(Megan’s girls) Makayla & Savannah, Emma & Gerrit
The starting buzzer must have gone off but we couldn’t hear it from as far back as we were. People started walking, waiting for their turn to cross the starting line. I could hear Eye of the Tiger playing loudly over the speakers. I gave Megan a high five and about 10 feet before the line, people started jogging. Here was the moment I had been working so hard for. I was about to get the answer to my question. Would my ankle hold up? I took a tentative step and another one. The air was filled with the sound of high pitched beeps as the racing chips looped on our shoes signified we had crossed the starting line. I giggled with glee as I said to Cheri “I’m running!”. I couldn’t believe it. My ankle felt good. No pain.
There was so much to absorb as we left. We were thick in a herd of runners and people were trying to find their pace. Every available hole was filled with runners trying to get ahead. I looked and saw Megan & Amy were about 10 ft in front of us but we couldn’t reach them through all the people. Down one street and around a corner. Cheri & I used the curve in the road as a way to sneak around some people. We reached them and I asked Amy how her knee was feeling. Good… how’s my ankle? Good! We’re doing it! Amy told me we just passed the first mile marker and I couldn’t believe it. The crowd was still so thick, it was hard to run our natural gait because you’d step on someones heel.
Mile 2 passed by and Amy commented that her knee was tight. Not a good sign. I reminded her that I had my phone if she needed it and she said she was fine. We continued on. My ankle was doing good. It didn’t hurt but I could feel pressure. Almost like it needed to pop or something. It wasn’t hurting so I wasn’t going to stop.
The 3rd mile took us off the roads and onto the trail. It was a beautiful site. The sun was rising and the field was golden, the sky was a brilliant blue and the leaves on the trees were showing us their gorgeous colors. It was cold but it felt good now. I looked over the field and saw the long line of runners that were ahead. They filled the mile ahead of us and past where we could see, curving around. It was amazing to see the sheer number of people ahead of us and I knew there were more behind us. I was excited to go around the bend after mile 3. The guys & kids were supposed to be waiting for us and I couldn’t wait to see them.
As we came upon the curve entering mile 4, Cheri & I laughed at the people already in line at the port a potties. Wow! We hadn’t been running that long but I could empathize with them. Not going to be me this race! We curved around and down a hill, I could see the crowd on the side of the road. I searched faces and found Dan & the kids. There they were with their signs that they’d made. I waved like a ridiculous idiot at them all and ran past.
The 5th mile was a bit hilly. It was sort of a rolling hill with 1 big one at the end. As we came down, I glanced over at Amy. I knew her knee must be hurting and asked her if it hurt more to come down the hills. She said yes and I asked her if she needed to stop. No, she wanted to keep going. Ok, but if you need my phone to call Steve, just take it. I could really see the pain creeping up on her and I worried she wouldn’t be able to finish. Another 8 miles to go. Megan had left us after mile 1 and Cheri started to pull ahead and leave Amy & I behind. I had figured that they’d be running at a faster pace than us considering Amy’s & my injuries so I wished her luck. The sound of a bus on the road interupted my thoughts. What the hell? Why is a bus going by? People around us were as surprised as I and started asking it out loud. Ohhhh… the relay teams must be switching off ahead. We moved out of the way and it drove past us.
Mile 6 was a picture of a beautiful fall day. The leaves were in their glory and the sun was hitting them in a spectacular way. The air was crisp and felt refreshing while running. My muscles were starting to tire and I decided to eat the first 3 of my shot bloks. I offered Amy some and she thought what the heck, maybe it would help her knee feel better. I could see the pain on her face and I worried more and more about her. She told me she felt great except for her knee. We could see the relay bus parked up ahead and could tell we were almost to Millennium Park. I told her to just jump on the relay bus and head back to the starting line. She insisted she could keep going. I told her again that if she needed to call Steve, just take my phone and have him pick her up. She told me she was hoping she could just run off the pain. It’s not a charlie horse Amy, if it hurts that bad you should stop. She kept running. I could see her pain but she refused to quit and I worried that she was hurting herself worse than it was before the race.
As we completed mile 6, she suddenly stopped running and was walking with a grimace on her face. Do you want my phone? She shook her head no and I asked if she wanted me to send someone back to her. She told me ‘Just go’ and I kept running. I felt terrible leaving her and I kept hoping that she would be able to start running again. I wondered if I should send someone back to her but if she started running again, they wouldn’t be needed. I crossed my fingers that she would be able to walk it off and keep running but I had my doubts. She would have never stopped if it wasn’t major. I said a silent prayer for her and thanked God for my ankle holding up. I was on my own.
As I ran through Millennium Park, I was sans a running partner but not alone. There were people all around. I passed some and some passed me. We came upon volunteers holding giant bowls. “Gummy Bears?” they offered. Now, I’m not normally down for gummy anything but if they were offering, I was taking. I figured they were more trained at running than I and knew something I knew not. I grabbed a hand full and kept going. The concrete ahead of me was a gummy bear massacre. Abandoned gummies were left everywhere. I stomped on them as I ran and chewed on the gummies in my hand.
