What it’s really all about: Chicago Marathon 2013 Recap

(Note: I began writing this a few days after the event, but after 5 drafts I haven’t been pleased with the result. So I decided to just be brief -haha, for me- and make my basic point. Please share your stories of what running a marathon is really all about for you in the comments.)

DM CM post

pain joy 2

Marathons and marathon runners often get a bad rap. Some of the negative reputation surrounding marathon’s and endurance athletes is the same as what draws some people to the sport; it is an “individual” as opposed to “team” sport, training is often done in solitude, and to make improvements, sometimes even small ones, hours and hours of training are required, which means training can have a ripple effect on the athlete’s entire life. These things give marathoners a reputation for being selfish, self-centered, and self-interested.

I'm certain I'd individually come in 1st place for anything at a major international sporting event.

I’m certain I’d never individually come in 1st place for anything at a major international sporting event.

Ready to take our first racing singlets for test run!

Ready to take our first racing singlets for test run!

I can actually agree or at least understand, some of the complaints surrounding very large half marathon and marathon events, especially with there being one or more going on it seems every weekend in or near major cities nationwide. Streets are shut down, public parks, paths, and trails get monopolized, there’s sometimes a lot of clean up needed, some are franchise and commercial events so not necessarily giving much back to the community of a charity organization, and so on.

However, if you are reading this and aren’t a runner, or don’t live with one, or if you are a runner and you haven’t thought about what running means to you and your life, let me tell you something, you can’t pour your heart and energy into training for and running marathon’s without help and support from a whole lot of people. My new running friend, and teammate, Declan, who just made his marathon debut (in 3:17!) articulates some of what I mean in a blog post here.

I've never run with someone at a goal race before. Declan was a perfect race buddy, but it's possible we wasted energy with our enthusiasm.

I’ve never run with someone at a goal race before. Declan was a perfect race buddy, but it’s possible we wasted energy with our enthusiasm. Photo credit: Maggie Wolff

Until about a year and a half ago, I trained alone, travelled to races alone, raced alone, and then came home and outside of my parents didn’t really talk about running with anyone. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when I started developing friendships with runners, I immediately started to get faster, and fell more in love with running.

On April 15, 2013 and the month that followed many non-runners became familiar with a quote from a marathon legend, Kathrine Switzer, “If you are losing faith in the human nature, go out and watch a marathon.”

The 1967 Boston Marathon. Race official Jock Stemple attempts to remove Switzer from the race. Her running companion (and I think boyfriend) Tom Miller, physically defends her. 5 years later women are officially allowed the compete in the marathon.

The 1967 Boston Marathon. Race official Jock Stemple attempts to remove Switzer from the race. Her running companion (and I think boyfriend) Tom Miller, physically defends her. 5 years later women are officially allowed the compete in the marathon.

It’s a phrase that can be taken as a reference to the perseverance and dedication shown by those running toward their individual goals, it can be illustrated by the hours and hours of time, service, and encouragement given by spectators, and it can be seen in acts of friendship, sportsmanship, teamwork, joy and loyalty shown by competitors.

So rather than detail my own race experience, I’d like to share a few examples of what running really means from the Chicago Marathon 2013. It’s easy to find 100 samples of “inspiration porn” within any marathon event. I’m not trying to minimize the efforts of the amazing people who are fundraising for heart-breaking causes, and the people who preserve through physical, emotional, and situational hurdles most of us can barely fathom, but only trying to say that every marathoner who pours their heart into this sport is an inspiration.

Every single mile is meaningful, and every challenge is meaningful.

A marathon is about finding and embracing joy even when things fall apart. Scott Laumann and Evan Rosendahl are fellow Chicagoans who run with The Track and Trough Athletic Union. Following how these guys train and race, and the matter of fact, yet focused way they approach running, totally helps me to stay focused on long-term goals, and I aspire to race with their sportsmanship and class. Both of these men are capable (and have) run marathons firmly in the mid-2 hours range, and when their races fell apart at Chicago they spent the final miles of the race having fun and hanging on to finish with each other.

Evan and Scott

A marathon is about showing someone that you believe in them even when they have stopped believing in themselves. My friend Lynton (as seen above), jumped in just before mile 20 wearing an injured friend’s bib (thanks Ogi!), I was really struggling, and indeed, evidently, not making much sense during that final 10k. But Lynton stayed right with me, pulling me along, and calling me out on my bullshit.

mile 23 whiney fina;

What does running mean to me? It’s something that makes me feel good, but it also make me feel helpless sometimes, I am compelled to do it. Running means relief and solace, when I’m running there is nothing else. For me, it is the very definition of mindfulness. It means perseverance, and it means love. I’ve never had such good friends and known such amazing people, as the runners I know.


15 responses to “What it’s really all about: Chicago Marathon 2013 Recap

  1. Well said Annabelle, running wouldn’t be nearly as fun without all the amazing people I’ve met along the way.

  2. Well said! I’ve only been back to running for about 4 years now. My first 2 years back were similar to yours, training solo and going to races by myself. Now that I have been running with a group for almost 2 years, it brings me back to something that I had been missing for many years – the support and camaraderie of fellow runners that I first enjoyed while running track and cross country in high school. There’s something about the things that you go through together when training for a marathon that build bonds that are stronger than you can imagine. All the running success in the world means nothing to me without the ability to share and experience it with my running mates.

  3. You know I’m new to many aspects of running with a pack, but can’t tell you how much that hits home. Scott’s response says it all.

  4. Like I been trying to tell ya on DM.. Scott wraps it up and puts the bow on it.. Your article is so true. Its interesting to see how many are still running after 20+ years. Haven’t seen them for years, and Bam they show up at a race and you catch up on life. Runners are a community, look what happened at No Frills.. Not a grouch of any of us and all willing to share and help out. It did help we had an overhang to hide under… but.. Really glad you have found a “Group” to run with.. and that group is feeding off of each other with you ALL improving.. Its been fun to watch the gains, and friendships.

  5. I feel super grateful for all the runners I’ve met over the last several years. It changes the game for me. Makes it more social and not so serious as when I travel and run alone. I just wish I could find that perfect run partner to help push me when the negative thoughts start to creep in!!!

    Great job, girlie! Just love following your training and racing! 🙂

    • You will! You probably already have many of them virtually (ahem…). I actually think not enough runners are honest about how hard it is sometimes…oh man, you’ll love the super whiney DM post I’ll put up tonight!

      And thanks.

  6. There’s nothing more endearing than being called on your bullshit!

  7. Such a wonderful post! I also have found that my running and racing has changed since I started sharing in the experience with more people.

  8. Running means far too many things to me to enumerate — but the Chicago Marathon specifically has become something of a holiday. I haven’t run it since 2011, but the last two years I’ve been out there, watching as people run through the streets of my city, loving every single step (well … almost every single step). The event has become a parade of accomplishments, of individual achievements, a giant showcase of triumph — it’s impossible to not get swept up in it. I’m surprised more people don’t do it.

    Great post — and congratulations on that PR 🙂

  9. Thanks for the shout out! You really made my experience reflect this post. The high of sharing the race, the training, the emotions was amplified by at least 20 when I knew I had honest to God love and support from my new friends. As a newb, all this is new to me. Coming away from the high really is an eye opener for me, and I think it is just as frightening to not keep connected, and if you do, you want nothing more than to make all your new friends proud!

    Great post!

  10. Good stuff here as always. Running can be quickly dismissed as being a solitary thing–the loneliness of the long distance runner, right??–but the sport has an entirely different element when you surround yourself with people as invested in your success as they are their own. It’s always funner with another. 😉


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