Monday, October 15, 2012

Chicago - Most Unexpected

Admittedly, I did not go into this trip with much expectation except that I hoped to enjoy the city with my wife and daughter while running a marathon for the first time in 3 years in support of the MMRF. Well what came out of this trip was indeed most unexpected.

The City
Chicago is such a great city to visit. So much to do, see and of course eat in this surprisingly clean and friendly urban environment. From the attraction of Lake Michigan to museums and aquarium and the landmark food establishments, our days were full. Did I mention the food? There is of course the famous deep dish or stuffed pizza and what I would say was our favorite, the Italian beef sandwich at Portillo's.


While we primarily walked everywhere there are numerous methods of transport including water taxis which also doubles as a ride for the kids. The history of the City from the architecture to its storied sports franchises is every where, and the locals pride is evident. I love a city with passion. I would go back any day.

I also got to see my old college friend Bob. Many good times back in the day at the Cuse. Good to see you my friend, even if you are wearing that ridiculous hat.

I suppose you can figure who is who
The Brothers Goad
I have met many many amazing people and families through my involvement with the MMRF and this trip was no different. I heard stories from all those there to run, saw tears and smiles and walked away feeling pretty damn good about what we are doing. I must be honest, I have had my doubts since our friend Anita died this past May. After having so much hope we were shattered by her passing and it really took a lot to keep pushing forward for a cure. This event really brought us back. Not that we ever left but I know I really needed this to get me fully motivated with purpose again.

I need to thank one family in particular because it is their unity and passion that really had a particular impact on me. The Brothers Goad! Jeff who is a myeloma survivor having been diagnosed 2 years ago and his brothers David and Brad were in Chicago to run the marathon together with their families all in tow. Jeff and David spoke to the team on Saturday night and I can't even begin to transcribe their words. Hope is what we need and that is what the Brothers Goad delivered. If you would like to read an excerpt from David's speech you can get it here. It is called "The power of yet".
Me and Jeff a few minutes before the start.

The entire Chicago Team raised nearly $90,000!!!
The Race
I had no expectations or real race plan other than to finish and to do it in under 4 hours. Not only was I not going to push it, this would be way off my slowest road marathon (not too exciting). I was looking forward to running the streets of Chicago and taking in the sites but I began to grow disappointed in my approach. My race strategy, or lack there of was completely foreign and against my usual give all you got attitude. Like most runners I suppose, my brain is typically on overload for weeks leading into a race. Many who witness it might even say it takes over all thought, rendering me useless in much of my daily life. Not this time. I felt lost.

I slowly made my way to the start at 5:30 am. There was a chill in the air and despite the other 40,000+ people congregating to Grant Park, I had no excitement building inside. After about an hour of sitting around in the tent I had access to, the start of wave 1 was near. I rose and began to head out to my corral and I saw none other than the Goad brothers. We exchanged pleasantries, snapped a picture or two and wished each other good luck. As I walked away David Goad yelled out, "Hey Eric! Run with purpose."

Quinn and Mia cheering from home
Run with purpose? It was as if David knew exactly what I was lacking. I had really lost sight of what I was doing and who I was doing it for. I guess you can say I was being a little selfish. I had dedicated this run to a young boy named Quinn who was diagnosed with Acute Lymphblastic Leukemia in October of 2012. I wrote about this in my last post, The "Mighty" Quinn prior to Chicago. Quinn has no choice but to give it his all, and with his inspiration and David's reminder I was about to give it my all too. Thanks to David's reminder of why I was there and "Mighty" Quinn's inspiration I decided at that moment to give it my all. What that would mean I had no clue, but I was going to leave my heart out there.

As I made my way to the start, I felt this incredible calmness and comfort in knowing that what lay ahead was going to hurt, just the way I like it. 3:29:12 seconds later I crossed the finish line, legs burning and lungs searing as I gasped for air. It was not my fastest but a near miss by 57 seconds and I can feel proud that I did my best. I actually ran a negative split by 3 minutes for the first time ever, in any race. The personal achievement certainly feels great, but "running with purpose", to help others takes the feelings to a level that is difficult to describe. If you ever have, you know what I mean.

(A little side note: Chicago is extremely well run and organized particularly for a race of this size. The crowds are amazing, fun and energetic, but not nearly as large as I was expecting. The loop course and location near so many hotels makes it extremely easy logistically.)

People ask me often how it is I get through the really tough times in a race. Granted most of my races are longer but when you run hard self doubt always creeps in. My answer is usually "focus", and I say it as I frame my face with both hands and motion forward as if to suggest tunnel vision. I think I will write a new running tip soon about focus but here is what I did when the wheels began to come off. First, I always try to zone out, almost putting myself in a trance like state and remind myself over and over again that I have been here before and I can do this. Second, as I was "running with purpose" I was not running alone. When I struggled to maintain the pace I had set out on, I actually imagined Quinn was right there with me. Not along side, but I imagined this young smiling boy actually carrying me on his shoulders through the final miles of Chicago's streets. Now if you really try to picture me on the shoulders of this little boy in the picture above, its actually quite entertaining. Anyway, it worked. Thanks for the ride Quinn, I could not have done it alone.
This sign may have helped a little too!
With that said, I did not do it alone. As always, my awesome wife Tani was there to cheer me on with our daughter and the MMRF Power Team was at mile 14 with hugs when the going was about to get tough.

And of course to those who provide me with my awesome gear, Drymax, Nathan and VitaCoco, thanks for your continued support.

To everyone else, get out there and do whatever you do, with purpose. Give it all you got!
Peace and Have A Great Day!

8 comments:

  1. Chicago is a great city and October is a great time to be there (thus the reason the Marathon is in October I suppose). Thanks for sharing the story of Quinn as well.

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  2. Eric...sounds like a great time...I think I would have gained weight with all that food! I don't know how well I would handle the crowds anymore at a large marathon. Keep it real!

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  3. Eric, Thanks for the post, it was a great read and something that really resonated with me. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Thanks Thomas, I am glad you connected with this. E

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  4. I really like when I visit a place. It is to taste the best food that it has to offer.

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