Just after the 12-mile mark, the marathon course tracks past The Merchandise Mart, where my dad worked during his glory days. I spent many weekends at my dad’s office when I was growing up. I can never pass the Mart without thinking of him. He was a workaholic, but more importantly, he was an alcoholic.
As we crossed the Chicago River near the 12-mile marker, we passed the building where my dad once worked. “That’s the Merchandise Mart,” one of the pace team leaders yelled to the group. “It’s the largest office building in the world.” I bowed my head and prayed for strength. Not for me, but for him. At some point during his life, he’d lost the strength he once had; he died of alcoholism at the age of 58.
Last month marked the 10th anniversary of this death.
My dad never knew me as a runner. For a decade, I hated running, thanks to a bone tumor in my leg just below my knee. The surgery that changed my life, and opened up the world of running to me, happened just two months after my father died. Read the rest of this entry →
Hope For The Warriors is one of the official charities of the ING New York City Marathon. (Photo: RunKarlaRun.com)
Want to run the ING New York City Marathon on November 3, 2013? You still can through one of the race’s official charity partners like the Brain Tumor Foundation.
Thanks to the cancellation of the 2012 ING New York City Marathon, charities are having a hard time filling their spots for the 2013 race. The Wall Street Journal examined the problem in an article on July 19. As of then, half of the normally sold-out 8,200 charity spots were still available.
Theories abound why the charity bibs are taking longer to sell-out this year. One reason may be that New York Road Runners—the organization that puts on the race and one that I freelance for as host of On The Run—offered 2012 charity runners the option of taking a guaranteed entry into this year’s race without raising money again. According to the Journal, 64 percent of the 2012 charity runners have done just that for 2013, with some electing to fund raise again.
Another theory posits that charities are suffering under the compressed timeline for the 2013 race. While NYRR worked to sort out the resolution from 2012, they weren’t promoting the 2013 race. As a result, the application process and lottery took place a full month later than usual, giving charities fewer months to recruit runners.
Others speculate that some runners may have lingering fears regarding security in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings in April or don’t like how NYRR handled things after Hurricane Sandy.
My own personal theory? I think many runners wrote off the 2013 ING New York City Marathon as impossible to get into. They knew a large portion of the race’s spots would go to runners from the canceled 2012 race. So instead of waiting to enter a really tough lottery, they committed to other fall marathons instead. Read the rest of this entry →
The Walt Disney World Marathon (Photo: Marathon Foto)
Last week marked the sixth anniversary of my very first running race back in 2007. Last fall, I chronicled how I went from a person who loathed running to someone who loves it. How much do I love it? Over these last six years, I’ve run 53 running races with number 54, the UnitedHealthcare Providence Half Marathon, in one week and numbers 55, 56 and 57 already on the books.
Looking back at six years of racing, it occurred to me that certain races have a special place in my heart. Every runner has that race they look forward to every year, the race they’ve always dreamed of running, the race that moved them in unexpected ways. These are mine.
So without further ado, here are my “Races to Remember,” the running races that left the biggest impressions on me, culled from my six years out there on the road.
The Spirit of the Marathon exhibit is now open at the National Hellenic Museum in Chicago.
After so much talk about ‘the spirit of the marathon’ in the wake of the ING New York City Marathon cancellation, I thought I’d share this: a museum exhibit dedicated to the history of the marathon, titled just that. It seems especially prescient in light of recent events.
Disney’s Princess Half Marathon was a fairy tale race.
If you keep on believing, the dreams that you wish will come true. Cinderella sang those words and I took them to heart. At Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in Walt Disney World in Florida, I channeled my inner Cinderella and believed that I could break my half-marathon personal record (PR). Disney races aren’t for PR’s many people say. Just have fun, they tell you. But on Sunday, Feb. 26, I learned that it’s possible to PR and have fun too.
Running in Costume: Cinderella and Prince Charming
For starters, I feel compelled to confess: I ran in costume. Not just that, I cajoled my fiancé, Phil, to run in costume with me—as Cinderella and Prince Charming. Cinderella has long been my favorite princess, ever since I saw clips of the film on my Fisher Price Movie Viewer Theater back in the early 1980s. I even named my dog Cinderella. What better character to summon for a half-marathon than a gal who knows how to put her head down and work hard?
I found that once you put on a costume and give in to the Disney spirit, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have a good time, no matter how painful the running itself may be. Read the rest of this entry →
Letting kids race teaches them that fitness is fun. (Photo: runDisney)
When Disney puts on a race, they don’t just plan one running event: they’re Disney races. As the world’s largest media empire—Disney sits at No. 1 on the Fortune 500 list of entertainment companies—they orchestrate an entire weekend of festivities that everyone in the family can enjoy, from first-time runners to marathon masters, kids to adults, and even spectators. That’s one of the best parts of Disney race weekends: there is something for everyone.
