All in A Chicago Marathon Story
By the time this is published, the Chicago Endurance Sports (CES) training group I’d been running with this summer will be gathering at the Ben Franklin statue in Lincoln Park getting ready to have their last long-ish training run before Race Day. I will be asleep. Or maybe I’ll have dragged my fickle body out of bed to bang out some work before the kid wakes up and the dog needs to be taken out and the wife needs her coffee. The point is that I won’t be at the Ben Franklin statue in Lincoln Park getting ready to have a run. Because I’m not running the Chicago Marathon.
At the end was when something hurt. This was new. This wasn’t sore. This was different. Yet, I chocked it up to, well, just having run twenty glorious, goddamn miles. I guzzled water, I stretched, I ate a banana, I rode my bike home. At home, I stretched, I took an ice bath for ten minutes, took a nap. Katie and I hung out at the 312 Block Party at Goose Island for a bit before calling it a night at nine. All day, my right leg would blast with pain at every step.
Marathon training puts time and distance into relative perspective. Once you prove you can run seventeen miles on a Saturday morning, jogging a quick five constitutes an easy run. Six miles is nothing. It’s a breeze. It feels like less work than walking across the street to pick up my dry cleaning. Christ, I hate running errands.
Running is as much a mental game as it is physical. My trick to placing well in races when I ran cross-country in high school was to tell myself, “The faster you run, the sooner it’s over.” That doesn’t work when there are 26.2 miles ahead of you. You have to take each mile on its own or group a few together. Make the marathon bite-sized. Savor it. Until that last mile. The faster you run, the sooner it’s over. But even when you’re done running, you’re not done quite yet.
Here are sixteen post-run requirements every distance runner must complete after each long run.
The decades that have passed. The experiences that came when I was tender and new. Experiences that have happened since and may happen again, but they’ll never feel quite like they did when they were the first time or when there was less to lose and far, far less scar tissue. As I clip past the miles, it becomes clear to me that life experience can have a way of dulling life’s experiences. Like running a marathon, it takes a lot of strength and self-awareness to overcome that mopey thought and figure out new ways to enjoy familiar wonder.
Jim Von Handorf ran marathons for the same reasons he climbed mountains: to escape and to conquer.
A career fireman in Nashua, New Hampshire, Jim was an outdoorsman to the fullest. He climbed mountains, bouldered, swam, bicycled and ran. His daughter, Amy explains that her dad could never really sit still. That he had a constant need to just go, go, go. He grew up in a small, Boston apartment with a lot of people. The bustling tightness of the city drove him to get out. It was always in his nature to escape. He was into Thoreau and Kerouac. He needed space. So he headed into the wild. His mountaineering expeditions he made with his buddies took him to peaks all over the country where he would test his mettle against the elements and his own limits.
He even showed esophageal cancer that he was not one to go down easy.
The changes in weather and running routes made for a cornucopia of uncertain and enjoyable scenery. Each run was an adventure and it challenged me to stay loose and attentive and fleet on my feet and to mind my body so as not to overheat or underhydrate or freeze off my skinny fingers.
Bomb shelters, makeshift bunkers mean certain death. To survive, we must keep moving. Word of clean air has spread like gossip. It’s always just over that ridge or two clicks beyond that hill. And so we run. Speed, strength, and endurance are our only hope for survival. This is our marathon.
What was I thinking?
I’m running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. Why? Because I’m forty. Because I haven’t run a marathon before. Because I need an excuse to get off my writer’s ass and move so I can live long enough to not die. Because I believe in the mission of Gilda’s Club Chicago and fundraising by running seems to be a pretty great way to get money out of your friends and family. So I am running as a member of Team Gilda.
But my god, I’m behind the ball on this.