7th Oct 2007 Chicago Marathon
It was the day that added yet one more best memories in my life – the 30th Anniversary of Chicago Marathon sponsored by LaSalle Bank on 7 th October, 2007. It gathered all those sports enthusiasts who craved to run 26.2 miles within considerable time. The maximum time taken to complete the marathon was 6.30 hrs and there was no limit to the minimum time taken as it depended upon individual participant's capacity. The best record until today is 2.09 hrs of course achieved by a professional Kenyan and Ethiopian runner. Well for an IT professional like me, participating in such an event is not for any medal but to challenge my mind (to be strong) and physique (to provide endurance) to the maximum limit as they both go hand in hand.
Being a so-called long-distance runner during college days, my athletic mind would not stop thinking of participating in this race which is quite well-known throughout the world. The positive side of the event was the amount each participant paid, which would go to a good cause like cancer patients, poor children education, etc. This benefits the world including India. For me after my Shamrock Shuffle run of five miles which I completed at a reasonable amount of time, the crave to run long distance started to grow, also not to mention the vivacious encouragement from my office colleagues, Mohit (participant of Chicago Marathon 2006) and Praveen (participant of New York Marathon) that actually catalyzed the force in me to jump into the marathon. Also since I was away from my adventurous hobbies like rock climbing/mountaineering/trekking due to work commitments I thought this would be one way to feed my extreme mind.
At one point I was in a dilemma to participate or not in as I was unsure about my stay here in Chicago so hesitated to purchase the ticket for the run and hence opted to do so at the final moment. My work didn't permit me time to get the ticket on time and unfortunately did almost miss the opportunity when I got to know about the closure of the participant limit. This made me a bit nervous but never thought of giving up so easily. My Manager at work kept passing information to different people he came across on how to get the re-sale ticket for the marathon. Finally lucky as I am, got the ticket from eBay where one such enthusiast had put it on sale due to some injury during practice sessions. Funny part of it was I didn't even know whether the ticket was for a he or a she and anyways it really didn't matter to me as far as I possessed the ticket. Later I got to know the ticket was of Anne who expressed her selling it off so that it would not get wasted. By then for me it was too late to undergo any formal training for the marathon as just 2 months down the line was the big day. Time was really not sufficient given the heavy workload, but again that was not an excuse!
But for me I was sure from the time I got the ticket that I would make it, I mean to complete the race and with better timing no matter what. This was my first marathon and any timing I achieved which less than the maximum time (Benchmark) set by the organizer would be good. During these two months I got practically only four weeks for practice and that too when I used to practice for long distance I used to get disturbed from office for some database issues (as mine is a DBA role). Somehow days passed and I practiced a maximum of 14.5 miles as the longest distance on the last but two Sunday. During the Marathon week I kept preparing myself mentally for the run, took complete rest, was on specific diet rich in carbohydrates (rice as major) and kept my body well hydrated with water ( of course!).
Finally the Marathon day arrived. My mind was well set by my nearest experienced colleague, Mohit, regarding the pace and other details. So it was a very good and cheerful at-home feeling at the beginning. I also had good sleep the previous night. Mohit and my roomy, Mayur, decided to visit the race for photography and to cheer me especially at the end of the marathon when I would be completely exhausted and need them the most.
We reached on time to the marathon destination. The entire Chicago City was in the marathon mood. The start line was already occupied by the main pacesetters. I searched for space nearby the portable toilet so that I need not have to worry during the run. There was almost a 15-minute wait before the race actually started but it did start on time. I tried to squeeze through towards the start line but was not lucky enough given the total number of participants approximately 50,000. Finally with loud cheer and announcement at sharp 8.00 am. the Marathon started. When I crossed the start line it was more than five minutes. The entire atmosphere was charged up with lot of enthusiasm among the runners as well as the spectators, both of all age groups. I saw very few Asian faces at the run. My friends told me that they would be near the bridge so I was searching for them during the warm-up run, unfortunately I didn't find them.
