With a couple scene study classes under my belt, I walked into an acting class which would go a long way in helping me discover my talent, range, and voice as an actor. On the first day of the term, the instructor had us sit in a circle and before he laid out his introduction to what would be the foundation for what we were about to learn and practice, he had us introduce ourselves one at a time. There was a young man sitting next to me who went just before I did. His name was Robert A. Lynch. I had a chance to get to know robert during the term. In fact, over the next year, he and I had almost every class together. We were paired up to work on in class exercises and had a couple of scene set ups together where he and I spend time outside of class building a foundation for whatever the relationship and situation called for in our given scene. Over the years we have remained good friends. Whenever my theater pieces have been selected to participate in festivals, Robert has been there. During the staged reading of my first ever play to be selected as part of a festival, he came up to me afterwards and stated, "Is, I knew you were good, but I just never knew you were great. It is a masterpiece." He also attended a performance of the world premiere production of said play and he was raving about it. I have written a couple plays and films with Robert specifically in mind for a couple roles. He is such a great friend and a talented artist who has been seen in and around Chicago in some spectacular roles. He is an amazing improviser too. If you ever have an opportunity to see this young man perform, you will be blown away. The best way to stay up to date with all Robert is doing is to please log on to Facebook and like his official fan page.
In early June of this year, I contacted Matt Miller to inform him I had decided to race in the New York City Triathlon. His C Different Foundation would pair me up with a sighted triathlete who would guide me through the course. In early July, Matt informed me that he had found a gentleman to guide me. Brendan Hermes. Matt believed it was a perfect match. Brendan and my personalities along with our interests were so similar it was scary. Brendan is a triathlete, voiceover actor, and television and film producer as well as one who develops interactive web content. The few times we spoke prior to my weekend trip to New York in July were plenty of fun. The few days I was privileged to spend with Brendan, his family, and friends were spectacular. Our interests seemed to be very similar. As for our personalities, I never could quite gage it, but I truly enjoyed the experience of being around an industry professional. As someone who has miles to go before arriving where I want to be in my artistic, writing, and performing ventures, I learned so much from Brendan just by observing him and making conversation. Over the years, I have had many dear friends, especially, Sunshine, Rani, Madelon, Angela, and Therese, who have taught me that everything happens to us for a reason. Every person who comes into our lives is there for a reason. The universe plays out in perfect order. There are not any accidents. I believe that. The way Brendan and the C Different Foundation crossed paths was not an accident. Brendan getting involved at this time for this race in order to come into my life is exactly how the event was destined to play out. I agree with Matt. It is scary!
I told friends and family as well as informing my followers on Twitter that one of Brendan's latest projects involved him being the Executive in charge of production for a project involving Kevin Smith. Today, Brendan announced that Worldwide Biggies, the company for whom he works and creates various projects, has released a new game which everyone can download from iTunes for the low price of $0.99. That is right. For only ninety-nine cents, each person can play a game called Bigby LAPD. In a world thrown into chaos by dragons and pirates comes a crime fighting kid, Bigby, ready and able to save the world! Please check it out and make sure to download it. Make sure to tell all your friends about how wonderful the game is.
Here is a review and more information about the game:
A little bit over a month ago in September, I came across a post by USA Triathlon which had reposted a link from Outside Magazine which did a piece on Jenna Shoemaker. I read the piece and was immediately fascinated by her story and accomplishments. I checked out an accompanying video of behind the scenes footage at Jenna's photo shoot. I was most intrigued by Jenna's goal since childhood to be the first person to ever win both an Olympic gold medal and an Academy Award. I also came across an article USA Triathlon had done earlier in September on Jenna, her brother, Jarrod, and her sister-in-law, Alicia. All three race triathlons at an elite level on the global stage. I was truly inspired by these articles. I was most excited at learning more about how Jenna balances her love and work as a professional triathlete with that of an actress who aspires to one day get that special Oscar. I was interested because I felt I could learn from her story about how one can pursue both areas of interest and be successful at both. I know Jenna is destined for special careers in both the athletic and artistic worlds. I am fascinated to see how she continues to grow as both an athlete and an artist to fulfill her dream of the gold medal and Oscar. She will need to climb two major mountains to achieve her goals and I am so thrilled to see how she will do it. I am a recent fan of Jenna Shoemaker and already I have learned so much from the articles I have read.
Tonight, all can get a glimpse at Jenna Shoemaker when she appears on NBC's Last Call with Carson Daly which airs at 1:30a.m. eastern time and 12:30a.m. central time.
Those interested can also follow Jenna Shoemaker's journey towards her athletic and artistic goals at her blog:
It has now been over two weeks since I successfully ran 26.2 miles at the Chicago Marathon. That initial day and week after the race was quite special with family and friends giving me reverential treatment as a direct result of accomplishing the goal of 26.2. The praise was heightened when people would hear that I sprained my ankle midway through the third mile, but instead of quitting, as may have been the proper thing to do considering the pain I was enduring, I pressed on determined to cross the finish line. I was never going to quit. Not me. Not in my home town race!
