Originally, I planned to run the Chicago Half Marathon on September 27 with an eye towards breaking 1:40:00 and threaten 1:30. Due to illness throughout the summer, I had to run slower.
Ironman triathlete, Dan Tun volunteered to guide me. It was chilly when he and his sister, Erin, picked me up, but it had warmed up by gun time. We made our way across the start line. Dan yelled out to fabulous photographer Ali Engin, but Ali did not hear him. I hanged on to Dan’s elbow for all of the opening mile. He was confident the course would eventually open up. I ran this event with Todd Smith four years ago when he too felt it would eventually open up only to run 13.1 miles of misery never breaking free of the bottleneck.
Jenna Parker wanted me to ease into it and negative split the race. I ran the first mile faster than I wanted. At the start of mile two, I let go of Dan’s elbow. I slowed my pace. Runners yelled to us, “You’re running strong” and “You’re an inspiration.” Having slowed to 9:45-9:50 pace, I was not running strong. I did not feel like an inspiration. At mile four, I heard two female pace leaders chatting. “Look at his shirt. It reads Sexy Isra.” They laughed. One said, “You’re looking great Sexy Isra!” The group cruised by us. At mile six, a fella called out, “Antonio, I’m with the Chicago road Runners. I’ll take pictures of you, okay?” I smiled. He snapped some photos. Off to my right I heard a male runner ask his friend, “Did you see that? I photobombed Antonio’s pictures. I’m awesome.” At mile seven I picked up the pace to 9:30.
Seven miles in the books. Time to go to work. Dan, “This is the turn-around. Less than six left.” During miles eight and nine, I ran 8:45 pace. I went for the negative split. 8:25 pace. “You’re flying by all those who passed us in the early miles. It’s like they’re standing still.” Footsteps ahead. I raced to catch and fly by them. Runners huffing and puffing. I reeled them in then drop them quickly.
Final mile. 8:20 pace. Could I hit 8:00? Dan, “There’s a pace group about 400 meters ahead. Let’s catch them.” I pushed. Half a mile left. We caught them. One of the pace leaders, Cynthia, spotted me. “Hey, it’s Sexy Isra!” We crossed the finish line.
Afterwards I saw friends, Lisa, Dana, and Mike. Ali Engin came up to me. “Isra, you ran today? I didn’t see you.” Turns out, he heard Dan at the start, but did not turn around in time. I had a wonderful conversation with the Chicago Half Marathon race director. Thank you Dan Tun for guiding me. Thank you Jenna Parker for coaching me. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me.