Runners. They are crazy. Who, in their right mind, would run 26.2 miles? Or even 5 miles? Not me.
Then, in 2011, I had just moved downtown and learned that the Bank of America Chicago Marathon course would go right by my condo. I also live inside a course loop; meaning my building is surrounded by road closures for the entire race. I could walk somewhere, but running across the street, playing leapfrog with marathoners, just didn’t seem like a good idea. I was confined to my block for most of the day.
So on the Chicago Marathon race day, I poured a cup of coffee and headed out to the corner to check out what all of the hoopla was about. The noise was astounding! Cheering, clapping, noise-makers, you name it. All these noises converged into one amazing, unending, happy, supportive sound. I was quite surprised.
The energy of the spectators caught me off guard; they were so excited! They stood there for hours, cheering for strangers, waiting for the single friend or loved one they knew in the race, or sometimes knowing no one!
But what was even more surprising to me was the energy of the runners. My location (beside Union Station) was right at the halfway point – 13.1 miles down, 13.1 miles to go. I figured this was a ‘glass half full/glass half empty’ situation, and as a non-runner, I simply assumed that everyone in the race would be scowling, maybe even swearing, at the 13.1 miles-to-go indicator. But they weren’t. The vast majority of runners were smiling. Smiling? Smiling! The sweetest thing I witnessed was the widened eyes and giant smiles as runners spotted their loved ones on the side lines, b-lining it to them, taking a moment to jump up and down in joy, hug, kiss, and then run off again. Little kids cheering on a running parent. It was so sweet.
While watching the vast and varied field of runners pass me by for hours on end, I had a strange feeling come over me. Inspiration? To run? No way. Not me.
Yes. Me. I started training for a 5k right away. I couldn’t even run half a mile at first. Tiny, 3 mile races lead to 5 miles, to 10 miles, to a half marathon. It was a major personal accomplishment for me! Sometimes I smiled, sometimes scowled, but I will never forget the energy of the race that inspired me to take that first step.
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is a sight to be seen; a feeling to be felt; a true inspiration. Come as a spectator prepared to stand (or bring your chair) for many hours, holler until you lose your voice, clap until your hands hurt, and maybe be inspired, too. But also expect traffic and road closures. If you book your parking in advance, arrive early and set up your spot along the sidelines, you’ll have it made. Click here to book online… maybe you’ll be cheering me on someday!