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Friday, October 8, 2010

The Red Bandana: Are You Running the Chicago Marathon?

The Chicago Marathon is coming. On Sunday, October 10, 2010, referred to by runners as 10-10-10, the streets of Chicago will be filled with a human river of athletes.

Many of you are running it, and I applaud you. Sometime next week, I will be driving on Butterfield Road, and will see white oval stickers on more cars than last week, proudly displaying “26.2.” Runners know what that means. It means you did it. You finished what you started.

They — we — know you started that race long before the gun went off. Diligently, you awoke before dawn, and tossed on your running togs and lumbered out onto moon-grayed streets.

26.2 miles is a long way. Last year, 33,703 people finished it, averaging 4:27:55, which comes out to 10:13/mile. If in 2009 you were perfectly average, you would have ran side-by-side with four others, nicking the finish line in 18,071-18,074th place.

(For last year’s Chicago Marathon results, see the page for the race. Athlinks is a great place to find all your race results.)
Four and a half hours? Besides the obvious (a half night’s sleep on a weekend), how long is that? What else could you do during that time?
  • 9 episodes of the Simpsons television show (including commercials)
  • 18 trips to and from Ice Lolly Cafe in Glen Ellyn (Park Blvd. and Butterfield Rd.) to pick up a triple scoop of tiramisu gelato
  • 263.5 playings of the George of the Jungle theme (see below)
As funny as the Simpsons are, as tasty as gelato is, and as groovy as singing and swinging with George is, none of it will compare with that last second when you cross the finish line. The best way to spend 4:27:55 on a mid-October Sunday morning is to run a marathon.

There will be a moment before you collapse, throw up, or hug someone when, surrounded
by thousands of people, you know you are alone to enjoy this victory. You don’t care that the winner has taken a shower and is already drinking a lemonade. You are unconcerned that the blister on your left big toe really, really hurts. You give no notice to the cold or hot weather Chicago has been blessed with this morning. This is what the last 18 weeks of training were about. This moment made it all worth it.

You are running for a reason. I’m interested why. Why do this? Your sacrifice has a reason. Are you losing weight? Raising funds for a charity? Bragging rights or to settle a bet? Or is it just so you can look behind you at the finish line, with thousands more still finishing, gaze at the last few blocks of those 26.2 miles and say, “I did that.” (Tell me why in the comments section below or contact me privately, and maybe I will include you in an upcoming column.)

Each long run is an adventure, I believe. Each is filled with a myriad of little stories. Races intensify this experience. Add 33,000 people, all of those who supported each runner the last few months, those lining the roads cheering on runners, and the media hype, and the stories become endless.

I have never run one of these. Although I have run all kinds of 5Ks, 10Ks, a number of triathlons and countless training runs over 15 miles, I don’t qualify for a 26.2 sticker for my car. I have trained with marathoners, paced runners through half of the Chicago Marathon, and cheered on many others. I watched the gripping 1982 Boston Marathon finish, the famous “Duel in the Sun” with Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley (watch on YouTube).  And I have boldly chanted countless times, “This is the year,” but it has never been ”this year.” All talk.

If this is your tired mantra as well, let’s see what 2011 holds. Run consistently through this fall and winter, and we will be ready to train for an October marathon by May 1.

Running Playlist Song of the Week
George Of The Jungle by Stan Worth, Sheldon Altman
What? A 1960s cartoon theme song makes a good running song? You bet it does!  It is only 1:01 long, but it packs a strong beat, fun lyrics and an intoxicating melody.

Not familiar with this classic? George is a hapless but happy-go-lucky, vine swinging fellow who lives in a tree house in a jungle. His heart is as good as gold, but he lacks in his ability to land from the branches without hurting himself. Despite his troubles, he is a consummate athlete; George is as buff and fit as can be.

Come on now, sing with me:
George, George
George of the Jungle,
Strong as he can be.

Watch out for that tree.
more running songs

Writer Anthony Trendl loves BBQs, folk music and porches. Recently divorced from his couch, he looks to running as he battles midlife and his mid-section. Find out more at

For more about my running adventures, see A Runner’s Dilemma (workout details, videos and more)

Click here to contact me.
The Red Bandana: Finding Fitness Through the Joy of Running

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