In the week leading up to the marathon, I read several online articles, paid close attention to what friends were saying on Facebook and Twitter, and asked runners whom I trusted for any final advice. One thing I read is that many runners experience a bit of depression after a marathon. I figured many gut out a marathon, take time off, and with time on their hands, they begin to feel empty because there is not another long run or race scheduled. Suddenly, what use to be routine and a part of daily life has been taken away. I figured since I have other races to which to look forward, I would take a few days or a week off to allow my body to heal then start focussing on the next races to close out 2010 in fine fashion. Life does not work out the way we plan. I sprained my ankle and had to allow the swelling to take its course. By the Thursday after the marathon, the swelling was almost gone. Yet, some pain remained just under my ankle bone and just above my toes on the left side of my foot. I iced my foot, spent plenty of time in bed with my foot elevated, and when I did have to walk around, I did my best to put as little weight on the left ankle as possible.
I finally returned to some normal activities ten days after the marathon when I resumed my Kenpo sessions with Tim K at Self Defense Centers. I felt it best to not run, lift weights, or perform any other stressful activities until I was completely healed. I read that it make take three to six weeks for me to be back to proper health. I also read that this includes rehabilitation sessions where I could perform exercises under the supervision of a trained professional. I remembered how I sprained my ankle after being hit by a bus, I attended weekly rehab sessions to help strengthen my ankle. Thinking about it, my stint lasted six weeks, but my ankle did not feel completely at full strength until almost three months after the bus incident. As I write this, I still have some discomfort throughout the day. As a result, I have yet to return to working out or running since the marathon. I have three races five weeks away and I am starting to worry that I am losing valuable time.
Today, as I walked around my house to gage how my ankle felt in order to determine whether I would finally go work out, I felt some minor pain and decided to wait once more until tomorrow. This made me ANGRY! I am also sad that I have not been able to continue running and working on my sexy physique. Still, I am mostly angry at myself for putting myself in the position to sprain my ankle. One can argue it was an accident which none of the runners around me, my sighted guide, nor I could have prevented. Maybe I could have stepped differently. Maybe I could have planted my foot in a different part of the street. The place I could have prevented this sprain is in my dedication. As a result of the shape I was in during previous races, I was unable to push myself to have a finishing time which would enable me to have qualified for a timed start coral. Because I had not previously dedicated myself to strive to be great, I found myself in an open coral with people just hoping to finish, charity runners more concerned with running for a cause and not setting personal records, and run/walkers who did not have the ability to run like the wind for the entire distance. As a result, in this, just like in other races, my guides, Rich and Peter, had to do their best to navigate us by and around slower runners or those who stopped suddenly for whatever reason. This is why I sprained my ankle. I have always been a sprinter all my life, but I wanted to push my mental and physical limits at longer distances. I am still new to road races and triathlons. I have so much more to accomplish. I fully understand that the first half marathon or olympic distance triathlon were overwhelming and I was simply happy to finish. I can even understand if that is the same mindset I took into my marathon debut, but I feel if in fact that was my mentality going into 10-10-10, then that was the wrong mindset. I have too much talent and too much heart to simply settle for being happy to finish. Again, I have only been racing for two and a half years, but I am not a wide eyed little kid just happy to be there or happy to take in the event. I should be on a mission. In 1998, I went on a mission to bulk up. Nothing was going to stop me. I had always been an undersized person who weighed ninety pounds when I graduated eighth grade and weighed only 110 pounds when I completed my high school years, but that year, I was determined to put on the weight. Even after college, I continued to put on weight until I weighed in at 172 of hulking muscle. Yet, I lost my trademark speed. I also did very little as far as conditioning was concerned so I altered my philosophy to aim for a lean sexy physique which would give me seven percent body fat, no bulk, but plenty of strength and a restoration of my speed. Within eleven months, I was down to 130 pounds. Eventually, I went down to 120 pounds before returning to a consistent 130. With each case, I remained focussed on the prize. I maintained a level of commitment and dedication to better myself and my body. If I planned to work out that day, I did. It did not matter if I had other matters to which I had to attend. Once my responsibilities were met, I put in the time to work out. In the summer of 2005, Prop THTR named my play, "In The Dark" a New Play Fest winner. There was a week of rehearsals and two staged readings at the Cultural Center in Chicago. I averaged three hours of sleep that week working on rewrites and being at rehearsals yet I had committed to working out five days a week since January 2004 and I was not about to break my string of over a year and a half of remaining dedicated to that goal. Yet, here I have yet to discover that level of dedication to my racing in recent years. Sure, five years ago, I was driven by a desire to carve out a Bruce Lee physique as well as having the body which would enable me to be shirtless in my theater pieces and films and make people especially women, swoon. Nowadays, I am driven by a desire to perform at an elite level at these races. At the height of my lean physique days between 2004-2006, I was running 3.1 miles in twenty-minutes on a daily basis. With the proper dedication I should be able to get to that level once more. This time, I know I can build on that to maintain that speed for much longer. Guided by the right plan and individuals, I know I can keep up that speed for an entire marathon. I just can not seem to explain why I have not yet pushed myself to do so. I do not know what this block is which prevents me from fully embracing my abilities and fully giving of myself to perform at a special level. In fact, if I ever did that, so many more doors would immediately be opened to me as far as getting my theater, film, and motivational performances out to audiences on a global scale. If I could ever dig down deep to find myself, then I will dazzle spectators who will in turn actually care about me and my story. People will be interested in who I am and all my creative projects. By elevating myself to that level, I will be racing in events along side the best in the world and I would not have to worry about my guides needing to zig zag me through slow runners or even walkers which then means I will not have to worry about avoiding someone which then causes me to sprain my ankle then sit at my computer over two weeks later angry at myself for not dreaming big and achieving big.
