Moments in time. Miles and moments. Each year I write a full recap of my marathon adventure mostly for myself but also so that others can share in miles and moments that make up the marathon.
My mantra is “Forward is a Pace”. As long as I am moving forward….I am moving in the right direction. Each year that mantra gets me from the start to the finish as some runs are tougher than others. This year I moved forward and savored the moments that made up each mile more than ever.
I didn’t sleep well Saturday night so when the alarm sounded at 3:30 on Sunday morning, I was already really awake. I just had to pull myself out of bed and get dressed. At 5am my husband and I picked up my friend, Beth, and he drove us to the hotel where we would find our running group.
Our group prepared, chatted and released a little nervous energy. My pal, Steve, lead a few of us in prayer and then we began our walk to the starting corrals. Once in the corrals, we found a few other friends and began the countdown to the start by tossing our ‘extra layer’.
Soon the gun sounded and we were off and running…..
The first few miles are through downtown. I love this part of the course as the crowds are thick and loud. Each year I allow people to choose a mile that they would like me to run for them and I dedicate that mile to that individual. I also ask each of my students for a song and put together a large playlist. The songs and dedicated miles are a good way for me to focus my running and gives me something to think about while covering 26.2 miles. The first mile was for a running and faith friend, Marian, who supports Team World Vision so I spent the first mile looking for the cheering section for TWV. When I found them…I gave them each a hug, thanking them for supporting all runners!
I was moving well through the downtown area of the city and the miles just seemed to fall away as I thought of my Friend, Melissa, who was running her first marathon as well as cousin-in-law(is that a thing? If not…I am making it one!), Carrie, another mom of many who is set to run her own first 26.2 in the coming weeks. The long training miles they logged would not compare to event day….and I was so excited for them.
Earlier that morning, I received a notice from my pal, Tim, also a race day staff member, that he had left a special message for Beth and me at mile 5. I was looking forward to this…and yes, I stopped in the middle of the course to take a photo…much to the dismay of the other runners! Thinking of my cousin, Melissa and her boys, my own kids, the children of friends and the kids I teach got me through the zoo and to mile 6 where I saw a teacher friend, Kathleen. She had told me that she would be wearing a bright orange hat at the water stop….and I could see her from a ½ a mile away…a vision! She gave me water, a hug and took my sweaty, icky gloves with glee and sent me on my way.
About mile 7 I came upon a team of runners who had slowed to a walk. I noticed that there were guides on either side of a younger man who was walking so I slowed to a walk beside them. I asked their names and about the logo on the shirts they were wearing. The athlete’s name was Jeff Hobbs. He was fascinating. As I walked with them I learned his story. His goal was to be the first person with spastic cerebral palsy to run the marathon. He was walking at that point due to some pain. We walked, he talked and I listened. I eventually took a picture and continued on my journey.
Entering Andersonville and Boys town is one of my favorite parts of the course. There is always one person in the same spot every year with a sign that reads, “Do Epic S**t!!” I love that! Running this part of town thinking of my BRF (Best Running Friend), Sarah, and others in my group, reminded me how lucky I am to be able to do this race every year. Running has given me many gifts…some of those gifts are my lifelong friends. Heading into Lakeview, I got a tap on the shoulder. “Hey! I know you! You are my dad’s friend…the Tutulady from Long Beach!” I turned to see Hal Higdon’s daughter! We ran together for a few steps and talked and soon she was far ahead of me! Lakeview is also my husband’s district. Each year I thank every police officer I see on the course but in his district….all the cops get a hug!
At Mile 10, I noticed familiar shirts and realized it was members of the support team for Jeff Hobbs. I told them what an amazing guy he was and continued on heading towards Old Town. Entering Old Town, “Elvis” was singing “Caught in a Trap” and I had to laugh. That was the song my husband gave me for the playlist and a joke we have about our 20 year marriage! And then there it was...a reminder from my yoga teacher that I needed....Breathe! I could hear her voice in my head...Just Breathe....
The next few miles were somewhat of a blur as I was so looking forward to mile 14. I was passed by several Girls on the Run SoleMates and other members of my running group. They all said hello and gave words of encouragement as they passed. They all kept me moving in the right direction.
Finally, I could see Mile 14 and the Girls on the Run Cheer team tent! I was so excited to see my pal, Lida, get a hug and stretch for a second. She promised to text my daughter and let her know I was ½ way done! This mile was for the Dempsey family , some of my biggest GOTR supporters, a fact was not lost on me as I turned and headed west.
Out around the United Center and back towards the city I was thinking about a little boy named Trevor, who is beloved by my daughters. All the sports he would watch and teams he would learn to love as he grows…with my girls cheering for him all the way!
Back into the city and through Greektown towards UIC. There on the right was a huge group of Lithuanians…my people….waving the Flag and cheering the runners. I yelled, “Labas!”(Hello) and one young man ran over and stuck a small flag in my hat. I said, “Aciu” (Thank you) and kept going.
It is this back half of the marathon that things get tough and I was starting to feel the miles adding up in my body. My back was starting to become increasingly painful and I was needing walk brakes every so often. Running through Little Italy, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Father Rob, my good friend. I have said before that I do not believe in coincidences, that I believe in God-incidences and this was one of them. Every marathon…every race….that Father Rob and I run together we always see each other. We may not start or finish together but he always seems to find me. 40,000 runners and he finds me. He appears when I need him most every time. We ran a bit together and then he went ahead. Rounding the corner at Taylor and Ashland, as I thanked a cop, I realized it was one of my husband’s long time friends, Mark. He gave me a tight hug and sent me on my way, yelling that he would call my husband!
