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"Happiness does not come from having much, but from being attached to little." ~Cheng Yen

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PostHeaderIcon Chicago for Chris

It was unlike any race I’ve done before. Truthfully, it was not a race for me. It was a woozy surreal walk. It was a reason to go. The race wasn’t the point, physically. At times I felt like I was truly going through the motions – and felt entirely grateful for the ‘habit’ that has become these race weekends. The ritual of travel, of training, of the expo, the night pre-race, the morning of and the starting line. It allowed me to trust that process at least and be present to everything else. A special thank you to friends and fellow runners Chris and Steve – who have also lost best friends and found some peace in running. Your words of advice, support, encouragement and ability to relate – powerful and I’m deeply grateful. And to all who supported me with messages and sentiments from afar, you were felt, heard and also deeply appreciated. The messages on the posts here are so beautiful and I am deeply touched. And. I had an incredible few days in Chicago.

A few observations, some of them profound, some perhaps not but just to me. My brain is sideways a bit these days, as life is. This race weekend was SO not about the race. It was about one step at a time. This is so not easy, is so painful and deeply felt. Life is different now, without a doubt. Again, one step at a time.

*When I landed at O’Hare, and as we were taxi-ing and I was finishing up looking at my phone like everyone on the plane, I looked up and out and saw a gorgeous full rainbow over the whole airport. Oh you better believe I trusted it as a sign from Chris!

*Friday night I made myself go have a good meal at a restaurant right on the river, finding some peace in looking at the city lights on the water. Had a very Chris-like experience connecting with the waiter Zaid, who was so gracious and personable. I actually wrote a story about I may share at some point. Was inspired by Chris, including his being an incredible writer – who somehow liked my writing too.

*On Saturday in a taxi to the Expo to get my bib number et al, on a one-way street in Chicago and a truck comes down the wrong way, aiming right at my cab. Luckily we’re all going mercifully slow so nothing happens at all. Except I surprise my taxi driver as I start laughing because the license plate on the truck is from Arkansas. Okay, hello my friend!

*While leaving the Expo, I run into my friend Chris (this name is everywhere for me right now), who’s the indefatigable RunWestin Concierge, with his mom. If I’d done a zig or zag in the expo one minute earlier or later, I would not have have seen him to say hi. Been a long time, and he’d seen my post about this race and invited me to meet him and his friends after race for possible brunch. While it didn’t happen, I felt seen and reached out to in the brief moment and that kindness felt comforting.

*Sitting on a sidewalk in Chicago on Saturday having a hearty lunch before heading back to the hotel room. Blue skies turn stormy. Big time. And then the skies open up – real midwest thunder, lightening, and downpours. Well, calling that a downpour is an insult to the cacophony of craziness of the storm. Something big was going on up in the skies. And I sat on the sidewalk under a small restaurant umbrella and smiled up at the sky (the waitress may have worried about me), watching this hour long show. And thinking to myself, the heavens are having to work very hard to make extra room for Chris’ indomitable spirit.

*I forgot pretty much all my night-before prep work. Didn’t even realize I forgot to do my prep until the next day. So out of it. But still doing it. That’s one thing that kept dawning on me. Despite this hazy out of it feeling, I was here, still following through with it all. That’s gotta count for something.

*Morning of, I had to go back to the room at least four times before leaving to walk to the start line, as I kept realizing I forgot something. At this point I’ve pretty much given up the idea of running for time.

*Speaking of, both Chris and Steve suggested I take off the watch and not run for time. Run because I can. Run to move. Run to remember.

*I’ve always wanted to meet Meb Keflezighi – ’04 Olympic marathon silver medalist and 2014 Boston Marathon winner. And as I walk up to the beginning of the race course as I first arrive, he’s right there. Such beautiful energy in that human, I felt lucky to be standing right there as he encouraged everyone (and suggested not aiming for a PR on this humid day.)

*Start line chaos as always, I feel so “off” physically but am okay with it. Let’s just move and see what happens. Time to tie up the shoelaces nice and tight.

*I begin to talk to Chris. I mean out loud. I don’t normally do this, listen to music and talk out loud at the same time. But I’m struggling, completely inefficient in this run physically and emotionally so I ask for help. As I think about it, I may just be going through the motions *and* I’m still going.

