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  • Birthday Run – It IS About Chicago Marathon

    Posted on October 12th, 2014 Michele Sun No comments

    Today is a memorable day for me at Chicago Marathon. Must thank to Chicago for everything, from the event organizer, the weather, the volunteers, the crowd supports, the little kids at mile 15 withthe orange color wigs…etc, it’s such a wonderful event among all the other big races I’ve done. And I am so moved and proud of myself for finishing a marathon that initially started as a “weekend long run”, I now feel that I owe Chicago Marathon a proper recognition.

    For Fri & Sat, I was with Albert, Vinh, Kiyoko and Venkat; we did shake-out runs in both mornings, and we covered the Expo well. The highlight was meeting Dean Karnazes at the Expo and hang out with him as “SF runners”. We also met with Deena Kastor and Bart Yasso for a shakeout run at the Solider Field and they were so nice & friendly. These celebrity runners answered our questions and gave advices, and Denna wrote “Believe and achieve” when she autographed my bib and that inspired me a great deal on race day.

    Sat night we decided not to go to the fancy restaurant for carbo load dinner, instead we went to this small but nice market called Marino’s which Albert and I both think it’s better than Whole Foods. We brought food home to have family style dinner, calm, friendly on wallet and no need to “put on pants” as we were in running clothing and flipflop, and Vinh with 9 good toes :-p With the surprising and very unpleasant incident, I still insisted on we should invite a friend over for carbo-load and have him to stay with us, because we are friends and we are in this Chicago Marathon as one team. Each one of us have our individual goal in this race, and as friend I would support in every possible way especially I knew how import that quest is for him. Even though I am, and everyone are, very disappointed about my standing at the airport at 2:00am alone, his goal has always been important to me and I wish to see his goal met in Chicago.

    Sunday morning I woke up at 5:00am, and it’s very cold. I was nervous and scared, to the point that I almost wanted to throw up. Put on the race outfit, pinned the bid and ate our breakfast, we started walking toward the start at 6:00am. The Start area was very organized and clearly marked where to enter the corrals, gear check..etc, and there were even tents setup for changing area for runners to dress. After a quick group photo, we walked together toward the gear check but soon I had to part with them. Albert, Kiyoko, Max, Vinh and Venkat are the fast ones in corral A & B, and I am the only slow one in the Blue zone. I was in tears when I had to walk away from them (I know, silly), but Kiyoko gave me a hug and told me not to be afraid, and Albert said “Wesley will be here today!!” He knew how inspired I was after watching the tRANsced film yesterday, and I kept talking about his “believe in something larger than yourself” when we were walking this morning.

    I checked in my bag and walked around the fountain to keep myself warm, and finally crossed the start line after 8:01am. Despite the strategy and reminder I had set for myself, I went off with the crowd and not paying attention to my pace. Since I no longer run with music or app telling my pace, I was running based on “feel” and I was feeling TOO great! Later that night I saw my split was at 8:30 to 9:15 for the first three miles, which was way too fast for my own good. Originally I had plan to walk the first 4ml then run 22ml, but that was impossible with the crowd went off all so hyper together. So I switched the plan in my head accordingly. From the course map I knew there would be 20 aid-stations, so I would walk through the aid-station to prevent possible injury; I haven’t run this kind of distance since Paris Marathon in April of 2013.

    The aid-stations were brilliant! I probably counted 12 tables on each side of the road for Gatorade (in green cups), and another 10 tables on each side for water (in red cups) for runners to identify them easily. And they were filled and stacked up in triple layers, volunteers handed them out enthusiastically and some even pinched the cup at the mouth for runners which I was very impressed. I knew  there would be Gatorade and Power Gel on course which I don’t use, so I was carrying my own hydration pack with 30oz of GU Brew and I had 5 GU Roctane (raspberry chocolate) with me, that way I could fuel myself properly. Even with Power Gel being the sponsor for this race, I saw most runners carry GU Gel and funny that I was mentally checking and tracking which flavors were more popular :-p

    I found my more reasonable pace at mile 5 and I started rocking my Chicago Marathon. In the middle of the course I saw race security staffs formed a circle and there was a male runner on the ground. Two medical staffs were checking his vital and performing CPR. I could hear the helicopter approaching, and from the way they guarded that area I must say the situation was handled well and much better than some incidents I had seen at other road races . Hope that runner was OK though; he looked fairly young and mile 5 was too early to pass out.

    At the 10K marker I saw a girl walking and a bit limping, so I asked how she was doing since it’s way too early to start walking at this point. She was from Philly and had a bid on her back saying she was running for “Matt”, so I asked her about Matt. It’s her friend that she lost to cancer and she was running in memory of him. That brought tears to my eyes, and I wasn’t sure if she could see them through my sunglasses. I told her I am truly sorry for her loss and my voice must have given away, because She said “aww.. thank you.” There were several different charity run groups at this race, and many runners were running in memory of a loved ones, or to celebrate milestone in their own. I was thinking how we all have heroes and honorees in our lives, but today I am running in honor of myself. I am my own hero.

    20K passed and I was feeling good in a cruising  mode. I looked at the clock and thinking if Wesley placed in this  race? And my friend should have about to finish his run now, and I hope everything went as planned and he conquered his quest. It’s so important to me to see him doing well, in every aspect in his life. I know many feel that he doesn’t deserve my friendship and cares, but I care about friends in my life even though it has been enough disappointing and hurtful experience. Just because someone is a jerk doesn’t mean I should be one as well, and shouldn’t we learn from each other in the name of friendship? I continued with my run and walk-through-aid-station strategy and felt good all the way to 30K. “Believe and achieve”, just like Deena Kastor  has told me  yesterday 🙂

    By this time the bottom of my feet hurt and I could tell my plantar fascists were giving me problem again, that worried me a bit since New York Marathon being only 3 weeks away and I can’t blew it now. I paid close attention to the telltales and walked a bit longer and slower through the aid stations. If necessary, “completely walk the rest of the race” — I was telling myself. But lucky that everything was under control, and I came to the 40K marker. The crowds were enthusiastic and passionate, and they were shooting so much energy into this race with bullhorns, cowbells, cheering..etc. At mile 25, I suddenly got choking up with emotions that I had to swallow hard to catch my breath, and I found myself wanted to cry so badly but I needed to suppress this otherwise I wouldn’t be able to finish this race. My throat was making this weird howling sounds as I sprinted toward the finish, and my tears were welling up and vision became blurry. I pumped my arms and saw my shadow leading the way, everything else fading away, and I was in this race on my own. This is MY marathon.

    One last right turn, uphill, 400 meter from here!!! It felt like slow motion in movies and everything seemed to be frozen at that moment, then I crossed the finish line and completed my Chicago Marathon. Albert was waiting and I cried so hard when he gave me a hug; it felt so good to be feeling alive and cared by your true friend.

    This “birthday run” IS all about Chicago actually for it set a new milestone for my battle with cancer, and today the “C” on my calendar stands for Chicago, Courage and Celebration!!!!



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