This was a great weekend for those who enjoy terrific filmmaking and wonderful story telling. On Saturday, attendees of the Flyway Film Festival enjoyed a fantastic film, World's Largest: A Documentary About Small Towns With Big Things by the talented, Elizabeth Donius and Amy C. Elliott. Also on Saturday evening then again on Sunday morning, film lovers attending the Hot Springs Doc Fest in Arkansas enjoyed screenings of World's Largest. Many have heard announcements of the world's largest buffalo or the largest moose statue. Elizabeth and Amy travelled around to various small towns to document the towns' road side attractions which the residents in those towns market in the hopes of drawn tourists and business to their towns. Those who were lucky enough to check out the film at either festival this weekend enjoyed some wonderful story telling and filmmaking. Those who have yet to see the film, make sure to stay tuned to festivals in your area because when Elizabeth and Amy's film reaches you, it will be a treat and plenty of fun.
Readers have previously read about my level of respect and appreciation for filmmaker, Elizabeth Donius. She is a tremendous talent who spent a few years as Executive Director for the Independent Film Project (IFP) Chicago chapter. From the very first time I contacted her to inquire about joining IFPChicago, Elizabeth was warm, welcoming, and inviting. She always took the time to respond to my emails, speak to me on the phone, and spend a few minutes with me in person at various IFP events. Along with long time friend and collaborator, Amy C. Elliott, Elizabeth has a wonderful documentary which continues to dazzle audiences around the country. World's Largest: A Documentary About Small Towns With Big Things will be included in this weekend's Flyway Film Festival in Wisconsin. On Saturday, October 23, 2010, audience members will have an opportunity to witness Elizabeth and Amy's magnificent film.
Within hours of crossing the finish line of my first ever marathon in my favorite city in the world, I heard that there was a video posted on youtube of me running in the Chicago Marathon. My guide Peter was leading the way at the seventeen mile mark in the video. I was smiling to hear some people say that I was flying down the street considering that I had long since sprained my ankle at mile 3.5 and I was fighting to survive with the pain in my foot. Hearing that only makes my desire to run the marathon again that much stronger to show myself that I can truly fly through the streets of Chicago conquering the course in dominating fashion. In the video, I am also seen just a few hundred meters from the finish line in Grant Park guided by Peter as we ran with Rich who guided me for the first thirteen miles of the marathon. There have been some wonderful comments made to me as a result of people seeing that video.
On Monday, I was informed that there was a blogger at Chicago Now who had published a piece of Awesome Moments Of The Chicago Marathon Weekend. The thirty-fourth picture of the fifty-eight which appear in this post is of Rich guiding me! That is awesome! Thank you to Awesome Barb of Chicago Now for including Rich and me in her moments. If you wish to see all the pictures, here is the link to her entry:
10-10-10! The date to motivate. The date I had been targeting for almost a year. On October 10, 2010, I would make personal history when toeing the start line of the Chicago Marathon in my debut at the marathon distance. I use to think training and running a marathon was crazy for anyone to do. I would never do that to my body! Then the opportunity to participate in one came about when Keri Schindler of Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association asked if I would be interested in running the Chicago Marathon as a member of Team GLASA. I jumped at the chance, trained, and focused on the prize ahead.
On Saturday night, I could not sleep. My bib number was pinned to my Team GLASA racing shirt, my socks laid out, my shoes were set, my timing chip was in my bag, and my guiding tether was packed for Sunday morning. My wake up call was at 5:00a.m. I kept debating whether to wear one of my running shorts, which have given me some trouble in two of my last three double digit mile races, or my triathlon shorts, in which I am comfortable racing and most likely would not give me any issues during the 26.2 mile event. I went back and forth before finally deciding to wear my triathlon shorts. I would be at ease and an added bonus would be the tight form fitting shorts would show off my sexy well carved legs. Another issue was the weather. When I agreed to run in this event, I was worried about it being to cold, but in the weeks leading up to the event, I began to hear it would be warm. I became concerned when I heard it would be in the middle eighties. In 2007, the temperature was eighty-eight when the Chicago Marathon was halted due to extreme heat. That year, the decision and announcement were made three and a half hours into the race. What if it was too hot on Sunday? Will the race be called? I hoped not. Although I was told by various individuals that since it is my first ever marathon, my only goal should be to finish, I began to visualize what I hoped to be my finishing time. I made mental notes of the strategy I would use from the start of the race, at various mile markers, and ultimately, at the end of the race when I would close the show with a spectacular sprint across the finish line. With all these thoughts and concerns racing through my mind, I could not sleep. It was almost 1a.m. and I was still tossing and turning. Finally, I fell asleep and woke up right at 5a.m.
I had my usual pre race breakfast of peanut butter sandwich with a bottle of gatorade. I gathered my race clothes, made sure I had pinned the card on the back of my race shirt which announced that I was running the marathon for sixteen year old twins, Liz and Emily, then grabbed my race bag and went out the door to the waiting car as my sister and her fiance drove me to a train station in downtown Chicago where I would meet Rich Karnia, the young man who would be my sighted guide for the first half of the marathon. Rich would run the first thirteen miles than hand me off to Peter Mullen who would take me the rest of the way. With 45,000 runners and thousands of volunteers, gear check and area near the start line was chaotic. We made our way through the mass of humanity and finally to the start line. The elite professional runners went off at 7:30a.m. followed by those who qualified for a specific start coral, then the open coral which was everyone else. We were in the open one. The race began and we inched our way towards the start line. At one point Rich said we were about five city blocks from the actual start as we slowly followed the pack of runners. A few more minutes went by and Rich said we were about two city blocks away. More minutes elapsed then he informed me that we could start to jog across the official starting line. By the time we officially began the race, twenty-six minutes had elapsed since the elite runners had begun.