I looked up and there was Keith, my running group leader…arms wide open waiting to give me a sweaty hug! I told him my back was hurting and I had to slow down. Seconds later my friend Beth along with 2 others from our group approached. They were looking strong and running strong. I tried to keep up with them but could not and they went on ahead.
I ran through Pilsen tired and in pain. The pain in the small of my back would become excruciating and then I would walk until it subsided. I looked down and saw a feather…a symbol of my dear friend Molly, as well as something bigger than me …. I knew I had to keep going despite the pain. Passing my old apartment at 18th and Halsted, I heard my name. I turned to see a young woman crying. Rebecca is a GOTR SoleMate that I consider a friend. She was in as much pain as I was so I put my arm around her and we moved forward together…one step at a time.
We got to Chinatown together and I knew 2 of my friends, Sarah and Amy, would be there so I started to look for them. Before I could see them, they had jumped onto the course and were on either side of me. Boy did I need them! The pain was getting worse but I knew that I could finish…maybe not fast but I could finish. They ran with me while I yelled and complained and whined and then they just let me be quiet. They knew just what I needed and for that I am forever grateful. I do not know how I would have gotten through that stretch without them.
As I turned to see them go, I realized that we had lost Rebecca. I looked but could not see her so I kept going.
At Mile 23, I got a text from my friend, Melissa, that she had to stop running at mile 17. She was devastated but knew that she had to stop for her health. She apologized but I could not have been more proud of her at that moment. She had done what I had taught her from the very beginning…Listen to Your Body. I pushed on for her and then I heard my name again. There were 2 of her best friends waving and cheering. It was another “God-incidence. “ Christina offered me snacks and water but I stopped long enough to take a picture and kept going. I was almost done.
Michigan Avenue is a long lonely stretch of the course. It forces all of us runners to dig deep and finish strong. I was running in the middle of the road when a man in front of me grabbed his leg and then fell to the ground. He had a friend with him and I saw emergency personnel heading towards him so I pressed on. This last mile was for two of the strongest women I know, my daughter, Courtney, and my friend, Kelly. I summoned all their collective strength and pushed…..
Rounding the corner to head up Mount Roosevelt, the woman beside me was struggling as well. So I said. “Let’s do this!” and we plowed on up the hill…slow and steady. The man that had fallen earlier, passed us running fast and within minutes, dropped down to the ground again, this time he did not get up.
Before I knew it, I crested the hill and rounded the corner. I could see the finish line. There is was…..I just had to get there…just a little further. I looked up and moved forward, as painful as it was, to cross that finish line. My goal was to cross the finish line on my own 2 feet and with a smile on my face….and I had done it! I had finished my 6th marathon!
I walked a few steps and a kind young man wrapped a HeatSheet around me and then a wonderful older gentleman congratulated me and hung a medal around my neck. I moved towards water and my phone buzzed. It was a text from my son, “You did it, Mom! You finished! I am so proud of you! I love you!” I started to cry.
I headed towards water but found beer instead….and boy did it taste amazing! Cold and crisp and refreshing! A little later I had some water, a banana and some more beer as I headed back to the hotel to meet me running group.
I looked at my time and was so disappointed in myself. This was not what I had trained for… I had trained to run a little faster and stronger. But as I walked….I realized that time only mattered to me. I was still upset and in pain when I reached the hotel. I sat, had another beer (yup…still tasted just as good as the first!) and I listened to some very wise friends. It had not really sunk in that I finished my 6th marathon. It had not sunk in that despite my personal disappointment in myself, I had done something not a lot of people even think about doing ONCE.
I put on my sandals, packed up my gear and headed down Michigan Avenue to where my daughter would pick me up. Yes, I really walked more miles! It felt painfully good and was just what I needed at that point. I needed time to clear my head and move my sore body. My daughter, Katherine, and her pal, picked me up and drove me home….leaving the city they yelled out the windows to anyone within earshot, “Marathoner on Board!’ “Look out! Our Mom is a marathon Runner” I laughed until
my belly hurt as much as my
|I found this on my |
doorstep when I got home
This was, in fact, my slowest marathon. Could I have run faster? Sure. Could I have pushed through the pain a little better? Sure. Should I not have walked with Jeff Hobbs or others? Sure. I could have done all of those things but doing so would mean giving up the moments that made up the miles of this marathon and make me who I am. I am not fast…never have been and never will be. I am out there to have fun and encourage people. I am out there to help others smile and perhaps even laugh while running the miles. I am out there to inspire others and be inspired.
Moment by moment, mile by mile, step by step, forward was my pace for 26.2 miles. With the encouragement of friends, family and supporters, the #tutulady helped other runners laugh and smile and move forward. Would I change anything about that day? Not a chance. Every moment…every “ God-incident” …is worth more to me than a faster finish time. Every marathon is different and we make the best of what we are given on that day. It took a while, and the help of some very wise friends, to help me realize that fact. Finally, it had sunk in that I really had finished my 6th marathon.
This year I realized that life does not always go as we plan so we need to take what we are given, lean on others and keep moving forward, leaving the rest in God’s hands. Life is full of moments that challenge or change us. Moments where we are forced to change or be changed.. Life is full of moments so it is up to us to make the most of each one. We can let the moments pass or savor each one.
Thank you to all of you for your months of encouragement, generous donations, faith and abundant prayers. I am forever changed.....…..
A 6 TIME marathon FINISHER!