Friday, October 15, 2010

Showdown in Chi-Town

Once again I was able to pace another race. This time it was a first for me in a new way. I was given the responsibility of pacing a solo runner. A friend of mine asked that I run in the Chicago Marathon with the goal of setting a BQ (Boston Qualifying) time for her. Since my inception into the world of ultra running the camaraderie of being supportive of other runners has become second nature to me and I was honored to assist. Many people with whom I sometimes never met or only met via virtually have shown up at a race to support me and without that help some of my running aspirations would have not been achieved.

Race morning we all were in that excitement and a bit nervous persona as we made our way into the starting corral. Never knowing what race day will throw at one can be a bit nerve wrecking to say the least.  The biggest factor was going to be the heat. The forecast was a race day high of 86F.  Most of runners don't do audible goals and back down from what we set out to conquer.  We probably know that we should, but why? We train hard for this moment. Why would one settle for less than what they intend to do?? We bare down and go strong into the run looking to overcome what comes our way.

The race started and within a mere seven and half minutes we were across the line and ramping up to race pace.  Coming out I was instructed to run a 8:40-8:45 pace. Within a few 100 meters the pace was locked in and away we went. Going under one of the bridges the garmin lost reception and by the time we regained signal strength it was posting an extra quarter mile. I knew better and reassured her that we were on pace.
A few miles passed and I have now drank about 30 ounces of fluids. Realizing this day is going to heat up fast I continued to drink proactively.  I was focused in these first several miles on holding her back to stay on plan. She is a very driven runner and was trying to quicken the pace. Confirming we were on plan she settled back in stride with me.

After passing the Lincoln Park Zoo around mile seven my normal ultra habits kicked in and I need to relieve myself. I politely excused myself and found a tree to attended to business. Thinking oh I hope a cop isn't looking at me and back to the course ready to continue on with this adventure.  This is when I really started to realize I was drinking a lot more fluids and started to encourage her to drink more.  The heat can sap one quickly and make a hard run even harder.

Around mile 10 I saw a friend of mine working the Fleet Feet aid station and stopped to say a quick hello. Back into the race I headed and sided back up with her. Looking over at her I started to sense we were not going to hit the goal and pushing the mark to hit the second goal of sub four hours.  This is a hard thing to swallow as a pacer and even harder as a runner.  You are out there doing everything you can and it is not changing the fact you will not achieve what you set out to do.  As a runner you know deep down that there is always another day to do, but in the moment you want it TODAY.

Hitting the 13.1 mile mark I went into survival mode; this day was heating up and our goals were out of reach. Knowing she would not surrender my only thoughts were keeping her cool, drinking fluids, and getting in some calories. I was able to grab ice throughout the remaining miles and cool her down. She was drinking electrolytes every quarter mile and occasionally some fruit or other calorie item.

Around 17 miles we were doing run/walk between aid station to aid station. At one point I spotted a traffic light a few blocks up and said, "let's run to that then we walk again."  She got up to speed and continued for a good mile pass that point. It was great to see the determination in her to finish this race. Around mile 22 she brought up her PR of 4:35 and was in the mind set to break that today.  The pace picked back up and we were now focused on a new goal. Miles strolled by and the heat continued to beat down on us. Her perseverance stayed strong.

Just past mile 25 we could sense that a new PR was now out of reach. We closed out the last 1.2 miles just past her PR with a final time of 4:39:23.  I was proud of her. Being by her side for every step of those 26.2 miles I know she gave everything she had inside. Sticking it out to the end was tough physically and mentally for her, I am sure of that; and that just proves what kind of runner she is for that.  Running is not easy; especially when you run with goals. There were runners fainting, vomiting, and dropping throughout the course.  Almost every single person we talked to had the same thing to say about missing their goal by a significant amount or it being one of the hardest runs for them. 

After the race we were doing back to the hotel and a elderly married couple stopped us. He asked if he could take our picture. After the picture was snapped his wife asked how did we do. I looked at my friend and then turned instantly to them and replied, "she gave her all and is amazing."

The race was a showdown and in my book my friend won the fight for being stronger than race!!
Friend 1 vs Chicago 0


  1. You're a helluva of friend. An angel.

  2. Congrats Steve and Friend on mission accomplished under very difficult conditions.