The plan was to take it slow and find a comfort zone. We figured that we might be jogging for some time at the start because of so many runners. This would be okay with me since I did not want to go out too fast in the early miles only to find myself walking without any energy left by the final few miles. I wanted to start slow, build up to a steady pace, and close the show on a tremendous high note by shifting into another gear of speed. The crowds were so supportive from the opening few steps. Screams and cheers came from all around. After we had run about 200 meters, we heard someone scream, "Come on, you're almost there!" This received a chuckle from various people including Rich and me. We made it through the first mile. Then the second. Rich is the head coach for both the varsity and junior varsity girls cross country teams for Marist High School so he was wearing one of his team shirts. Every few meters, people would yell out, "Go Marist!" Or, "Way to go Marist. It's all you!" As we made our way through mile three, I began to plan out when I would start picking up the pace to my desired race pace when I had to move to my left to avoid running into someone as did Rich and in the process, I turned my left foot suddenly to plant it and push off further left than originally intended. In doing so, I put all my weight on my left side while I was only on the ball of my foot. My ankle shook unsteadily then a sharp pain engulfed my left foot and I found myself planting the left foot down in a dip in the road as it twisted awkwardly. I hoped it was just an awkward plant, but I knew immediately, it was much worse. I knew I had sprained it. So many questions filled my mind. Is it bad enough that i must stop? Does my day end right here midway through mile three? After a few minutes, I felt I could run through the pain. It was difficult so I started to pray hoping the pain would go away. It took over a mile, but I soon felt I could live with the pain. We reached an aid station and took a break for the rest room. Rich suggested I unlace my shoe and tie it tighter in the hopes it would keep the ankle in place as to avoid any swelling. At that moment, a young woman called out my name. It was Sylvia, who was also running in the marathon. I had known Sylvia through my friend, Michele who just told me a few days back that her friend was also competing in the marathon, but what were the odds that we would actually run into each other along the course? Rich and I resumed running. The pain was much less, but the discomfort remained. We pressed on down Lake Shore Drive then to Wrigleyville which was one of the craziest parts of the race. The fan support was spectacular. The cheers were loud. There were times I could not hear Rich's commands because he was drowned out by the crowd. As was the case in Boys Town. We worked our way back towards downtown and neared the thirteen mile marker. My ankle was still bothering me, but I was fighting through it. We reached the exchange point where we were greeted by Peter Mullen. Rich said he would head over to the twenty-fifth mile and when we would arrive there, he would run the final mile with us.
Peter and I began the second half of the race. In the twelvith mile, Rich's final mile guiding me, he informed me that he would push me so that we would finish strong which I believe we did. When Peter took over he had me kick it into high gear. He was fresh and excited by the moment. I was hurting, but I pressed on not wanting to disappoint him. We reached the fourteenth mile which was where many of the marathon charity groups were having a block party. I heard screams of "Go GLASA!" Peter recognized someone he had met the week before at the Bucktown 5K. He and I kept a steady pace for a few miles before we hit a small stretch of few fans. Not having the loud crowd support, I eased up a bit. The sun was beginning to take a toll on me as the temperature hit about eighty-six degrees. As we hit an aid station and moved into mile seventeen, the fan support became electric once more. As we weaved around people, I thought I heard people screaming my name. I looked to give the thumbs up to the crowd just in case someone was screaming my name and that's when I heard a voice which sounded like my eldest sister. That has to be her. As it turns out, all four of my sisters were there screaming for me and one of them was recording Peter and I running by. This helped push me forward, but I then heard an announcement that the weather had reached dangerous levels and there was a possibility the race would be stopped. At the very least, runners were asked to slow down and take extra caution. We made it to the twenty mile mark and Peter said, "This is where the race begins." For me, this is where I hit a wall. I was able to make it halfway through the mile before finally having to truly slow up and consider walking. I was so proud that I had gone this far before having to walk. This was the longest distance I had ever run before walking. We navigated the final few miles weaving through so many walkers. At one point, Peter informed me that we were among the hand full of people who were still running. Most were trying, but were unable to push. Others had simply decided to walk. We entered the Pilsen neighborhood and cheers of "Go Mexico!" filled the air. It was a festive stretch with music, dancing, and noise. Then we reached a turn that Peter said was the last big turn. From that point, we were heading back to the downtown area and into Grant Park. We reached Michigan Avenue and the crowd truly began to carry me. We neared the twenty-fifth mile when I heard Rich's voice. He joined us just as we arrived to the final aid station. I stopped running to walk through the station. The second I stopped I cramped up in both legs just above my knees. It almost felt like both knees were locking up on me. The pain was so much I almost began to cry. One mile to go. I could not bend either leg. I could not walk. I did not think I could run anymore. After trying to simply move forward for a few minutes, the pain went away. I bent my legs and resumed running. Rich and Peter kept encouraging me and estimating how much further we needed to travel. With about three quarters of a mile to go, I heard a woman on my right screaming, "You can do it! You are almost there!" I wanted to stop running and I guess she could see it in my face and body language because she then stated, "You can't stop now. Think of Liz and Emily. Think of how proud they will be that you finished." I pressed on. Rich said, "You have about half a mile to go. You're doing great." Screams and cheers grew louder. The finish line was in sight. I could hear the public address announcer. Rich said, "This is it. About 300 meters. Give it all you have." I forced myself to find some speed and and as best I could, I galloped acrossed the finish line.
