Friday, October 01, 2010

The Last 5 Miles

[26M marking at the crest of the Roosevelt Street Bridge. One week after the 2009 Marathon]

The first 20 miles of a Marathon are much easier than the last 6.2.

For the Chicago Marathon's course, that's on the South Side as you travel through Pilsen, Chinatown, Bridgeport, IIT and then the South Loop.

Last year Kim agreed to jump in with me around 21 off of Archer Avenue. I asked her to bring some good stories and jokes. I may not be talking much at that point, but I'd need her to.

Her placement was key. I wanted her to be after 20 but before the busy Chinatown area so she'd be easier for me to find.

The last few miles, leading up to 21 were challenging. But mentally, I told myself I just had to get to Kim.

She picked me out of the crowd. She jumped in, asked how I was doing, and then asked me what I needed. She had her pockets filled with any thing a marathoner could need (advil, gu, gum, water). I didn't have to tell her what to bring - She knew exactly what someone needs at mile 21.

Running through Chinatown and down to Sox Park wasn't all too bad, but that changed as we turned to go east over the Ryan. I knew I still had some work to do, and this is where Kim really turned in to my coach.

Heading north felt like a warp zone. I was still moving close to my pace, but it felt so slow. Each block seemed to be a few blocks long. I started calculating how many blocks I had left. We remember being at Cermak (2200S/22nd) and thinking that Roosevelt was (0). I was out of it.

Kim continued to be encouraging, telling me stories and asking how I was feeling.

We had talked about her jumping out in the South Loop before the crowds became too thick. Around 17th she asked me what I wanted her to do. I asked her to stay with me, so she did.

As we headed further north, it dawned on me that my previous calculations were wrong. Roosevelt was 1200S or 12th, not 0. I was closer than I thought. Ok, I thought, just make it to the bridge. Once you're at the bridge, you're just about done.

It was right before the bridge at Roosevelt that Kim jumped out. The course was on the north side of the bridge and the south side was closed off. Kim jumped onto the south side of the bridge and ran along with me, just on the other side of the planter dividers.

Through all the cheering from the hundreds of people on the Roosevelt bridge, I could hear Kim saying -
"You look great. You've got this. Use your arms!"

Then I looked to the left and saw my Mom, Dad and my best friend. I thought, how lucky am I to have people I love supporting me?

I looked over to my right and saw just her head over the planters. That's when I started tearing up. How lucky was I to have a friend that was coaching me through the toughest part of the race?

I turned the corner onto Columbus and saw the finish line. I could still hear Kim cheering me on above everyone else. I crossed the finish line. A wave of emotion came over me. I had not felt that way during my first marathon.

I walked through the corrals and saw Kim at the fence. I walked up to her and thanked her. I could not have imagined doing that last leg of the race without her.

Seeing how different the last five were in 2008 and 2009, I wonder what 10.10.10 holds?

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