Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Long Winding Road To Chicago Marathon

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.

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