I’ve written bits and pieces before about the Chicago Marathon, but truly, my posts don’t do it justice.
It is remarkable to watch. It is extraordinary just to be in the crowd. Jeez…can you imagine what it’s like to actually be running in it?
When I was a city gal, I would watch the elite runners fly by from our windows (five stories up) on the final mile. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I would grab my sign, my keys, and some water, and head down to the street. The sign I made was the same every single year: Run with heart.
For about six hours, I would yell passionately and enthusiastically:
Keep going, don’t stop!
You’re doing great!
Turn the corner, the finish line is right there! (true story)
Go, go, go…don’t give up!
Last mile, last mile!
C’mon Hawkeyes!!!!! (alma mater, ride or die)
Kick this marathon’s ass!
You know how most marathoners put their names on their shirts? Well, I would scream the hell out of your name. Nothing made me more excited than to give runners a personal shout-out during one of the toughest runs of their lives. It’s exhilarating to make that connection as anyone who runs knows that when your energy is GONE that even the slightest encouragement will help you eek out a few more steps. And a few more after that. And a few more after that.
I’ve seen some pretty intense stuff standing along that final mile. Blood stained shirts, a few tumbles to the ground, pleading glances from pained participants, tears streaming down faces, and those who are hobbling along while battling injury and/or exhaustion. It’s brutal and emotional.
A few years back my cousin ran, and I kept waiting for her to show up so I could flip my sign over to show her my special shout-out. By the time she came around, girlfriend was limping and struggling. Fortunately, she was running alongside my other cousin (TEAMWORK!) but she still needed a little bit of help. So I pulled her arm over my shoulder, threw my sign to the side of the road, and I ran her to the finish line. When spectators saw what was happening, they broke into intense cheering. Keep going! Get her there! Keep going! Tears were pouring down my face when I watched her cross that finish line…it was so beautiful and so humbling that I’m getting choked up now just thinking about it (forever filed under ‘the coolest moments of my life’).
That seems to be the power of this race. It can send you to the lowest lows and build you right back up to the highest highs. It can break the strongest. It can inspire the weakest. And yes, it can even have these affects on spectators.
I’ve tried to reach out to some fellow Tumblrs who are running; just hoping to send some extra love and encouragement. Should you wish to follow their racing journeys, here they are:
Elizabeth of One-Twenty-Five (her fourth(!) marathon)
Alishan of Awesomeness Abounds (a working mama who trained her a$$ off)
Jamie of Teeth Bracelet (witty + cool gal, her first marathon)
Good luck to all. I wish so badly I could be there to cheer you on. My sign is not there, but my well-wishes are being dispersed through the universe as we speak. Run with heart. And also? KICK THAT MARATHON’S ASS!