In 2013, I set my marathon personal best of 3:50. In 2014, I wanted to break 3:30:00. Bruised ribs prevented me. In 2015, I took aim at 3:30 again. Illness which knocked me out of a couple early season races hampered my training and racing performance. For every 2015 race, but one, Ryan Nord volunteered to guide me. In 2014, Wendy Jaehn guided me for the marathon and we landed on Chicago Athlete Magazine October cover. Fitting that Ryan and Wendy would be my eyes for 2015 Bank Of America Chicago Marathon.
We entered the Athletes With Disability tent before 6a.m. At 7a.m., we walked to the start line. At 7:22, we started. Wendy guided me for the opening half. Due to my health issues throughout 2015, I started at a 9:30 pace. At times I would run at 9:10 pace, but Wendy would pull me back. I eased into 9:15-9:25 pace. I wore my Pinnacle Performance Company race gear. People yelled, “Go Pinnacle!” Some read the back of my top yelling, “Go Sexy Isra!” Three miles in Ali Engin snapped many photos of us. Universal Sole’s owner, Joel Feinberg screamed out to us as he rolled by ahead of the pro field. Mile five. A young woman leaped out in front of us and pointed to me and waved her sign which read: “I’d swipe right.” Another woman called out. It was Christine Bell, Jen Pfaff’s friend. Just then, a woman screamed my name. It was Jen Pfaff and her friend, Skittles, on route to a three hour marathon. Between miles eight and ten, Wendy kept me from pushing too early. I felt strong.
Midway point. Wendy handed my running tether to Ryan. Crowd roared. Mile sixteen. Ten left. Start pushing? If I go too early, I will regret it late. Runners all around us walked. People complained about the 60° and 70° weather. Sun beat down. I debated if I should join the walkers. Then I thought, is that what Jenna Parker coached me to do? How disappointed would Jenna, Ryan, and Wendy be in me? I kept running. Urge to walk remained. Sun is hotter. Confidence in myself and desire to keep running waned. I hit a wall. Ryan, “right there. Mile nineteen.” I came alive. Band played. Crowd roared.
Mile twenty-one. Wendy, “Pick it up, Is. Five to go.” I waited. 35K mark. Friends, todd Smith and Mike Casey should be cheering nearby. Must run strong. Wendy and Ryan both spotted Ali. I pumped my fist. I wave to him. Michigan Avenue. I had slowed to 10:30 pace. time to push. 40K. My buddy, todd nelson yelled out. Wendy and Ryan cheered. 8:45 pace. We weaved around people. We flew by them. I charged up a final hill. Quarter mile left. As we crossed Wendy and Ryan lifted my arms.
Twenty minutes off my personal best. I was satisfied with my strong finish. Thank you Ryan Nord and Wendy Jaehn for embracing me as your friend. Thank you Jenna Parker for being my coach, friend, and inspiration. Thank you Pinnacle Performance Company for sponsoring me. Thank you Saucony for helping me find my strong. Thank you Bank Of America and Keri Schindler of AWD for a well organized event.