At Disney’s Princess Half Marathon Weekend from Feb. 24-26, my family is putting the Disney races to the test. At least one family member will be participating in every Disney race distance offered during the weekend, including the Princess Half Marathon, Tangled Royal Family 5K and Disney Royal Family Kids’ Races. We’ll also hit the Pasta in the Park Party at Epcot and Disney’s Fit for a Princess Expo. This is my third Disney race weekend, but the first with my nephew and niece. It makes me happy to pass along my love of running to another generation. But more than that, I think it’s important to include kids in fitness events from an early age. Read the rest of this entry →
Wanjiru breaking the half-marathon world record at The Hague in 2007. Photo by FaceMePLS.
Like everyone else, I was shocked to hear that Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya, the reigning Olympic marathon and World Marathon Majors champion, died Sunday in a fall from a second-floor balcony in his home in Nyahururu, Kenya.
To call it sad is an understatement. He was the bright, shining young star of the sport. That his personal life often fell short of the dazzling man he was on the pavement, and of the hero-worship he inspired, is also sad. Reports of his death have involved more talk of his personal woes than of his running. That his life ended tragically, under questionable and preventable circumstances, and in a manner that only highlighted his humanity is, quite simply, heartbreaking.
But for those of us that did not know him, except as that brazen young kid who not only talked the talk, but walked the walk of a champion, I’d like to remember his legacy as a runner. Read the rest of this entry →
The 2010 ING New York City Marathon is now another notch on my hydration belt. After months of agonizing, planning, plotting, scheming and dreaming, I ran the best race I could.
I sang. I ran. I conquered.
Sunday, Nov. 7 was that rare day of days when, Murphy’s law be darned, everything went right. Not only was it my fastest marathon to date, but it was also the most fun. I wasn’t just running; I was singing at the start of the wheelchair and professional women’s races. Read the rest of this entry →
Ryan Hall has had his share of ups and downs as a runner (Photo: Shan213/Flickr)
Runners tend to be goal-oriented people. Whatever the goal may be, we plot, we plan and we train to make it happen—running right, eating right, sleeping right, doing everything “right.” But what happens when something goes wrong?
I found out the hard way in the last two weeks of my training for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 7. Reassessing goals and shifting expectations are among the hardest things a runner can do, especially when the goal is in sight.
Take Ryan Hall. After a hot streak in 2007 and 2008—he broke the North American half-marathon record, won the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and at the London Marathon logged the fastest time ever by an American-born runner—Hall was officially dubbed the next great American marathoner. In 2009, he placed third in the Boston Marathon and won the Philadelphia Distance Run.
The 2010 Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Photo: Steven Dahlman – MarinaCityOnline.com (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons)
Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya and Liliya Shobukhova of Russia each won their second consecutive Bank of America Chicago Marathon today in the race’s toughest field in history.
In temperatures close to the ’80s, Wanjiru fought off a last mile surge from Tsegaye Kebede of Ethiopia to win the men’s race in 2:06:24. Kebede, 23, placed second in the sprint finish that saw the two men repeatedly trading the lead over the last mile. Twenty-year-old Fayisa Lilesa of Ethiopia finished third.
With today’s win, Wanjiru has also clinched victory in the 2009-2010 World Marathon Majors, a two-year competition with a $1 million prize purse. Read the rest of this entry →
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon (Photo: TonyTheTiger at en.wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0, GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons)
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Oct. 10 is billing Sunday’s race as their strongest field in history. They’re not kidding. The race will decide who wins the 2009-2010 World Marathon Majors, a two-year competition with a $1 million prize purse. The three leading men and top two ranked women will face off in Grant Park.
Running a tune-up race is a great way to prep for a marathon. Photo by Sergis blog.
Seven weeks down, nine to go.
Training for a marathon is long process. Much like my training for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 7, most runners spend at least 16 weeks, or the better part of four months, agonizing over every detail—longs runs, speed workouts, tempo runs, strength training, cross training, stretching, nutrition, sleep, avoiding injuries, avoiding illness, you name it, all for a few hours of agonizing glory. As the old U.S. Marine Corps adage goes—which my boyfriend and fellow marathoner-in-crime loves to quote—“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
While all that weakness is busy leaving our bodies, we’re hoping that what we’re doing actually works. That come race day, we’ll be in our best shape to conquer 26.2 miles. All that pain better mean some gain.
