Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Each year I write up a full report of my marathon adventure.  I write it all down mostly for myself so that I can remember all that took place on a whirlwind day but also to inspire others to create their own “marathon memories” either by running a 5K, marathon or just doing something they never thought possible.

My mantra is “Forward is a pace” both in running and in life. It gets me through my toughest of times and roughest of runs. I preached it to my pace group all summer in order to get them though and learn to have faith in themselves. I must have really needed to hear it this year because I heard and saw it in many forms during the marathon.

Sunday morning dawned cool and crisp. A perfect fall morning. My husband got out of the warm bed to drive my friend and me downtown. He drove as we nervously chatted all the way to Michigan Ave.

We arrived at the hotel to find things already buzzing with runners and activity. We found our group and prepared for the race. More and more runners from our group showed up as I donned my modified tutu (due to new security measures) and we took pictures before heading to the start line.

This year was a bit different with the heightened security so we entered at the wrong spot and had to walk a distance before being able to enter our corrals.  Once we were settled, we readied for the start. There was a pace leader from another charity near us that was so funny. I mean everything the guy said had me laughing out loud. He told his runners “When someone asks how is it going, you say FORWARD” I thought…hmmm…where have I heard that before?

My arm with a reminder
of each dedicated mile.
The gun sounded and we were off and running. This year I had asked friends and family if they would like me to run a mile for them. The response was overwhelming and motivating for me. Each mile was a different reason to keep moving forward.

Mile 1 Niles NRG! I started the marathon with 3 ladies from my pace group.  We had spent the summer running and training together. We always run our first 3 miles a little fast then settle in to our ‘happy pace’ and today was no different.  Off we went! The CARA Niles training group and its leader, Keith, have changed my life.  The friendships created through this group are deep and true. I was so proud to start this journey with these ladies.

Mile 2 Annette S. for the 2 years we worked together.  As I ran along State Street (that great street) I thought of the friendships I have gained through teaching. I have taught in many places with many people that I remain friends with to this day. What a gift from my chosen profession. It was towards the end of this mile that I was getting hot and had tied my jacket around my waist. I was fate that I saw Keith and another member of my running group cheering as I rounded the corner onto Jackson. I gave him my jacket and kept going, thinking that I had lost my ladies. I rounded the corner onto LaSalle and as is my practice, I thank every Chicago Police Officer I see. As I yelled, “CPD, Thank you!” the officer turned around. It was none other than a friend and mother of one of my students, Officer O’Brien!  She wished me well and sent me on my way!

Mile 3 Dedicated to 3 YO son of a friend with terminal cancer. This mile was filled with crowds and more little kids than I have ever seen. Perhaps it was because I was looking for them. I high fived each one as I thought of the little boy and his family on such a difficult journey.  Counting high fives kept me pretty busy for the mile and I lost count by the time I hit mile 4.

Mile 4 My cousin, Melissa, and all parents of children with special gifts. My cousin, Missy, and I have not seen each other for some time but I still feel so very close to her and her family. This mile is part of a long stretch though the city. I thought of the long stretch she and other parents of children with special gifts have each day and kept going.

Mile 5 My 5 children and the ‘kids’ in my life. Mile 5 leads me towards the zoo. I was immediately flooded with memories of visits and picnics with my children in this place.  As I ran, I saw a sign that said, “Keep moving forward, Mom!  We are proud of you!” What struck me was that there are so many ‘kids’ in my life. I am honored to be called Momma by many friends and ‘my other mother’ by others.

Mile 6 Lucy D. and Maddie M.   The girls’ moms are part of my running group and these little girls were born to run. They will lead the 6 minute pace group for NRG one day! At the aide station towards the end of this mile I saw another of my Niles friends, Russ, my co pace leader for the season. He handed me water, gave me a hug and sent me on my way yelling, “Go get ‘em, Momma!”

Mile 7 Michelle F.  one of my dear Moms on the Run friends. Last year this was the last mile that we ran together in the marathon. We have run many miles together  but this part of the city always reminds me of her and my running mom friends.

Mile 8 Andy R. and my high school friends.  I Love this part of the course as it take me close to the lake and then into Lakeview. The crowds are always awesome in this area and this year was no different. I danced and sang with spectators as I ran….all things I never thought of doing in high school. I was always part of the supporting cast or a spectator, never a standout. My how things change!
I adore this picture for so many reasons.
 It really captures me and my running.
 I also love that my arm with the miles is in this photo.
Thank you to my gifted friend, Tim B.,
for catching me in action!

Mile 9 Amy I. and her running dreams. This mile was for a former student who dreams of running a marathon one day. She is well on her way and I am proud of how far she has come. During this mile I saw people with signs for two of my group members, both running their first marathon. I assured the cheerleaders that they were on the way….