I had done it! 26.2 miles. I had now become a marathon runner. In my first attempt, I completed the marathon distance in my home town race in front of family and friends as well as conquering the course on the same day so many friends had done so too. Of course, this amazing achievement was made possible by Rich Karnia and Peter Mullen volunteering to guide me. Two men who I had not met until three weeks ago decided to step up to guide someone neither of them knew, but in short order and on this extremely special day, they had played a major role in helping me realize that I too can run the 26.2 distance the same way the great Paula Radcliffe did when she shatter the women's world record at the 2002 Chicago Marathon. I battled the heat and ankle pain to gut out my own victory. 10-10-10 the date Sexy Isra accomplished something great!
Here is a link to video of Peter and I running at mile seventeen as well as Peter, rich, and I reaching the finish line
One day! In truth, about nine hours remain before the start of the Bank Of America Chicago Marathon! Eleven months ago, I informed Keri Schindler of Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association that I wanted to run in the 2010 Chicago Marathon as a member of Team GLASA. It seemed so distant into the future. Now, I am hours away. As is the case on the eve of each race, I can not sleep. I am tired, but unable to sleep. I have my bib pinned to my race jersey and a card informing people on whose behalf I am running. My guide rope is packed. Rich Karnia is set to guide me for the first half of the race and Peter Mullen is set to pick me up at about the midpoint and guide me home to the finish line. I am grateful to those who donated to my fundraising efforts. I am excited at the opportunity in front of me. I am a Chicagoan so making my marathon debut in my home town for a wonderful cause in front of about two million spectators and countless others who will be watching the local coverage on NBC 5, on the TV station's web site, or those who will be listening to WSCR The Score 670AM is such an overwhelming thrill. I can not stop smiling. I am nervous because I have never run 26.2 miles, but I managed to push myself through the 20 Miler three weeks ago. The predicted weather is eighty-six degrees. I hope it is a bit cooler since I would not want to run the risk of having the race cancelled as it was stopped in 2007 three and a half hours after it began due to the heat. I am grateful for the support from family and friends on this site as well as on Facebook and Twitter. I hope the running I have done to prepare for this event will pay off and help me especially through the final six miles which is when the race truly begins. I could have run more. I could have trained more consistently, but I also know that I ran more in preparation for this event than I ever have for any previous race. In fact, when I was dedicating myself to working out five days a week lifting weights, running stairs, doing pushups, sit ups, biking, and running 3.0-3.5 miles, I did not work out as much then as I believe I did in the last six to eight weeks getting ready for this marathon after completing the New york City Triathlon. If I can stay focussed, hydrated, and relaxed with the best running form possible, then I should shine in a way I have never shine prior. For anyone who will be along the course or wishes to track me, be on the look out for bib number 30001. Feel free to scream out my name. Now, time to get some rest because in the morning, it will be a spectacular fun filled ride of excellence as I have never experienced.
2 Days away from my marathon debut at the Chicago Marathon. In fact, as I write this, there are about thirty hours left before the official start to the race. The expo is going on currently and I plan to make my way to pick up my packet, which includes my bib, tomorrow. My bib number is 30001. Having not worked out in a couple of days, I am feeling out of shape. I truly wanted to work out and get a run in over the last couple of days, but I understand that the best option is to rest and relax. I need to stay hydrated and stretch throughout the day. I appreciate the support and encouragement family and friends have been offering. I am looking forward to seeing family and friends who will be showing up at different points along the race course to cheer for me and other runners. I am still quite nervous since I have never run this distance in my life, but I am also confident from the successful performance at the Chicago Area Runners Association's Ready To Run 20 Miler. I have a few more miles under my belt since then including two fabulous runs earlier this week where I sustained a nine minute pace for seven miles. I am excited to get going on Sunday. I am hoping the weather is as warm as is being predicted, but not too warm where there is a chance medical personnel and organizers may call the race. It is getting closer and I am getting chills. This is so exciting! I also wish to thank those who have donated to my fundraising efforts for Team GLASA as I am running the marathon on behalf of sixteen year old twins, Liz and Emily, who have benefited greatly from the programs Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association offers youth and adults with physical and visual disabilities. One more good night of rest is in store for me tonight because I know tomorrow, as much as I try to relax, I will not be able to do so and will probably be up half the night attempting to calm my anxiety and excitement.
Three days away from the 2010 Chicago Marathon. I was told that by now I should not be doing any training. I should simply be resting. I planned to get a few miles in today, but on second thought, I decided to rest. After all, I felt feverish yesterday and throughout the day, I have been feeling a scratch in my throat. I am drinking fluids, stretching, and taking my Reliv nutritional supplements. Family and friends have been expressing support and encouragement. There are a few who have asked why am I even attempting to run 26.2 miles. I made a commitment to do so.
