Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bucktown 5K

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.

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