Chicago Marathon 2016 (Part 2)

It was still dark as I stepped out into the cool morning air, although daylight was just beginning its ascent. Unlike last year where it was a warmup-type jaunt to Gate 5 this year it was right in front of me. As with any race of this magnitude, there was the fleeting thought of whether the race would be a triumph of the spirit, or a disaster of epic proportions. But it was a fleeting thought though. There was no room for even the possibility of failure. It would be all I could muster to finish this behemoth. Still, three days a week, and NO MORE

The still budding daylight started to wash across the wall of buildings that stretched across Michigan Avenue, causing a kind of morning twilight, if there is such a thing. A spectacular sight, if not a little eery. It all added to the ambiance, as did the security lines to get into Grant Park. The best of times, the worst of times. But the line was a breeze, as well as the gear check, and now it was time to get warmed up. Thousands of runners in various states of preparation stretched out across the park grass and thousands more were already taking their place for the race start. A photographer approached me and offered a pre-race picture opportunity. Absolutely, let’s document this thing. It was majestic, thousands of runners from all over the world, displaying the finest and most admirable of human nature, the will to succeed, a connection to their fellow man or woman, and a city that facilitated such an event. Spectators would outnumber even the runners, with encouraging support that helped more than us runners could ever show in those moments. It was something that would not be forgotten and-I had to pee. The reality is that there would be no reasonable way to provide enough port-o-potties to make 50,000 runners happy. That meant long lines. The thought crossed my mind to maybe hold it until the race had started and use one of the pots along the way. The memory of what happened in January hit me like a ton of bricks and I got in line. There was still plenty of time to warm up though, and long potty lines were just part of the experience. Well, I guess a lesson was learned then…

As the runners took their places, it seemed like a repeat from last year. That’s because it was. The MC from the year before was at it again, encouraging runners with a backdrop of motivating music behind him. I wondered how many times Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run had been played at marathons, or any races for that matter. Plenty I’m sure. The sun was now bouncing off the massive skyscrapers to our left and the crowd slowly moved forward towards the starting line. Being in the back of the pack, that starting line was about an hour away. Without the human traffic it would have been just a matter of minutes. Part of the game. It was all good though. I felt good, I wasn’t hurting anywhere, and my game face was on. We inched every closer to the start line, and at that point it couldn’t get here fast enough. So far, there was no sign of Elvis. He seems to be at every race. There were plenty of other characters though, as there always is at larger races. If it is true that you create your own reality, then my universe was looking pretty good. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like that every day, but this day what had been in my minds eye for months was now right in front of me, as real as reality gets. As we approached the starting line, I maneuvered behind the 5:45 pace guy and planned to stay there as long as possible. It is very difficult to stay with anybody for any length of time during a race this long, although I had done it with Gregg in 2014. Not impossible. I noted the time as I passed under the START banner. We were off.

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