Sunday, August 14, 2011

Chicago Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon Race Recap

After the events of this past week this race was an afterthought.  I had told myself earlier in the season that I would only run it if the forecast was decent (ie- under 90 degrees).   As of Thursday, I had completely forgotten about it until an old friend emailed reminding me that she and her husband were coming to town for the race.  At that point I was entertaining the idea again, and when the forecast for today had 74 as a high, I decided to go for it.   That was, until I endured the most painful, heart wrenching 24 hours of my life.

I cannot talk about this race until I summarize the events that led up to it.  Friday was the wake for my friend Ellen.  It was jam-packed (I waited 3.5 hours to see her and her family) and surreal.  There were so many people that I felt like I could not have my moment of closure with her.  Following the wake I went to a local bar with my friends for a night out that was paralleled with laughter and tears.  Jump to the funeral on Saturday.  A beautiful mass/tribute to her life took place at a Kenosha high school.  As her family and my friends shared memories and honored her life I could not help but sob- for almost four hours straight.  It was exhausting and painful.    Seeing her family and best friends mourn their loss and realizing that I will never see Ellen again sucked out every last ounce of my energy.  

After the funeral and reception I took the train back to Chicago.  My friends and family could not even believe that I would attempt to run today, and I almost surrendered to that feeling.  However, on the train ride home I knew that running this race would make me feel better.  I arrived home late, got fewer than six hours of sleep, and woke up with eyes still burning.  But I knew I would do the race.

This was not a typical day for me- I was not going for a PR, despite the amazing conditions.  In fact, I did not even wear a timing chip.  Instead I just went with it, keeping a comfortable stride and powering through the 13.1 miles.  And with every mile marker I hit,  I thought about one of my amazing friends who was effected by the loss of Ellen.   The first and last miles were dedicated to Ellen herself- I started and ended with her on my mind.  It gave me a purpose and kept me moving in a race where I did not feel particularly great.

So, this race review is not going to talk in detail about conditions, splits, course, etc.  Instead, it is about stepping back and taking it all in.  I ended up finishing in a respectable time- exactly the pace I need to go for the marathon.  But more importantly, I feel like I had my moment with Ellen, while I was running along the streets of Chicago.  And I realized, if there is anything positive I can take from all this sorrow, it is that my group of friends (who have been together for almost 20 years now) is going to be drawn closer by this past week's events.   We have had our share of rocky times, but always manage to pull out with our heads held high and an even stronger bond.   I know when I see the girls that I am in for laughter, honesty and a great time.  It may take a while to get back there, but it will come.   And for that, I am thankful.

Ellen, we miss you already and hope that all the vending machines in heaven are free! ; )
-Coach A

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