But how do you know if your training is serving you well? There’s nothing like a big tune-up race to check in with your training. Running a race before your big marathon gives you an intermediary goal to work toward, and will let you know if your training is working, what marathon goals you should be targeting and what potential race-day problems might pop up. Read the rest of this entry →
It was dark. It was brisk. It was electric. I shivered in the 29-degree air, my teeth chattering as the sun rose over Chicago’s Grant Park. This was it. My stomach rolled over, nervous and uncertain. I stood in the starting corral, packed in with nearly 35,000 other runners huddling like penguins bracing for winter. We moved forward en masse, and then, there we were facing the starting line of the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
It was the 6th anniversary of my father’s death, and I was about to literally run down memory lane. The day before at the marathon expo, I watched a video of the course neighborhood by neighborhood—The Loop, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Greektown and on and on. My emotions swelled and I swallowed hard. I had come back to Chicago a prodigal daughter of sorts. This was my homecoming, my triumphant return to the city of my youth.
Chicago’s John Hancock building. (Photo: Phil Hospod)
“This one’s for you, Dad,” I whispered to myself as I crossed the starting line. It took the first few miles for my body to warm, and even then, I still felt the sting of the frigid air. I tried to take in everything around me—the runners, the buildings and the spectators, who to my surprise were out in force. I shouldn’t have been shocked. I’d been to more than enough Bears games in sub-freezing temperatures to know better. I didn’t realize that exuberance extended to 7:30 a.m. on marathon morning. But boy was I glad it did. To the crowds on the streets (my friends and family among them): you were my heroes.
Chicago’s Merchandise Mart. (Photo: Phil Hospod)
I ran with the 4:30 pace group, hoping for a personal best. I felt strong and healthy as we ran the entire north side and back to the Loop again. As we crossed the Chicago River near the 12-mile marker, we passed the building where my dad once worked. “That’s the Merchandise Mart,” one of the pace team leaders yelled to the group. “It’s the largest office building in the world.” I bowed my head and prayed for strength. Not for me, but for him. At some point during his life, he’d lost the strength he once had; he died of alcoholism at the age of 58.
The sign my sister made.
I’d been running for two hours and felt good. But after 3 hours I started to worry. My inner thigh was terribly cramped and I wasn’t sure if I had pulled something. I was right on target for a 4:30 finish, having clipped along at a 10:15 per mile pace for 17 miles. But as we pulled into a water station I slowed to a walk, trying to massage the cramp out. The 4:30 pace team pressed on and I let them drift away. I didn’t want to risk an injury. My adductors wouldn’t stop screaming and I let them yell.
But I wasn’t about to quit. I knew I had a full half hour in the bank on my previous best time. So even if I took the last 9 miles slowly, I’d still be able to PR (runner speak for personal record). And so, from mile 17 to the finish, I hobbled along at a 12:40 per mile pace in a good amount of pain. My lungs felt great, barely challenged by my slower speed, and I took the race bit by bit.
Friends cheering in Chicago’s Chinatown. (Photo: Tania Haas)
At mile 22, the reserves were waiting. My friend Tania had proposed hopping on the course for the last few miles to help bring me home. In the words of the late Harry Caray, holy cow! Was I glad to see her. I grunted something about my groin and she stayed by my side the rest of the way.
I shuffled across the finish line in 4:51:02. Amazingly, I had set another personal record despite a nagging cramp that forced me to drastically reduce my speed. I was deliriously happy. A volunteer wrapped me in a space blanket and another put a medal around my neck. Tania helped me grab food, water and my clothes. I limped across Michigan Avenue on Tania’s arm to a bar where my boyfriend and some friends, who had also run, were waiting. We celebrated and feasted, recounting our war stories and smiling from ear to ear.
My dad always said I’d come back to Chicago—that we always return to where we are from. Well, Chicago put me through my paces, but ultimately welcomed me home. And in the process, what might have been a sad run down memory lane became a joyous one. I hope I helped my dad, wherever he is. I know that running for him helped me. Thank you, Dad. I love you.
Chicago, I’m coming home. On October 11th, I’m running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. It’s my third marathon, but it might be my most significant. October 11th will mark the 6th anniversary of my father’s death.
I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs. My family lives in the city proper now, and I visit a few times a year. But when I left for college in Massachusetts 13 years ago, it was the last time I ever called Chicago home. After graduation I moved to New York, where I still live. Now when I line up for the start in Grant Park, it’ll be a homecoming of a different kind. Read the rest of this entry →
I’m not the fastest runner and I’m not the slowest, but I am a running nerd. A journalist by trade, I love to research, read, learn and cogitate. So stick with me. Like all good nerds, I’ll do the homework and share it. But the running is up to you!