*Mile 2.5 – I can’t believe it’s only mile 2.5. I need a sign that you’re here, my friend. Make it obvious. Mile 2.8 I trip over my own shoelace, right shoe completely and spontaneously untied. I burst out laughing and say “okay!” and get it retied. In 39 races I’ve only had a shoelace untie one other time so yes, I’m taking this as a “you wanted obvious, here you go!”

*Just keep running along. I make it all the way to mile 7 before I decide to walk – I’m not ruined by the run but I am struggling a bit in the heat. I stop and look up – it’s a restaurant we’d talked about in Chicago. I don’t know Chicago, I didn’t know that place was right there. So there’s that. I meander down the street. Wanting to prolong this run, in fact, truly not caring what I finish with, just wanting to stay this present, this aware.

*Mile 9 is out and back street, meaning you’re passing people who are ahead of you directly to your right and then coming back, passing those behind you directly on your right again before turning left onto the rest of the course. I’m jolted out of my daze by an energetic loud voice coming from a man at least a mile ahead of me in a hand-crank wheelchair “YEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAW!” He screams. “NEVER GIVE UP! WE CAN DO THIS! DO. NOT. GIVE. UP!” It was amazing. I was instantly inspired by him, his energy, his words. Beautiful.

*When I moved to Sonoma, I arrived in a 16ft Penske truck with a car carrier. That I drove. For three days. Through three states. Chris met me that afternoon and went with me to return it all. He took a picture of me in my pig-pen status in front of the truck ’cause he was so proud of me. A couple weeks later as we were texting about life and I wondered if I was strong enough for something, he texted the picture back to me and said “Badass. Clearly.” At mile 10, I’m slowed up and walking and having a LOT of wobbling wooziness due to heat and everything else. Kind of stumbling but then I’d run again for a half mile or more. At mile 10 I look over at this random empty parking lot as we’re turning. There’s one vehicle in it. A big yellow Penske truck. Badass. Clearly.

*Passing mile 11, these last two miles feel slow and long. Suddenly Meb, THE guy, is walking upstream of the runners on the course. He’s right there, coming up on my left walking towards me. He has both hands up to high 5 whoever is coming by him. I get a perfect hand to hand high 5 with him and burst into tears. The human touch, nothing quite like it at those perfect moments. Thank you. That alone was worth it.

*The last two miles are crazy – I see at least 8 runners down on the ground being tended to by medical staff. This humidity is tough. Brutal. Keep thinking I may be about to go down. And I feel guided somehow to keep going, not falling, not needing medical attention. I enter the gateway of the last .2 miles and my legs feel numb, as if I’m just gliding. I dig in just a few more feet and cross the finish line. I am not alone.

*As I cross, a runner appears in front of me with a t-shirt that has the dictionary definition of “endure” written on the back. That seems a bit appropriate. For all.

*I did it. I finished this race without it being a race. It was truly an experience. Not one perfected or prepared for but one that was one of the most important ones for me.

*Walking through Millennium Park as I’m trying to get back in my knock-kneed exhausted way to get a rest in, I not only spot beautiful nature everywhere, but butterflies and dragonflies flying around together, as if they were partners in something. Feeling lucky to bear witness.

*Rested my head for what seemed like hours, unable to move under the weight of it all (this is not normal post-race for me.) But push myself to celebrate being in Chicago doing something Chris always wanted me to do. An architecture boat tour. “If you’re not going to do anything but one thing while you’re there, at least do that, will give you a good sense of the city.” So I signed up, and got to, in fact, see Chicago in a way I didn’t know before, with what the docent declared “this is the best weather you could have for one of these tours.”

*And then I capped it off with one of the best dinners I could’ve had – the food was truly amazing (Mr. Brown’s House – authentic Jamaican, in the Loop, and I HIGHLY recommend it – Chris would’ve loved it) and the company was divinely inspired…

Was it my best finish time? Hardly, not even close. Nor did I expect it to be. A very different heartfelt finish line moment. I am glad I pushed myself to go, feel that connection and company in Chicago even as I moved through the city in my dazed own little world. The comfort of being in a familiar setting of a race weekend and exploring a city was a peaceful unique way to celebrate a beautiful life and a beautiful friendship.

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