Mile 10 This mile was unspoken for until the morning of the marathon. I met some young ladies while waiting in line for the bathroom who were part of the Navy running team. They were visiting from Annapolis to run Chicago. We talked while we waited about many things. They asked about my arm (with the miles written on it) and I explained. I told them mile 10 was now theirs as well as all other military, past present and future.

Mile 11 The Decker family and all officers in the 11th district. My friend, Beth, has taught me everything I need to know about running 26.2 and being a good group leader. She and her husband, Mike, and daughter, Lucy, have become more than friends… they have become family.  I hugged the first police officer I saw and told him thank you.

12 Sarah B. and all my Sole Sisters! Sarah was part of my pace group but has gone on to lead her own faster group now. I am so proud of her and my other ‘girls’. It was not lost on me that this was her mile and for the first time ever in a marathon, I had to stop and use the bathroom!

Mile 13 Claudia O. training for her 1st ½. I was beginning to feel lonely at this point and I thought about the many lonely miles we run to train for events. It was then I saw the ladies from my group again! We ran together for a bit and soon were separated again. I came up on Old St. Patrick’s Church and saw the priest amongst the crowd. He gave me a high fived and a “God Bless you” and then 500 feet later there was Mr. Finnegan, a dad from school. He is a Shannon Rover and had just played for Mass. I got a quick hug and kept going.

Mile 14 Sarah D. and her GOTR. This is one of my favorite parts of the course. It is the charity cheer section. I spotted the Girls on the Run tent and headed towards it in desperate need of some body glide and familiar faces. It was just boost I needed to keep going.

Mile 15 Lucy & Gabi S. and their mociute (grandmom). This is always one of the toughest miles of the marathon for me. It is sunny and wide open with not many spectators. I needed the help of my God daughters and the woman who was like another mother to help me get through this difficult portion. I could feel them with me as a pressed on back towards the city.

Mile 16 Mike S. and his running goals. My old friend told me that he had not cracked the 16 mile mark in his running so I cracked it for him hoping that now he can do it on his own!  I headed back to the city and Greektown.  Running under the CPD banner brought me to tears but kept me going as well.

Mile 17 Robby & Lizzy L. Greektown!  Over halfway done!  The smells and sounds of the crowd propelled me forward. I had never seen so many spectators on the part of the course. I spotted a man wearing Girls on the Run Cheer team shirt and thought of Lizzy. Right next to him was a woman holding a sign the read, “Run fast!  There is bacon at the finish!” Perfect for Robby and Lizzie!

Mile 18 Mother Theodore,  SMWC and Providence. I was feeling very lonely and alone at this point just like when I left for college. It had been a long time since I had seen someone I knew and was starting to doubt myself. I was getting tired. I started to pray to Momma Teddy. As always, she knew just what I needed…a friend!  At the corner of Halsted and Taylor there was my buddy, Dan, yelling my name!  He grabbed me and hugged me tight. I took off with the biggest infusion of energy through Little Italy. Shortly thereafter I saw another friendly face, my buddy, Chris. He works at our local running store and has helped me out many times. He smiled, linked my arm and dragged me forward for a bit telling me I was doing great and to keep at it. “Go Momma! You got this!” he yelled as he pushed me forward. I ran a bit alone and soon I felt a tap on the shoulder. It was my Niles friend, Steve. I have known Steve for several years but we had never run together until this day. We were both tired but as we ran and talked  my soul filled up and I got another burst of energy.

Mile 19 My husband & the officers in the 19th district. Pompeii Bakery, one of my husband’s favorites, was where this mile began. I thought of our first dates and lunches he would deliver to my school for me from Pompeii.  It was the start of a 19 year marriage that still revolves heavily around food!  It smelled heavenly but I knew I had to keep going. As I turned the corner onto Ashland I saw my fearless leader, Keith, again. He was smiling standing there with his wife and other group member, Diane. We took a few photos and off I went with Steve still by my side. We passed a lady handing out grapes and orange slices in front of a church where a man sat legless in a wheelchair. I took the baggie, thanked her and she said, “God Bless you”. This was a good mile…with some great grapes!

Mile 20 Cheri P. and her whole family. This mile winds through Pilsen with a great deal of noise and activity. I came up on another one of my Niles friends, Julie. She had been inspired to create a tutu for her run and was running for her mom who had recently passed away. We ran together for a bit but soon separated. I was on my own again…and getting really tired.

Mile 21 Girls on the Run – past present and future. I headed up Halsted Street, passing my old apartment. I thought of how much my life had changed since I lived there. I usually dreaded marathon weekend because of the traffic and noise never realizing that running and Girls on the Run would bring me back to this place a different person.  I was hot and really tired and in need a energy when I saw some cops. I yelled my usual, “CPD thank you” when the officer turned and it was the dad of one of my daughter’s best friends. He saw me, smiled wide and said, “Well look at you, Momma!” I hugged him, thanked him for his service and took off, newly energized.