Having of time on my hands today, I reflected on the reason I would ever consider running a marathon. I found myself thinking about my mindset when I sat down to write my full length screenplay of a short film script I had written years prior. During this process, I read plenty of online articles and watched many television programs featuring actors, writers, and other entertainers. I learned plenty from those articles and programs. I fantasized about having my work produced and experiencing great success. I was drawn to the fame, money, and women. Those became my driving forces. I wrote and wrote then began acting classes. After a few years, the first piece I submitted was selected to be part of Prop THTR'S New Play Festival in Chicago. I met with the director, Emily Lotspeich, the dramaturg, G Riley Mills, and the cast.. I listened to their notes and worked on the rewrites. After spending hours at rehearsal, I rushed home to start on more rewrites figuring I would probably get through the first few pages within an hour, but because it was already 11p.m., I would not work on it long. Before I knew it, it was after midnight. Then after 2a.m. I kept working. Then I noticed it was 6a.m. I thought to myself, somewhere out in the world, my parents, siblings, friends, nieces, and nephews were getting ready for a hard day at work or school and here I was pulling an all nighter typing away at a computer. I was not being paid for this work. I was simply doing what I love. I was sharing my story. At that very moment I realized, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life! I want to tell stories, share myself, and evoke a response as a writer, actor, and director. I shared my excitement with my dear friend, Rani, who said, "That doesn't surprise me. You've always said you do it for the fame, money, and women, but deep in my heart I have always believed that deep in your heart you do it for the right reason. You do it for the higher good."
Maybe Rani knew it all along. Maybe other friends knew it too, but I did not truly see it until that moment. I am given opportunities to do special things. I can make a difference. I always thought that once I had the fame and money, I could flex my influence to bring about change. Yet I realized that I need not wait for the fame and money. I simply had to commit to giving of myself. When I have the fame and money, then those will be added bonuses, but at this point, I can still be a light for those in darkness. I can spotlight good causes through my artistic and athletic ventures. I can participate for the higher good. That is why I am willing to take on the challenge of 26.2 miles. As my dear friend, Therese Rowley, said to me recently, "Let your legs run for those who can not." I can speak for those who can not. I can race to raise awareness for individuals and organizations. Along the way, I can lead a healthy active lifestyle while carving out a physique which truly makes me Sexy Isra!
This debut at the marathon distance is for me. I am prepared to push my body and learn something new about my body and mind. This debut is also for a great cause. Great lakes Adaptive Sports Association which is a non profit which organizes competitive and non competitive athletic events for youth and adults who have physical and visual disabilities... On Sunday, I hope to shine for my own benefit. I also hope to shine for the higher good.
Then there were four days left before October 10, 2010 and the Chicago Marathon. On Monday and Tuesday I ran seven miles each day figuring those will be my final extended runs prior to Sunday. One thing I have never been good about is following a training plan for any race. I always believe that in a perfect world, I would not train for any race. Instead, I would simply lead an active lifestyle which incorporates weight lifting, biking, swimming, running, stair climbing, and martial arts. The races would just be a part of that established active lifestyle. I do however follow some individuals on Twitter and have friends on Facebook who are experts in the fitness arena. Personal trainers, writers, professional and elite amateur triathletes, coaches, and others from whom I learn plenty by simply observing, reading, and questioning when I can.
With each passing hour and day I am filled with anxiety and excitement for the pending race. This is the biggest race of my life! Simultaneously, I am attempting to remain even keeled and simply viewing the Chicago Marathon as just another race. Sure, this will be my first ever attempt at 26.2 miles. Yet, at every turn I have been faced with my biggest obstacle to date and I always overcome. A friend asked me yesterday, "Are you worried you won't finish?" Not until I was asked that question. I have always finished every single race I started. This will not be any different. Even when I could barely swim in 2008, I made it through the Hudson River at the New York City Triathlon. Even with very few miles under my belt, I gutted out the long distances of the AIA Half Marathon and the Sugar Land 30K (18.6 miles). Thinking about my past races caused me to reflect on this journey to the start line of the Chicago Marathon.
It is easy to say the journey began when I officially registered for the race. It may bee argued, the journey began when I started to train in earnest after returning from my second New York City Triathlon this past July. After some more thought, I concluded that the journey began when I first reached out to Matt Miller of the C Different Foundation to express my desires to join CDF so that, with Matt and CDF's help, I could one day attempt the Ironman Triathlon. As a result of corresponding with Matt, I found myself a few months later at the start line of my very first race in November 2007. The Turkey Trot 5K in Lincoln Wood, Il where I was guided by my dear long time friend, Angela Scheffler. Then Brian Pearlman guided me through the AIA Half Marathon in Fort Lauderdale which was soon followed by Brian meeting me in New york to guide me through my first ever olympic distance triathlon. In fact, it was my first triathlon of any kind and the first time I had ever done a swim longer than the length of a pool. Over the next few years, I raced in local Chicago events such as the C4 Miles on behalf of the Community Counseling Centers Of Chicago guided by James Kolasinski before deciding to take on the challenge of running in the Finish Line Sports Sugar Land 30K when I was guided by Ross O'Dowd whose previous longest run was ten miles. Of course, I did not know, until his wife Jane brought it up, that Ross' ten mile run was accomplished when he was thirteen years old. Earlier in the spring, I returned to shorter distances when Michael Crissie and his brother, Brian, escorted me through the Chicago Spring Half Marathon. Then Michael took on the challenge of guiding once more a few weeks later at the Soldier Field 10. Special thanks to Justine Boney for making that event possible for me. Matt Miller asked me to once again answer the call by returning to New York for another swim in the Hudson as part of the New York City Triathlon. This time I was escorted through the course by Brendan Hermes. After which, my attention focused on the Chicago Area Runners Association's Ready To Run 20 Miler where I was guided by Rich Karnia for the first half and Jennifer Pfaff for the second portion. I met Peter Mullen when he guided me for the Bucktown 5K a few days ago.
