I am always anxious on race morning. For triathlons, I fear the swim. For marathons, I fear my greatness. Entering Chicago Marathon, I was scared. After being cast in Open Space Theatre Bleacher Bums the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, my training fell apart. It was difficult to coordinate regular track sessions or long runs. My friends understood my top priority was to Bleacher Bums cast and crew. I did not have the proper training. I had the experience of seven marathons and six Boston Marathon qualifiers. I had all I have learned from triathlete, model, actress, writer, Jenna parker.
3:45a.m. I wished I had been fresh off a Bleacher Bums performance preparing for a Sunday show instead of 26.2 miles. 5:15a.m. I met up with Mike Casey, my guide for the first half. We walked to Athletes with Disability tent where we waited to file into the start coral. I spoke to Amanda McCracken who remembered me from ITU Paratriathlon World Championships in London. I look forward to racing with her in the future.
I stripped to my Pinnacle Performance Company hat, top, and shorts. Mike and I filed in ahead of the pros. Gun sounded. Race on! 26.2 miles to go. Spectators roared. No pressure. No expectations. Mike, “It’s a nice Sunday stroll with your friends.” I did not want the frustration of not being fit or fast ruin my race. There would be time for self doubt during the Come To Jesus moments late in the race. Pro men and women flew by some yelling out, “Go Sexy Isra.” Rest of the elites ran up and by us many yelling out my name. I did not want to know distance or pace. I was sad heading into this race. Getting that information would make me feel worse. More runners ran by. Mike greeted his pals. Women encouraged me. At mile four, Mike asked, “What’s the deal with all these women calling you sexy and screaming your name? There’s no way you know all these women on a first name basis.” I replied, “You’re running with a rock star. Get use to it!” As more female runners called out my name, Mike wondered how they knew me and from where.
Mike did a masterful job the first half. Erica Alansari took over the tether for the second half. In a couple previous marathons, mile nineteen is where I doubted everything. I can not run. I can not pleasure a woman. I would fall apart. Mile nineteen. Erica asked about women in my personal life? By responding, I forgot the misery. “Holy shit! You just ran your fastest mile today.” I felt strong through next several miles. Almost to Michigan Avenue. From there, a three mile sprint to the finish. I come alive. I feel the same joy as when I had sight. Erica, “We’re making the turn on to Michigan.”
I flipped my Pinnacle Performance hat backwards. Time to display my strong sexy legs. Erica encouraged me. Final mile. My quads and hamstrings burned. Final 400 meters. I coasted across the finish with my seventh straight BQ.
Afterwards, Mike and Erica reviewed my splits. Turns out, I ran the first half faster than I thought and second half slower than I thought. Thank you Mike Casey and Erica Alansari for being my eyes for 26.2. Thank you to my sponsor, Pinnacle Performance Company! Thank you lovely Jenna Parker for your friendship, coaching, and support.