Dressed and with breakfast in my belly, I headed to the Newton 20 Miler along the Chicago lakefront. I arrived at about 6:20a.m., walked to gear check, and loaded my bag into the bus which would take the gear twenty miles south to the finish line. I waited as I heard the first few waves go off. Before I knew it, wave twenty-three had gone off and I was still waiting by the bus for my guide. I heard a voice call out my name. She walked up to me. It was the lovely, Liz Bilitz. She volunteered to take me the first ten miles of this event. We walked over to the start. Within a few minutes, we were crossing the starting line on route to heading twenty miles. It was a slow pace to start out. We were going at a twelve minute per mile pace. I was nervous. I am sure so was Liz. Being that it was her first time meeting me and guiding a person who does not have sight, I am sure she had butterflies in her stomach. Soon enough, I found myself feeling comfortable with her instructions. We crossed the first mile. She was getting the hang of it. I was much more relaxed. The footing was a bit tough, but we continued. Pretty soon, Liz told me me were under a ten minute pace. We made it to the second mile marker. Now we were starting to find a groove. There were times we were pushing closer to nine minute pace, but for the most part we stayed at about 9:30. Liz was sharing her observations describing our surroundings. Time was passing quickly. We were moving.
The miles rolled by on this Sunday morning. It was suppose to be in the low seventies, but it was much colder. Plus, it was raining. Other runners remarked that they had heard it would not rain until early to late afternoon yet other than the rainbow Liz mentioned she saw just as we had started to run, there was not a bright sun in the sky as I had hoped. The wind picked up in some spots. At about mile seven, I took a step and landed funny, but luckily, I righted my step and did not sprain my ankle. Memories of the Chicago Marathon of 2010 entered my mind. Liz kept guiding. Shortly after, I stepped funny again. My right ankle shook a bit, but once more, I righted my step avoiding a twisted ankle yet again. Before long, Liz was telling me we were within sight of the aid station of mile ten were she would hand off the tether to her friend and mine, Jennifer Pfaff. I heard Jen's voice. We had reached the aid station. After a quick break, Jen took over the guiding.
The first mile with Jen was an adjustment for me. Although I had run this same event with Jen last year, I needed to rediscover a comfort level with her calling out information. It was taking her a while to adjust to guiding again too. It was nice because it allowed me to take a break at pushing my speed by slowing down and reaching a good zone. Soon enough, we were feeling it and picked up the pace. The rain kept coming. In some spots, the wind was howling. We reached the aid station at mile twelve when I heard the voice of a beautiful woman call out for Sexy Isra. It was Jemma who I met through my association with Imerman Angels. She is a professional Board Member. As the miles piled up, many more people would yell out "Go Sexy Isra!" At one point, a young woman runs up to us and asks, "Are you Sexy Isra from Twitter?" Yes, I am. It was Adriana. A young woman who I follow and who follows me. It was so great to finally meet her. Others expressed encouragement as they passed or as we passed them. Jen kept sharing her excitement for how well we were doing. With every step and every mile marker, we were nearing the end. At one point, I was shocked to find out that midway through mile seventeen, we were moving at a 8:48 pace for a stretch. I felt good, but I found myself needing to walk in short stretches. Finally, Jen insisted no more walking until we get to an aid station. I wanted to walk. She insisted I had it in me not to resort to that. Sure enough, she was right. I kept running until the aid station which was half a mile away. We arrived at mile nineteen. One more left! I walked for a short distance then Jen made me start running again. At that point she said no more walking. Run through to the finish. I said to myself, "No more." We rolled and kept going all the way across the finish line. Twenty miles after I had begun running with Liz, I had crossed the end with Jen.
We walked around finding my bag and taking free samples of various products. We made our way to the buses which would eventually take us back to the start line way back on the north side. From there I headed home. The last big run prior to the marathon complete. I hope to get in a few more double digit runs outside with friends, but it is time to begin to focus on the Chicago Marathon in three weeks. Thank you to Jen and Liz for guiding me for the twenty miler and I look forward to the opportunity to run with them again.