It truly has been a long winding road to get to this point. Those races I listed are just the major highlights. I have met some special individuals as a result of my contacting Matt Miller on Memorial Day 2007. Except for three races, my guides have always been first time guides. In fact, the three races where I did not use a first time guide were events where I was guided by Angela Scheffler, Brian Pearlman, and Michael Crissie who all enjoyed guiding me for one event that they insisted I consider them for any future races which I did. Upon further reflection, all these races have prepared me for what is to come on Sunday. Sure, I am nervous, but I think of Brian Pearlman's response on the eve of the AIA half Marathon when his wife asked if I was nervous, he said, "Of course he's nervous. I don't care if you're a world champion runner or a weekend warrior running in your first event, you will always be nervous because it's a race." As the weekend nears, I will get even more excited and anxious, but those feelings let me know I am alive and I care about what I have invested to make my marathon debut. It will be long and hard, but ultimately rewarding. Part of what makes it a rewarding experience is that I am running in this marathon for sixteen year old twins, Liz and Emily, who are two young women who have received so much from their participation in events organized by Keri Schindler and the staff at Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association. Through my running and fundraising for this wonderful non profit, Liz, Emily, and countless other youth and adults with physical and visual disabilities can continue to enjoy a rich active lifestyle while building self confidence. It has been a long road for me, but I can not put a price on the difference I can make for others by traveling down this road.
If you wish to donate to my marathon charity cause, please log on to:
It is technically less than five full days away from the Chicago Marathon. 10-10-10. The date to motivate. Earlier today, I logged on to the Chicago Marathon web site and was reading a brief description of each year's event. I grew up watching the television coverage so it was fun to go down memory lane and attempt to recall viewing some of those great moments in race history. I use to marvel as the elite athletes who were flying through the streets of Chicago at about a five minutes per mile pace, but who were so effortless in their motion that it did not seem as though they were moving that fast. After losing my sight, it took me quite a long time to adjust to watching any program on television. If it was a sitcom or one hour drama, I struggled to follow the action. If it was a sporting event, it was difficult to follow the action since the play-by-play announcer did not need to describe the action in great detail since a majority of the audience could see the event unfolding. As a result, I spent many years only watching programs where I had a mental picture of the actors, setting, or location such as TV shows I grew up watching in the 1980s. While away at college, I attempted to watch coverage of the Chicago Marathon, but it just was not the same experience as when I was a little boy sitting in my parents' living room surrounded by my family. Starting in 2001, I found myself drawn to the Chicago Marathon coverage once more. I had been unaware that I could also listen to the radio coverage, but somehow, it too was not the same experience.
In 2002, one woman single handedly drew me to the Chicago Marathon and motivated me to stay. Paula Radcliffe had a beautiful record shattering performance on that October morning that was so awe inspiring that I instantly became a fan while watching her glide through the streets of Chicago. Paula's magnificent display made me a fan of the marathon distance, but I still found myself wondering why people do that to their bodies.
In 2003, I was looking forward to the marathon coverage. Radio personality, Mike North, talked about the race days before then days after as he interviewed a coworker who had run in the marathon on behalf of a charity. The coworker talked about the difficulties of training, running, and recovering from the event. If I remember correctly, she was even hospitalized because she had done some major damage to her body. North asked her and others why anyone would ever put his or her body in that sort of danger and for what reason? I completely agreed with him that doing that to one's body is crazy! I am amazed at the great Paula Radcliffe and other professionals, but there is not a way in which anyone could ever convince me to run a marathon.
I started running on a more consistent basis for the first time since the mid 1990s. I started thinking if I could ever get in good enough shape to run a marathon. I laughed it off because I was not Paula Radcliffe nor Deena Kaster. Then Lokelani McMichael inspired me to seriously consider doing an Ironman Triathlon. The last leg of that event is running a marathon. I began to think if I ever wanted to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles, I should probably attempt 26.2 miles as an individual event first. Soon, the thinking that people must be crazy to do that to their bodies quickly changed. I knew that if I surrounded myself with the proper information, coaches, and training partners, I would be able to pursue marathons in a smart way. A great source of information on healthy nutrition and activities was Fit Nation hosted by Gina Lombardi. I also read various articles which she published online. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. Then I discovered the C Different Foundation and Matt Miller. Before long, Matt called to invite me to run in my very first event. AIA Half Marathon in Fort Lauderdale. With only four training runs under my belt, the longest being 4.7 miles, I flew down and completed the race guided by Brian Pearlman. I was proudest that I ran the entire distance and closed the show with a splendid sprint to the finish line. I knew that with proper training I would be able to complete a full marathon in fine fashion.
Then in 2009, Keri Schindler of Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association asked various runners who would be interested in running the 2010 Chicago Marathon as a member of Team Glasa. I jumped at the chance. I would have eleven months to prepare. Of course, I would have other road races and triathlons along the way to aid in my training. As soon as registration opened, I signed up and received my email confirmation that I was officially registered. Reading that email filled me with excitement and anxiety. As months turned to weeks, I began to think more and more about my decision to run in this event. Now, it is marathon week and I am about five days away from toeing the starting line to run in my first ever marathon. Adding to the excitement and anxiety is that this is my home town race. I have walked the streets of Chicago throughout my life and now I will run through them guided by two men, Rich Karnia and Peter Mullen, surrounded by 45,000 other runners and an additional two million fans lining up the streets. My fondest memories of Grant Park were the Chicago Bulls celebrating six titles. On Sunday, I will get a shot to celebrate my own accomplishment when I start and end the race in the very same Grant Park. It has taken many years, inspiration by Paula Radcliffe, and a desire to push my limits for the sake of finding out what can my body handle and how will my mind react. Right now, it is all over the place. Five days left to ride this roller coaster of emotions in preparation for meeting my destiny.
