I use to think people who ran marathons were crazy. I use to say I would never do that to my body. Paula Radcliffe ran through the streets of Chicago faster than any woman in history. On that October day in 2002, I fell in love with the marathon distance. When Paula next ran the distance even faster through the streets of London than she did in Chicago, I was inspired to run 26.2 miles.
It took many years, but finally, on 10-10-10 I ran my first ever marathon in Chicago. I needed my first one to be on the streets where Paula set the world record. Rich Karnia and Peter Mullen helped me become a marathoner by guiding me to the finish. In 2011, I turned to Ironman triathlete, Kimberly Shah and elite marathoner, Jennifer Pfaff to be my eyes. I improved my time by forty-six minutes and qualified for the Boston Marathon. In 2012, I once again turned to Kimberly and Jen to help me break the four hour barrier. I did. I improved my time by fifty-two minutes on route to a second straight Boston qualifying time.
This Sunday, I will be guided by two amazing women. Ironman triathlete, Lindsey Cook and elite runner, Elizabeth Bilitz. It will be an honor to run through Chicago guided by two amazing, accomplished, beautiful women. In 2013, I have been able to achieve my wildest dreams. I would have never guessed I would win my division in Sugar Land, Texas on route to qualifying for US Paratriathlon Nationals. I would have never believed I would race at the CapTex Triathlon as part of the field racing in the Paratriathlon US National Championships then actually pull off the victory to win my first ever title. I then had the great privilege of representing the USA in London at the World Championships. Now, I return to Chicago to close out my season. As is the case before every race, I am nervous. I have achieved so much this year, but I wish to do more. The truth is, the focus all year long has been on triathlons and not long distance running so I am not quite sure how my body will react to being pushed to 26.2 miles. One can argue, the Chicago Marathon is the capper on a tremendous season and I should view it as a celebration. I certainly will. One can also argue that I wish to do my very best so I must be willing to push through the mental and physical struggles to run my fastest marathon ever and qualify for the Boston Marathon for a third consecutive year. Of course, when I first reached out to Lindsey and Elizabeth, that was the plan. I wanted two talented individuals to help me break my current marathon personal best by at least thirteen minutes and help me capture another BQ. It has been said that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. While I was looking to prepare for the marathon, I won a national title, was named to Team USA, and went to London. While I was not able to put in the volume of miles needed to prepare to run the marathon, I have been training all year long. I find myself running 5Ks and 10Ks faster now than a year ago. In fact, I am running those distances one minute per mile faster if not more. I am lighter than I have ever been entering a marathon weekend. I am as light as I was in high school. I am much stronger too. The marathon distance, while a race to be respected, is one which does not scare me as much as it use to scare me because I have tackled it successfully three times. I have improved my time each time. I am always in better shape and better mentally prepared. I feel both is true in this case even if I do not have the volume under the belt. I have the wisdom of previous attempts. I have the wisdom I learned from Kimberly and Jen. I have the guiding light of the talented, amazing, and beautiful pro triathlete, Jenna Parker. I have the comfort of knowing that this year, unlike any other year, I have displayed the ability to overcome pain late in races to finish with strong sprints to the finish. I have been able to withstand physical, emotional, and mental self doubting to motivate myself and get stronger as I near the end of races. If I trust Lindsey and Elizabeth as I know I will, then I merely have to leave my life in their hands. They will get me through the marathon. If I enjoy the experience and focus on how this is a celebration then before I know it, I will near the end and maybe just maybe, I can throw down one final mad dash sprint to the finish to cap off my most successful year with a personal best and a third consecutive Boston qualifier. If I do that, Lindsey and Elizabeth will be proud beyond belief. Somewhere out there, I believe Kimberly, Jen, and Jenna will enjoy a measure of pride and satisfaction for how they played a role in inspiring, motivating, and preparing me.
For anyone out on the course on Sunday, feel free to say hi to the fella sporting the Pinnacle Performance hat, racing top, and shorts. You may also spot him by noticing the two beautiful women, Lindsey and Elizabeth. Check the back of his top and if it reads: Sexy Isra then you will have found me!