Chicago Marathon – Chicago, IL
Is there truly such a thing as selfless good deed? And if so, can you run a selfless marathon? Even if you are raising money for a charity or running for a “cause” most people set some type of personal goal for themselves. Selfless – [self-lis] adjective: having little or no concern for oneself, especially with regard to fame, position, money, etc.; unselfish.
Yesterday I ran a marathon. I was told by many that it was very selfless of me and remarkable to do such a thing. Men running by me with tears saying what an incredible thing I was doing, hundreds of thumbs ups, fist hits and sheepish nods of the most sincere expression that they were at a loss of what else to say. The night before the race, I went to bed early like all the other runners and put one running shoe on at a time just like everyone else with the same pre-race jitters the morning of. It was just another beautiful Sunday morning is the fabulous city of Chicago and today we were going to run 26.2 miles through the streets and neighborhoods of it.
I love this day. It is like a holiday to me. If I weren’t running it, I would have been checking my air in my tires and getting myself ready to ride all over town to watch as much of this exciting race as I could. I will never forget watching my first one; ten Chicago Marathons ago, and I have loved watching them ever since. In fact, I love watching this exciting sport more than I enjoy being part of the action.
On my way to the race with my running partner, he told what he needed to run to make a qualifying time for Boston and thought it would be a good carrot to have in front of him. Casually I told him that if wanted to make it to Boston, I would make sure that happened. My longest run before this week was 10 miles the week before. We made the walk to the race site, ran into a few fellow runners and headed to the start line.
It was unlike any start I had ever experienced as we made our way to the corral, I look behind us to see the elite runners filing into their area, then looked to the right to see twenty of the best runners in the world filing into their coral next to us. I felt like a little kid a Christmas filled with excitement and anxiousness – the butterflies in my stomach immediately doubled. Some might call it a disability start, I like to call it a preferred start. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to start in front of Ryan Hall and get to see him and the pack of the front 15 blow by you as you make your turn off State street?
7:20 the wheelchair group started, 7:21 the hand-cycles and other disabled runners hit the pavement. 1 partial amputee, and 4 visually impaired and 5 guides were the first to run down Columbus and Grand then onto State Street as the crowds were at their height. The race had started! People hanging over bridges, lining the streets yelling and cheering for you. We ran down the streets of downtown Chicago, with my running partner next to me, I described everything around us and at one point when it was just him and I on the block I told him we needed to milk this moment, and we did as we waved, the crowds only cheered louder. For 14 minutes we had the Chicago Marathon to ourselves and it was the most incredible race start I had ever had.
A couple months ago I had a runner named Israel contact me from the charity group I was working with and asked me if I knew of anyone who could possibly guide him for the marathon. A runner and triathlete, a man who just wants to race like the rest of us do, he is fit and has time goals, nothing to hold him back except he needs someone to be his eyes for him. As I asked around I got the same response from everyone, “Wow, that amazing, but I don’t think I could do it,” or “I would like to some day, but not until after I’ve gotten all my racing goals.” Well, since I have no marathon goals and I know my left from my right how hard can it be!?
It is hard. At least for your first few training runs. There are a lot of “I’m sorry’s”…a lot, mentally exhausting, bumping, tripping and very slow paced miles. But there are also a lot of laughs and stories and trust building. To build trust have someone trust you is a very big responsibility to live up to. There are many lessons in life that can help you learn that lesson, but none so profound to me as getting to help someone live his dream by trusting me to be his eyes as I lead him through the streets with 45,000 other people at a 9:00/mile pace.
The first 13 miles were a breeze, with a few bumps and only 1 trip. At times I felt like he didn’t even need me as we flowed effortlessly with the crowd of runners on both sides of us. But like any marathon, as the miles continued, the congestion and walkers start piling up. THANK YOU for having our second guide come in and run with us, as she took over the tether (as we are tied together) and I flanked the right side as we made our way through the slowing bodies. We had a goal – we were going to make it to Boston and we were going to make it come hell or high water.
Like most runners, there is a wall at some point. And the wall was hit. The other guide, Jen was phenomenal as the two of us became the “blonde bitches” (our joke) on the course as we yelled, cheered, prodded and pulled our fellow mate on his 26.2 mile victory lap. As a coach to an athlete who has a goal, who has trained to reach their goal, you show no mercy on game day. Today was game day and it was time for no mercy. Boston is what he wanted and we were going to make sure that was going to happen. With Jen as the sled dog and me with the whip we worked away at every mile until the last.
Anyone who has worked to make their way to a Boston qualifying time usually wants it so badly they can’t see straight…it is the same for someone who can’t see. The emotions are the same, the pain feels the same. One foot in front of the other, that is how we get there. We are all the same…we are runners. And in 4:50:38 we crossed the finish line with 9 minutes to spare, qualifying Israel for the Boston Marathon. But even more exciting, breaking his previous PR by 45 minutes!
Is there such thing as a selfless good deed? I didn’t do anything different from what I would do for my other runners. Every runner who wanted to qualify for Boston and I paced, has made it. I wanted to keep a perfect record. I think I may have enjoyed our preferred start start more than Israel; getting to have the crowds cheer for only us was pure elation, it was incredible! I want a start like that every year! Isn’t helping people who need help something we as humans should do? Wouldn’t that make the world a better place? And shouldn’t we treat others how we want to be treated? If something were to happen to me and I need help fulfilling my dreams, I would hope someone would want to help me.
If I can end with one thing, is that you don’t have to guide a blind runners through a marathon to be a good person. But have a little compassion as a person, maybe next time you see someone standing at the corner trying to cross you help them. It can be scary living in this big world in the dark. (Did you ever sleep with the lights because you were scared? I did. Still to this day I sleep with the lights on when I am in a hotel by myself.)