Mile 7 included a pretty big hill. I looked up in surprise when I saw the people up a hill and curving to the right. What the frick? Everyone had said how this race was so flat. I distracted myself by playing my MP3 player in my phone in my security belt (no it’s not a fanny pack). I passed by 2 guys who were running each holding an end of an American flag. Someone next to me asked them if they were service men and they said yes. I thanked them for serving and kept going. We were heading down a hill and I could see people ahead again on the side of the road. I didn’t know if the kids and Dan would be there or not. I scanned the faces and saw them. I waved again and it warmed my heart to see them. I felt good but it gave me a nice boost to see them cheering me on. I tossed Dan my long sleeve shirt and left them behind me.
Mile 8 started soon after that and volunteers were handing out GU (pronounced goo). I had never tried the GU so I thought I would go ahead. Vanilla bean was the flavor I got and I must admit, it was delicious. Megan had joked that I’d be eating the whole race and it seemed like she was pretty accurate with that prediction! I was trying to keep fatigue in my legs at bay. I had read and believed I had experienced at the Bridge Run that running on fatigued muscles leads to injury. So GU and Shot Bloks were my friend this race. As I ran, a younger gal turned and remarked on my music. Oh… I’m sorry, does it bother you? We continued chatting for the next couple miles.
I saw the split in the path where the half marathoners and the full marathoners divided. How exciting! That meant we were getting there. Soon after, we started the 9th mile and I sang Fergalicious in my head while Fergie sang it from my phone. We were running through the woods and it was very pretty. I noticed signs placed strategically apart from each other. They said awesome things like ‘You don’t run for the glory. You don’t do it for the money. It’s for the passion.’ It was a little longer than that but I couldn’t memorize them all. I had just passed them when I heard loud music playing over speakers. I passed the 10mile marker and was heading back to the trail. 3.1 miles left!
I felt pretty good while I was on the trail. I knew I would pass the 11mile marker towards the end and I focused on making it there. I passed people who had started walking and I could make out Cheri’s shirt ahead of me. She was probably 1/2 mile in front of me. I considered sprinting to catch up but figured that would make a rough ending and decided to just keep up my constant pace. I thought for a minute about how my feet hurt. My toes had been hurting since about mile 5 but it wasn’t my ankle so I wasn’t going to stop.
I passed the 11th mile marker and tried to focus on finishing. Only 2 more miles. You can do that, Chris. 2 miles is nothing. I grabbed a Gatorade cup from a volunteer and handed him my empty water bottle. I chugged the Gatorade and kept going. Just make it to mile 12… just make it mile 12. I was tired and this was the hardest mile. I could feel my pace slipping and I tried to focus on the music playing on my phone. The devil inside me kept telling me to walk and as I passed others walking, it sounded like a good idea. Don’t walk Chris, you’re almost there. You’re not a quitter, you can’t quit. I can do this, I can do this.
Then I saw mile marker 12. Sweet Jesus, I’m doing it! I saw a man ahead that kept turning back and yelling encouragement to a woman walking. He was telling her to come on. “You can do it” I told her “We’re almost there”. She said I know and started running beside me. “Just focus on running to that light up there” I said. She said ok and ran next to me for a minute, then she started walking again. I left her behind me and as I turned onto a new street, it hit me. I was really going to do it. Tears welled up inside my eyes and I choked on a sob stuck in my throat. I couldn’t catch my breath for a minute and I told myself not to cry. But it was so overpowering. Here it was, the end was in sight. I was so overcome with emotion. I was really going to do it. I just couldn’t believe it.
I turned another corner and the finish line was down the street. It seemed so close, it gave me a burst of energy but as I continued to run, it was still so far away. I thought about how awesome it was going to be to cross that finish line. A moment I’ve dreamt of for the last 3 months. It was so close, I was almost there.
I went for the big finish (well, as big as I get after running 13miles). I sped it up and ran harder. I was concentrating so hard on the finish line and running faster. Suddenly, I heard my friend Traci yell “Go Chris!” I looked over and saw her & Rob standing there. I couldn’t help it, a huge smile broke over my face. Then I saw Dan & the kids, Matt, Bryan(Megan’s husband) & their girls standing on the other side. The announcer said my name and my time as I crossed the finish line. And there was Megan, cheering for me. We hugged each other and she told me to go get my medal. I found Cheri and hugged her as we both said “We did it”. We started crying. It was awesome.
I got my medal and made my way to Dan. He gave me a hug and the kids gave me hugs. Emma told me “I’m so proud of you Mommy” and tears welled back up in my eyes. Such an amazing thing to hear from your 5 year old. It was picture time and I got a tissue from Cheri to wipe the salt off my face. Amy found us and came hobbling over. She had ice taped to her leg. Pretty sure her meniscus was torn but an orthopedic surgeon would have to be the judge of that after an MRI. I could see tears in her eyes and I knew it wasn’t just from the pain but from the disappointment. She so badly wanted to finish the race. I know she would have if not for her knee.
We took a couple pictures and then headed over to find the beer. It wasn’t my favorite kind of beer but tasted great none the less. I can’t say I’ve ever earned a beer more than that day!
Gerrit with his sign to cheer the runners on
Coming down the hill, mile 3. I’m waving… can you see me?
Megan coming down the hill after mile 7
Me tossing my long sleeve shirt to Dan after Mile 7
Megan on the home stretch. The first of Team Hottie to finish
Cheri on the home stretch. She’s in black pants and a white tshirt right behind the guy.
Me on the home stretch!
A shot of the shirts we got so many compliments and comments on during the race
Megan and Amy hugging under the finish line
Me, Megan & Amy after the race
Megan, Me & Cheri