45000 Personal Bests

This morning I hung out with 45000 folks.  It was a lovely way to start a Sunday morning at 730am.  You see today was the annual Chicago Marathon.  The course, as it winds it’s way through the city, usually runs somewhere in the vicinity of my house.  I can remember one year it went right by Wrigley Field.  It was really cold that year, I was wearing my Columbia jacket with the lining zipped in.  I rode my bike down with my dog Lily and we arrived in time to see the elite runners.  They are amazing to watch.  You can’t hear them as their feet barely make contact with the earth as they fly by.  It was incredible.

This year, the weather was much warmer, although not as hot as the year they had to stop the race.  The humidity was really high that year and the organizers didn’t have enough water out for folks.  This year it was dryer and there was plenty of H2O for the runners.  We learn lessons really well in Chicago.  Like how snow removal, or lack thereof, will ensure you don’t get re-elected the next time (see How Jane Byrne Became Mayor in Wikipedia).  So the organizers were very ready for conditions this year.

I had a special reason to get to the course.  My friend Stephanie was running in her hometown and for a wonderful charity (PAWS – Pets Are Worth Saving).  I donated to her fund as did others and she wonderfully dedicated each mile to a furry friend she’d known throughout the years.  My dear departed Lily was mile 8 which is where I was standing.  A nice bit of serendipity wouldn’t you say?

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to spot her.  After all, there were 45000 people running, how on earth would I be able to pick her out of the crowd?  And since I was still pretty near the front, there were coming in big groups as the crowds hadn’t had time to thin out.  I kept my eyes peeled all morning long.  But in the midst of all this pressure, I was cheering on whomever came into my eyeline.  Lots of runners put their names on their shirts so I was calling out to random people urging them on.  Lots of thank you’s came back.  The sheer magnitude of what they were undertaking was overwhelming.  I was blaming it on the sunscreen getting in my eyes, but I found myself tearing up thinking about their quest.  It was humbling to see all those people from all over the world running for themselves and any number of charitable causes.

Finally I hear my name being called out and look to see Stephanie with the biggest, most beautiful smile on her face waving at me.  I was so excited for her I started whooping it up, bad for the voice but oh-so-necessary for the accomplishment!  She finished with her personal best even with the hot conditions.  I’m so proud of her, proud of all those who even signed up to attempt such a goal.  They stuck their necks out and just showing up that morning was a win for them.  Kudos to all.

Makes me think…nah.  That’s just crazytalk.

26.2 miles

Yesterday was the Chicago marathon.  The past 2 years we’ve had freakily, if that’s a word, warm weather, in fact, 2 years ago they had to cancel the race midstream due to the heat and runners suffering severe dehydration.  This year the weather was on the really cool side, perfect conditions for long distance runners and predictions were records would fall.  Sure enough the 10 year old course record was broken by 1/100th’s of a second with the winner finishing in 2:05:41.  That time just blows my mind.  In slightly more time than 2 episodes of 60 minutes, a man ran from downtown Chicago to the Motel 6 in Dundee Road in Palatine IL.  If you’ve ever watched a marathon, the elite runners appear to be mythical creatures.  They fly by in a group and you can’t even hear their feet hit the ground.  There appears to be no effort, no strain, no difficulty on their part as they complete their trek.  It’s all in a days work to an outsider.  But the truth is in what you don’t see.  These people train daily, watch every single calorie they intake, analyze every aspect of their stride and improve the minutiae that will enable them to take 1/100th’s of a second off their time.  That’s what a professional does.  They labor in obscurity for months and years perfecting every aspect of their chosen craft until they burst on the scene in a blaze of glory.  The proverbial 20 year overnight success.  So many times we see a person on the screen, or in an arena, or on the microphone and think “I could do that, it doesn’t look that hard”.  To achieve the appearance of ease while attempting the impossible makes one elite.  It’s something I struggle with all the time.  I’m smart, competent and trainable.  It just frosts my cookies when I don’t master something the first time.  Pretty arrogant of me.  I fall prey to that nasty vice of instant gratification.  Keeping the long term goal in mind and continuing to put one foot in front of the other, do one more audition, learn another monologue will keep those baby steps adding up and someday I’ll be proficient enough to run my marathon effortlessly.