When I had the privilege to star in the first of my theater pieces to ever be produced, my autobiographical piece, I had the chance to meet so many wonderful individuals in and out of the theater, film, and television worlds. After one of the performances, a young woman approached me to discuss her reflections on my writing style, performance, and show. Her name was Cynthia Shur. I was so thrilled at her kind words because I respected her talents as a writer and actor so much. In fact, as time went on I found myself, as I often do, sitting down to write a new play and from the first scene all the way through to the end, I kept envisioning Cynthia in the lead role. It was a huge thrill to then speak to her, express my desire for her to play the lead, and to find out she was truly interested in the piece. Cynthia is indeed a talented artist and great friend.
Readers and fans can frequently see Cynthia in various projects around the Chicagoland area and elsewhere. She does some fabulous work with Chemically Imbalanced Comedy Theater including tonight's industry night performance of The Book Of Liz at CIC Theater located at 1420 W. Irving Park Road in Chicago at 8p.m.
In one week, I will be getting up bright and early to head out the door to make personal history by running in the Chicago Marathon which will be my first attempt at 26.2 miles. Two individuals, Rich Karnia and Peter Mullen, will have the responsibility of being my eyes and guiding me through the course and through to the finish line. On this day, I had a chance to run in one final race prior to the big day when I accepted the offer to run in the Bucktown 5K.
The race began at 8:30a.m. which meant my wake up call was much later than for a typical race. I was up by 6:00a.m. and out the door by 7:15a.m. My brother-in-law, Michael, gave me a ride to the event where I met up with others who were running on behalf of the Blade Runners. As a member of Team GLASA, I was happy to lend myself to the cause. It was a bit cold and windy, but thankfully, it was not rainy. Due to the chill in the air, I decided to keep a sweatshirt underneath my Blade Runner racing shirt. I brought along some running pants, but ultimately felt I would be more comfortable wearing only running shorts. I met Peter Mullen for the first time and explained how to guide. We chatted for a bit, joined the rest of the group for a team photo, and then made our way to the start. I heard there were about 5,000 runners in this event so after the gun went off, we slowly inched our way to the start line. This was good practice for next week's marathon where 45,000 runners will be toeing the start line and it may take up to thirty minutes to finally get going. As we neared the start, the public address announcer stated, "Hey, there is a visually challenged runner and his guide. Good luck to you two. Way to go." I smiled and shook my head. I guess for some, it is nice to be singled out in that fashion, but for me, I do not need that. We finally started running, but immediately it was clear, we would have to zig zag our way through the crowd. sure enough, as we moved through the early stages, Peter had to maneuver us by and around little kids about eight years old, walkers, and adults jogging with baby strollers. I hoped for an opening where we would be able to push ourselves a bit after finding our comfort zone, but through the first mile, it did not materialize. We pressed on as Peter guided me to the left side of the street to continuously pass people. As we made our way, we kept finding ourselves boxed in by walkers and strollers which began to take a toll on me mentally. It was clear through the first mile that Peter had found his comfort level with guiding so I wanted to open it up a bit, but the condition of constant congestion did not allow for it. We made it to the second mile marker. We once again found some opening, but it soon closed. As we moved by a group of folks, I heard a man say, "Oh, that's nice." He told the woman with whom he was running, "That young man is blind so the guy running with him is his guide calling out obstacles and getting him through the course." She responded, but I could not hear what she said because we were soon by and beyond them. The sun made an appearance and I began to feel hot. We headed down the home stretch, but unlike most races, I could not find room to sprint down the final straight-away. My legs felt as though I had not done any work. It almost felt that I had just spent three miles warming up for a solid run. We simply coasted across the finish line and Peter said it was best we did not push it because we would want to remain fresh for next weekend's big race. After all, this event was more for supporting a good cause and ensuring Peter had a chance to experience guiding under race day conditions so he will be at ease when Rich and I meet up with him at the halfway point of the marathon where he will then take control of the tether from Rich to get me home back into Grant Park for what should be a celebratory and emotional experience for me.
A week from tonight, I will be anxiously anticipating the Chicago Marathon which will take place on Sunday, October 10, 2010. In that race, I will be guided by two men gracious enough to volunteer to be my eyes, Rich Karnia and Peter Mullen. Until recently, I had never met Rich Karnia. The first time we met was at the CARA Ready To Run 20 Miler where he guided me for the first ten miles of that event. As of this entry, I have never met Peter. That will change in the morning when he and I will take part in the Bucktown 5K presented by Ram Racing. Peter has never guided someone in a race so I figured the 5K would be a great way for him to see what it is like while also experiencing race day conditions. I plan to take it slow the first mile as he figures out how to best communicate the information needed for me to run comfortably. As we move through the 5K course, I am sure Peter will find his comfort zone and we will be able to push ourselves a bit. Then hopefully, by the end of the race, we will conclude with a splendid sprint to the finish. It will be nice to run faster in this event than I did a few weeks ago at the GLASA Twilight 5K, but the main purpose is to give Peter a chance to experience guiding under race day conditions to best prepare him for the longest run I have ever done when Rich, Peter, and I work together to tackle 26.2 miles in one of the greatest races in the world.
I am a playwright, screenwriter, actor, triathlete who grew up playing sports, fell in love with the talk radio industry, and now enjoys telling stories and evoking emotional responses from fellow artists and audience members