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Chicago Marathon 2007

 
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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October 11, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

3 Comments »

  1. Al, what a surreal experience that must have been (as if just running a marathon period is not surreal enough!).  As soon as I heard what had happened after the TC Marathon, I stole my friend\’s computer and started stalking people on the Chicago race tracker.  I was relieved to see you and most others I know had finished, but was pretty worried that my friend Michelle showed no finish time.  She was one of those diverted, as I found out when I called her.I am glad you were sensible enough to dial it back a notch when the heat started to get bad, and so proud of you that you still finished!  Unbelievable that they ran out of water, etc.  Chicago is normally so well-organized…I hope they learn from this.Good job on sticking that one out.  What is the next event on your agenda?

    Comment by Unknown | October 11, 2007 | Reply

  2. Next of the agneda is to run the Detroit Marathon on October 21st with my younger borther.  It is his first marathon and my goal is to make sure that he finishes.  I have plenty of time next year to get the under 4 hour marahton.  Who knows it could happen on the 21st?

    Comment by Al | October 11, 2007 | Reply

  3. wow, al, this is really scary. i\’m so glad you\’re okay. be careful, ok? margarita

    Comment by Unknown | October 13, 2007 | Reply


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