Mile 22 Steve D. and other first responders. Steve is a cancer survivor and first responder. He lives every day filled with his faith trying to help others. As I began this mile there was a lady running in front of me. Thank goodness she was a few steps ahead when she stopped right in the middle of the course. I ran up behind her and asked if she was ok. She turned to me with tear filled eyes and said, “It is just a cramp. I know it…” I told her to put her weight on me as I helped her to the medical tent that was conveniently only 500 feet away. As I put my arm around her, she passed out. Two medical personnel swooped in and grabbed both of us before we hit the ground.   They took hold of her and assured me that they would take good care of her…that I should keep going. So I went praying for her as I entered Chinatown.

Mile 23 Dan M. and his girls. Dan is a great dad and running buddy. I admire his positive attitude and ability to push through obstacles. I ran through Chinatown taking in the dancing, the music and crowds. I needed this shot of energy. I soon saw a young girl walking and limping a little. I asked if she was ok. She said it hurt…her foot hurt. We walked a bit together and talked. We ran a bit together and kept talking. She told me I reminded her of her mom. I promised her that she would finish…it might be slow but she would finish. She slowed to have something to drink and I pushed on.
Once again, Tim B., with the perfect shot!
I love the sign over my head!

Mile 24 Past, present and future students of mine. I have been a teacher for 24 years and have learned so much from my students in these years.  I had to laugh that during this mile I was offered a beer more than once by students at IIT. The second time I took it as a sign and for the first year ever during a marathon I chugged a beer!

Mile 25 My Heroes – Gillian and Kelly Weaver. I saw some of my Niles group cheering. I told them I was hot and more tired now more than ever and they assured me the end was close.It was good to see someone I knew.   I rounded the corner onto Michigan Avenue and felt my friend, Kelly’s presence, right there in the cool breeze.  I walked a bit to soak it in and got the chills as a young man wearing an “Autism Speaks” shirt tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Come on Momma!  You can finish this thing” as he ran past. I started running again.

Mile 26 Cathy T.,  her family and new beginnings. I ran/walked this mile with renewed strength and energy. There were more police and fire personnel than I had ever seen before on every side of the street.  I came across some paramedics who rode along side of me and asked if I knew a young man, a former student. I smiled wide and said yes. I explained how I knew the guy as they laughed. They took my picture to send him and I was on my way again. Teachers never forget a student…and certain ones stick forever.

Mile .2 ME! At the last turn, just before Mount Roosevelt, I was thanking the CPD what seemed like the millionth time, when one cop looked right at me and said, “NADER! Where is your husband?” It was his partner, Wilson.  I told him he was still in bed!  He yelled, “Go make him proud!” and I ran up that hill without stopping!  I came around the corner and could not only see but feel and taste that finish line! There was no stopping this tutulady as I ran full steam ahead to the finish.

I crossed that finish line with my tired arms over my head and a smile on my face. I had done it!  I finished my 5th marathon!  As I walked through the shoot, a woman I had met on Friday at the Expo remembered me,  wrapping me in a heat sheet and congratulating me. She was awesome! I continued walking. An older gentleman gently placed a medal around my neck and kissed my cheek, saying “I am so proud of you.” I began to cry as I walked away. A spotter asked if I was ok and I said yes as I continued towards the food….I was starving! I got a box of treats and then a beer. That beer was sooo cold and it was soo good…and then called my family.

This was neither my fastest nor my slowest marathon. It was right in the middle. It was neither my easiest nor my most difficult. It was right in the middle. It was neither my best season of training nor my worst. It was right in the middle. This year, this marathon, was like a middle child. Independent, full of hand me downs, more relaxed, and diplomatic.

This year and this marathon I realized that family is not just where you are born. Family is what you make it. We surround ourselves with people who see the best in us and want the best for us. We long for someone to feel our pain and celebrate our victories, for someone to believe in us and love us. Sometimes we are born into that family, sometimes we have to create it for ourselves and sometimes we are lucky enough to have both, like me!

Bling and my tutu!
This year the real and powerful force that is tutu spirit carried me through many difficult times.  This year I learned that everyone needs inspiration. Some days you inspire and some days you need to be inspired. This year putting one foot in front of the other…I was able to move forward. Forward IS a Pace. Family, Forward and Tutu Spirit can move mountains.  I realized that I did something that many people can’t do or won’t ever start....I completed a marathon...not once, not twice, not three, not four but FIVE times!!
Thank you to all of you for your months of encouragement, generous donations, faith and abundant prayers. I am forever changed.....…..

A Momma
A Teacher
A 5 TIME marathon FINISHER!
Forward is a Pace