on Jonathan was doing well and the miles continued to roll by. At the half way point we had a time of 1:57:50 and that was great.
Around mile 16 – 17 after getting onto Belle Isle the distance had began to set in and I could tell that we were slowing down. No problem, the goal was to finish and we were still moving along at a good pace. I stayed at the pace that Jonathan was running, trying to get ahead of him just a little at times to keep him honest and moving. After water stations we took an extra minute to walk and stretch, and that helped. I think he wanted to be done more than anything. Around mile 24 I felt our pace began to speed up a little bit. Must have been knowing that the finish line was not that far away.
Around mile 25 Coach Ken was there to offer us an alternative liquid refreshment that is not usually served until after 12 Noon in Michigan. To be honest that little shot of beer was the best tasting thing all morning after tons of Gatorade and Gels. Plus I felt 100% better and we picked up our pace even more. Instant buzz? Who knows? With about a half a mile left we really picked up our pace and it felt like we were just starting the race. It is funny how the body finds energy it did not have a few miles back when it knows it is almost done. As we turned the last couple of corners being cheered on, we saw the finish line and sprinted towards the end. I really thought that Jonathan beat me but the cool thing is that we crossed at the exact same time! We finished with a time of 4:13:50. That is about an hour better than my first marathon time. Jonathan did awesome! He completed his first marathon and can now call himself a marathoner. Plus I really enjoyed running my 7th marathon with my brother and being there all along the way. As always thanks to everyone that has supported both of us along the way and thanks to the Lord above for watching out for us. This will be one of my favorite marathons that I will always remember. It could of not been more perfect than it was.
By now most of you have heard or read about on the unique Chicago Marathon this past weekend. I want to first thank all of my friends and family that called, texted or e-mailed me to see if I was okay and how I was feeling. I was over whelmed at the support and concerned calls that I received. It is good to know that all of you are thinking about and watching out for me. I could not have asked for a better group of family and friends. I also want to send my prayers out to the family of Chad Schieber who died during the Chicago marathon, and also all of the runners that are still recovering from heat related illness.
The train ride to Chicago was a fun experience. It seemed long towards the end of the trip but it was nice to be able to walk around the train cars and have nice big seats to stretch in. If you have never traveled anywhere by train you need to try it out. Once we arrived in Chicago we were able to check into our rooms early and then headed over to the expo. After walking through the expo, getting our numbers and race stuff it was back to the hotel for the pasta party. The expo by the way was huge but I felt like it was missing all of the unique and cool vendors you usually see at a race expo. I am not sure if I was caught up in the race excitement or I was concerned more about the heat advisory that was issued by the race officials. The weather report was predicting temperatures in the 80’s at the start and 90’s by noon on race day. This was really starting to concern me because I knew my body never does well in high heat running more than 10 miles. But I did my best to stay positive and not worry about it. The Team in Training Pasta Party was a really run time. As always it had its comical and inspirational moments. At the end of the party you left remembering the real reason why all of us that are involved with Team in Training do what we do for our cause. After the pasta party it was back to the room to do my last minute preparations of my race gear and get some needed sleep.
Race morning I was up and going at 4AM. After meeting the entire Michigan team we walked down to the starting area together for the Chicago Marathon. At the start area it already felt hot and humid. I did me best to not think about the heat and stay focused on my race plan. The plan was to start with the 3 hour and 55 minute pace group so that I could get my goal of under 4 hours for the marathon. As the start time approached I made my way into the start corrals and I was able to get in and start the race with my desired pace group. After waiting for what seemed like forever the gun sounded and the race had begun. I was prepared that since this was the largest race I had ran that it would take a little while to actually cross the starting line. After 5 minutes of walking our group crossed the start line and I was off and running. The crowd support on the course was amazing! People were lined up everywhere cheering and supporting us. It felt like the entire city was out there.
A little after mile 2 I was keeping up with the 3:55 pace group but I was already dripping in sweat and the heat felt terrible. I started to become very concerned that this was not going to be a good day. Around mile 6 I was still on pace but I become even more concerned as I could see the heat taking its toll on one of our pace group leaders. She was telling me that this was the worst she has even felt running a marathon. If an elite runner like her is feeling like death then how long could I last? In the next mile or so she said goodbye and dropped out of the race. She said she felt light headed and was going to call her husband to come pick her up. After mile 10 I was feeling like I had already ran a marathon and my pace dramatically slowed down. The heat was unbearable and one of the banks that I ran past showed 90 degrees as the temperature. It is not suppose to be 90 degrees in October! That is why marathons are held in October! So I proceeded to go into survival mode. Taking multiple cups of fluids at the aid stations and walking when ever I felt dizzy or very weak. Call it determination or stubbornness, but I wanted to finish this marathon. I continued on and started to see most of the other runners taking the same course of action that I was. The heat was affecting all of us and unlike the 10,000 people that never even showed up to run the marathon, we were now at the mercy of the road and the sun.
Around mile 14 the news started to come in. Aid stations were running out of fluids and runners were going down everywhere. I would hear or see an ambulance about every 5 minutes and that was scary. Usually you hear a few ambulances at big races towards the end, but not every 5 minutes. I was constantly wondering if I would be the next one to pass out. I was able to control the dizziness by walking, but as I look back that was probably not the best course of action because one bad dizzy spell could put me into an ambulance. A little after mile 16 the police officers and fire fighters, (thanks for helping us crazy runners out), were demanding that we walk and stated the race was over. The race directors had closed the event and we would have to walk the rest of the way back to the finish line. Later that day on the news, I discovered that around mile 13 they rerouted the course to a shorted route and even provided buses for the runners. For once in my life going too far of a distance was a bad thing. Thus began the slow trot back to the finish line. It looked like Night of the Living Dead as thousands of runners walked their tired bodies 10 miles through the streets of Chicago. The temperature was over 90 degrees at this point and all of us did all we could to continue moving on. Occasionally a crazy runner would still run by and would be yelled at by one of the police officers. At this point all of the aid stations that we encountered were out of their initial supply of fluids. But determined aid station volunteers worked hard to get what remaining fluids they could out of water jugs or give us cups that we could use at an open fire hydrant. Lots of fire hydrants along the route had been opened up so we could get cooled off walking through the water. One of the bright spots that I remember about the marathon was the crowd and citizen support. During that painful 10 mile walk the spectators would still cheer us on and you could tell they wanted to help all of us out. The local citizens and store owners even gave us water bottles, ice, or even had their hoses out for us. It was great to see everyone trying to help us insane athletes in the heat.
As the miles went by very slowly, I finally saw the 25 mile marker and I was determined to get off the course and end this nightmare. I ran as hard as I could the last 1.2 miles and completed my 6th marathon. It was definitely my slowest and not a marathon that I want to remember, but I survived and was able to cross the finish line. Even though they closed the event we all sill received medals. Through heat exhaustion, 90 plus degree temperatures, and grace of the Lord above, I did not end up in an ambulance. I am very thankful for that and I know that this nightmare marathon, as I have labeled it, in some small way has made me stronger mentally and physically.
Some unique and sad facts that I wanted to share about the Chicago marathon. There were originally about 45,000 people registered to run the event. 10,000 “smart” people never even began the event, 10,000 people that started the event never finished the event, about 300 people were rushed to area hospitals due to the heat, and one person lost their life during the event. So out of 45,000 registered runners only about 24,699 crossed the finish line. I hope that we never see these kinds of numbers again during a marathon.
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