Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chicago Marathon: 5 Days To Destiny

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.

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