Thursday, October 16, 2014

Choosing a Side of the Fence [Part 2]

Two summers ago, I wrote a post about Choosing a Side of the Fence.

It stemmed from a discussion I'd had about my future in marathoning. Back in early 2012, I'd debated registering for Chicago again. I'd completed four marathons. Did I need to do another?

At the finish line later that year, I was sure happy I had. To date, the 2012 Chicago Marathon remains my standing PR. Mother Nature provided ideal race conditions that day allowing for Jeff and I to knock 12 and 20 minutes off our standing PR's.

This year I was in for a change.

Late spring I was hopeful that after a few weeks in the PT clinic, I would be able to jump back into training. But as weeks turned into months, I had to come to the realization that a marathon wasn't in the cards for 2014.

That's when frustration really started to set in. So much so, that a few weeks ago I had a complete melt down in the PT clinic.

So for the first time in many years, I found myself on the opposite side of the fence on Sunday. Instead of being a participant, I was a spectator.

I thought about that scenario in the weeks leading up to the race. How would I react to not running the race? Would I be sad? Relieved? Even more frustrated?

As race day approached, I found I was in better spirits than I expected. I was looking forward to watching Jeff and some other friends. I hoped that I could replicate my Mom's to-the-minute spectator guide and see my friends at various points through the city.

Friday night, instead of carb loading, I made Jeff a sign -

It was fitting since Jeff and Ann had turned me on to Untappd while we were in California. I enjoyed creating a handmade sign. It made me remember the last time I'd taken the time to draw a sign by hand - my brother's homecoming from Afghanistan.

It was after the sign was complete that I started to become excited about watching the race. I couldn't wait to put on an old pair of running shoes, grab my Ventra card and hit the streets with the Untappd sign.

When Sunday morning came, we did just that.

Seeing Jeff for the first time on Addison was a rush. It's funny to say that as a spectator. While Jeff ran the race course, we tried to hop trains down to see him through downtown. Jeff was moving at a good clip and we missed him around the 12 mile mark. We then headed down to the south side.

Somewhere in between the miles through Little Italy or Pilsen, a marathoner's best laid plans can unravel. We waited just past the 21 mile marker on Archer for awhile, carefully scanning the crowd for red shirts. Then we saw him.

I could tell by the look on his face that he was happy to see us but also that he was in the toughest part of the race. The wall. But he had a goal and was determined. There was no doubting that. As the body begins to give up in the marathon, it's your mind that keeps one foot in front of the other. But you don't have to tell that to someone who's running marathon 10. Instead, you jump in with a few jokes. A story from earlier in the day. Or just to be by their side for a few blocks. Saying nothing. Saying nothing and wondering if he was listening to "Call Me Maybe" yet.

After I ran over to the side to get out of the race path, I watched him chug along down Wentworth. He looked strong. He was going to do it. He was going to smash his PR. Now it was just a question of by how much.

As I headed on the red line back to the north side, I received a text alert. Jeff had finished. Not only had he finished, but he had absolutely crushed his previous PR.

I smiled as I read the alert again.

Being on this side of the fence is pretty awesome too.

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