18,132 Seconds of Awesome – The Chicago Marathon
“Fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run.” –Rudyard Kipling
After the marathon, my mom asked my dad if he ever thought about just stopping. Without even thinking about it, he says, “No, never, not once!” I am proud to say that I am my father’s daughter. From the start, the thought never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t finish, that I wouldn’t crawl myself across the finish line if that’s what it came to. But that wasn’t enough for me; I wanted to run the marathon. I didn’t care if I was running a 14-minute mile or a 7-minute mile, I wanted to run every step of that race, and I wanted to have fun.
This is what I told Coach Joe when we met in April of this year. I didn’t make it easy for myself, with my first sprint triathlon, my first Olympic triathlon, a 3-week trip to Africa, and my first marathon all in a 5-month span. Joe came up with a dynamic, intensive, and innovative training plan for me to reach all of my goals, and I followed it to the T. There was no time for self-doubt, as each week I got to prove to myself that I could always do more than the week before. By the time October 9 rolled around, I was feeling great and just wanted to get started!
At the 7:30 start, I was really excited! The first half of the race was perfect, the temperature was hovering in the high 60’s, low 70’s and there was plenty of shade. I saw my family around mile 10, and I passed the legendary Experience Triathlon Cheer Crew at mile 2 and at the half. The energy was pulsating through the loop, Wrigleyville, Boys Town, and Old Town, as I passed cheering fans and creative signs. (My favorite was one that simply stated, “Worst Parade Ever.”) My adrenaline was pumping – so much so that I didn’t really realize that I had injured my foot around mile 9.
Before I knew it, I was halfway to the finish! Funny thing about being at the half is that you still have another 13.1 miles to run. That small detail didn’t quite set in until mile 16, when the temperatures shot up to the mid-80s, there was no shade, and each aid station became more like a minefield than an oasis. However, I tucked in my chin, gritted my teeth, and hopped from one aid station to the next. My injured arch became more and more of a problem, my hips were excruciatingly painful, and I kept slipping on cups, empty gel packets, and banana peels.
For those of you who know me, I have a tattoo on the inside of each ankle. Each tattoo is in honor of an extraordinary man who had a hugely profound impact on my life. My Grandpa Kelly re-learned to walk three times before he passed, and my Uncle Duane defied the doctors’ predictions and continued to live his life to the fullest even while his body was dying. Courage, determination, and optimism run in my blood, and in an existential moment around mile 18, I thought about how proud they would be of me right now, and I thought about how proud of was of myself for making it as far as I did. There were only eight miles to go, and the ONLY thing that could stop me was myself.
I attacked that course with a new perspective. And yes, by “attack,” I mean I shuffled the crap out of those last eight miles. I shuffled so hard, they thought about naming it after me. But more importantly, I started to smile again. I saw my mom at the aid station at mile 21, and I started to laugh. The only thing I was thinking about at this point was, “THIS IS THE COOLEST THING I’VE EVER DONE IN MY WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE!”
How lucky was I that I was one of 45,000 people bringing the city outside on a beautiful Sunday afternoon? That I hated running six months ago and was now having fun during a marathon? That I was healthy enough to run the marathon in honor of my loved ones who were not? And most importantly, that I was sharing this experience with my dad, brother, two cousins, three friends, and my fellow ET athletes? Every step was a new accomplishment, and with each one I was getting closer to the finish.
When I passed the ET Cheer Crew once again at mile 25.2, it was like getting a breath of fresh air. I was really, truly, almost there! Turning that final corner and seeing the finish was incredible, for lack of a better word. I do not know what happened or where the energy came from, but I stopped shuffling and ran. I don’t mean “ran” like my even, strategically paced jog at the beginning of the race. I mean I kicked it into fifth gear and sprinted that last 250m like it was my job, and I crossed that finish line 5:02:12 later with a smile so big it made my cheeks hurt. 🙂
I would like to thank my family for some killer DNA, their undying support and encouragement, and that sitting on the sidelines is just not good enough. I would like to thank Coach Joe for never once doubting that I could achieve all of my race goals this season and for helping me transform into the athlete I am today. I am so excited to continue this journey with Joe and the rest of the ET crew who have become my extended family. And more than anything, I would like to congratulate my brother, Sam, my dad, Larry, and my two cousins, Kady and Amelia, for finishing their first marathons, too. WE DID IT!
Did it hurt? Excruciating. Was it hard? Exhausting. Was I prepared? Entirely. Was it worth it? Definitely. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Click here to enjoy all the photos from our day at the 2011 Chicago Marathon