You know that feeling when you prepare for something for so long, and then it’s over in the blink of an eye? My Marathon was nothing like that. I felt every second of the 4 hours and 49 minutes I spent running.
I went into the race nervous, but felt prepared. I trained for 4 hot and humid months. I put in long run Saturdays, speed work Wednesdays, short runs most other days. I iced body parts I didn’t know could hurt. I found chaffing on body parts I didn’t know touched anything else. I tried on shoe after shoe for the perfect fit. I did stretches that undoubtedly made me look like a fool. And when I crossed the finish line, I realized I couldn’t have done anything to prepare for what I felt during the race.
I cried. I cried crossing the starting line, letting go of my husband’s hand because he was pushing for something so much greater than I could ever dream of. I cried under the bridge at mile 1 when I got the first glimpse of family members and friends supporting their loved ones. I cried in Lincoln Park when I ran past the nursing home where dozens of elderly residents sat in front of the window and waved to us, most with no clue why. I cried while running through the streets filled with gay pride flags in Lakeview East. I cried more every time I saw a mother or father take a few moments away from their precious time to give their little one, that was eagerly waiting on the sidelines, a squeeze. I cried at mile 24 when I saw a runner who already earned his medal, cheering us on from the sidelines. And then I cried at the finish, not just because of what I had accomplished, but also because of what I got the joy of seeing 45,000 other people accomplish.
Each mile was filled with so much emotion, pain, and excitement. Each mile felt longer and shorter than the last. Somehow, each mile felt faster and slower than the last.
I made friends with so many people I passed, and that passed me, without ever speaking to them. I learned about so many people’s lives in such a short amount of time. I saw runners who were supporting loved ones who are no longer with us. I saw runners supporting loved one who were waiting for them at the finish because they beat cancer. Some runners were supporting their sexuality, their political opinions, their religious beliefs, their cultures, their diseases, their friends, their choices. Millions of people took time from their day, battled the marathon traffic, took money from their pockets, and set up to support. They handed out candy, pretzels, drinks, and even jello shots. Residents opened up their homes to total strangers to use their bathrooms. There were wives, husbands, children, siblings, friends, and pets that came out to share these moments. So many cultures gathered together to show their love, not just for their own culture, but for everyone.
I found something in everyone around me that reminded me of my running group. I saw legs ahead of me that reminded me of legs I see on so many Saturdays. I saw shoes that are worn by one of the pacers in the group. Every runner had a voice, without saying a single word.
I read somewhere that you run the first half of a marathon with your legs, and the second half with your heart. I don’t know if there is a more true statement. Every step after mile 13.1 was a fight, a mental fight. With every mile that went on, I listed 40 reasons why it was okay for me to stop or to walk, and only 1 reason why I needed to keep going. I fought with everything in me, and when I knew that wasn’t enough, I prayed. And I prayed, hard. I knew that this wasn’t up to me to keep going; it was only God that was going to lead me to where I needed to be – the finish line.
If you want to find out who you really are; if you want to push yourself to something beyond what you think you are capable of; if you are questioning the spirit of mankind; if you want to question your own sanity; if you want something to change who you are – run a marathon. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t stand – volunteer. Participate somehow. You will never meet a more compassionate, strong, kind, loving, and determined group of people than marathon runners, volunteers, and supporters.
Chicago opened up their town to so many people. They fed us, supported us, and showed us the way. They laughed with us, cried with us, and believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves.
I will never forget this incredible experience, this amazing city, and the 1.7 million friends I made.