I thought to myself how lucky I was to be a part of such a famous event which added to my life.
I started the race with my usual speed. At every five kms there was arrangement for water, Gatorade, first aid, etc. Many enthusiastic people were on the street who continuously cheered the participants. Also part of the race was music, some funny faces like Mr. Testicles, etc. There were many pacesetters and I tried to search someone of four hrs' label on their back. I found a female participant who was consistent in the race and looked like a professional runner guiding a group. I ran with her almost two miles but later she disappeared in the crowd and I remained to myself. I kept moving on with my best deliverable pace and decided not to follow anyone but to continue diligently. Until almost about 15 kms I was in considerable good shape. Later found many participants retiring due to some injury during the run. My knee also started giving some pain indication so I had to be cautious. During the water break I slowed down and almost walking at around 17 miles. By then it was almost three hrs complete. I had bananas on the way as well the Gel to keep my energy levels up. I took off my T-shirt as the heat was unbearable. I tied my T-Shirt around my neck and at all water points, pored water over my head to keep the body temperature cool. My colleagues were on SMS to inform me about their whereabouts. At one point they said they were waiting for me at the 20th mile near China Town . It took more time for me to reach as compared with the passing time. While crossing 20th mile I was running on the left side of the pitch to scan through the crowd for my friends but unfortunately could not find them. I left a message to them. They wanted to run along with me from China Town until the end.
So the actual pain (The Wall - last 6miles) started and the real pain by the time temperature was above 80 F. Most of the runners (of course men) took off their T-shirt due to the scorching heat. Then suddenly everywhere the Police announced all runners to stop the run due to high temperature and to avoid any accidents. By this time many where lying on the road side, I kept moving on though. During the race I got to know some interesting stories like one runner was trying to propose a female runner, but she denied saying that she was already married but that he could still kiss her after the race. One Indian runner caught hold of me, not for any proposal but to accompany him since he was tired and needed company. I agreed but after two minutes he got lost. I took pain to turn back and found him waving to me asking me to continue moving ahead. One lady was asking why the run was called off, etc. It is somewhat demotivating for the participants to stop before the finish line. I continued with my own pace with strong determination to complete the race watching and listening to all the happenings around me.
After about 22 miles I was in a situation that I may not finish due to the unbearable knee pain, intense heat and fatigue. I tried to remember my loved ones to whom I am the motivator. The run was to overcome my weakness and to give energy to my followers. I remembered my grandmother who died old when there was nobody to take good care of her during the last stage of her life. The run was dedicated to her too. Also I remembered my nephew who is proud of me and my achievements and I thought not to demean his childlike psychology (he takes me as his mentor and one of the strongest persons in his life). So this run was a test for me to prove myself.....I kept on moving with very slow but steady pace almost equivalent to fast walk. Many around me almost stopped running by this time when the sun was burning into everyone's skin. At 40 kms my friends found me on the track and were happy to see me continuing the run. Mayur took some pictures. Both started running along with me until half mile was left to complete the race. Suspicions remained. I had to confirm myself and the discovery took me to a point where now I could see the finish line from far making me happy. It was one of the best moments for me as my people would see me running at the finish point. It boosted my energy level. I stretched myself as much as I could, gave my best possible shot and crossed the finish line with all the last dose of energy left within me. Finally I made it happen…a dream come true and without taking any break I headed straight towards the medal collection point, collected my medal and returned the chip which was under my right shoe, collected some food stuff and went near the lawn to rest. I called my home to convey the race results and then my other colleagues to take me home.
I lay on the green grass and recaptured the entire event in 10 minutes while having the brunch. This experience added one more paragraph in my book of life. It was an awesome experience. This culmination of marathon race was truly the biggest highlight of the entire experience.
|Bib # 15730 | Chicago, IL - USA |
||Chip Time: 5:23:34
As per official registered Indians, My timing sort took me in the 31st position among the Indians who finished the race.
Written By: Rajan Rikame