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the anticraft > blog
Oct 8, 2009
My kinda town, Chicago is...
w00t!! We're off to the Windy City. It's all rest and relaxation for me (except for one very early day) but hard work over the past several months for my husband.
It's Marathon Weekend in Chicago!! And I love it.
No. I'm not running. Not in a million years. I once considered training for a marathon, but that was because the marathon I was interested in was being run on Antarctica. I would have gladly let myself be distracted by the wildlife and geology; you might say that was the sole reason I'd ever want to do such a mad thing. And then I sobered up.
This is the second time Rick will run Chicago, and I couldn't be more excited for myself. The first time we went, I packed all sorts of stringy projects to keep myself entertained for the 5 or 6 hours it takes him to run that far (he's not fast, but that's not why he does it) and ended up touching not even one. I remember wondering on the plane to Chicago, chatting with another marathon spectator, what could possibly be at all exciting about standing around watching other people run past.
Oh man. Well, let me just tell you.
First of all, there's like a million people out there cheering and waving flags and signs and so forth. It's a wild crazy party on both sides of every street (and many hanging out of windows above the streets) of the 26.2-mile course. 1,000,000 people. It helps if you say it like Doctor Evil. Except that it's not only not an exaggeration, it's probably a low estimation.
Second of all, the people are so interesting. I expected people to be wearing tech shirts and shorts. Maybe a few would be wearing those special tights they make now for running in cold weather. There were 40,000 runners clogging the streets around Grant Park, and while most of them were wearing traditional running gear, many were wearing very outlandish ... um... things. (Wait for it...)
So in October of 2003, I was there at the start with My Beloved, eager and nervous for him, and a little more than surprised about the way the day was turning out. I decided that I'd be happy standing under the Sears Tower, which is just past the halfway mark. I actually got there before the professional runners.
Yeah. There are three phases of runners in any large marathon. There are the professionals, who were invited to participate from all over the world and have big names and will be running for giant bags of money. They are not human. Their endorsements have endorsements. They'll finish the race in 2:08 or so and make the end of the race a very exciting few minutes.
The second phase of runners are the super elite humans. These are people who will run the race in 3:20 and complain about hitting their plateau at mile 18. They take the sport of running seriously, but are not at Olympic or professional level. They will all have paid actual money for their sneakers, most of them even paid full price; there won't be a single endorsement among them, unless they happen to be an athlete from another sport. (That happens sometimes.) Many of these people are running to get a particular finish time which will qualify them to run the Boston Marathon or other hard-to-get-into races.
The third group is made of just regular people like Rick. These are the people who get in a 5-10 mile run at the gym on their lunch break and then do longer training on the weekends. Most of these folk are really just interested in visiting a new city and maybe actually finishing the race. They use running to keep fit and to excuse that extra helping of cheesecake, and they probably bought their shoes on sale or with a coupon. This is where my husband fits in.
Mixed in with the third phase of runners are the people in costumes.
In 2003 I saw the San Diego Chicken run past me at least 3 times. He (?) was wearing different sneakers and numbers each time. Elvises (Elvii??) from every stage of his life ran past, and I lost count of them around 7, I think. You might have thought that Fat Sequined Elvis would be the funniest to watch, but biggest laughs went to the Leather Elvises. I saw firefighters and members of the military running in full gear. Several Spidermen, Supermen, Wonder Women, Incredible Hulks, The Flash (who apparently lapped the other racers--I saw 4 or 5 of him), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all streaked by. There were gorillas, brides, zombies (wonder if they needed the makeup by the end of the course?), Frankenstein's monsters, cheerleaders, ghosts, omigoodness all sorts of Halloween masks. It was spectacular.
So there I was, at the base of the Sears Tower watching in awe as the too-athletic-to-be-recognizably-humans ran past. I marveled at them and at the super amazing next phase of very serious athletes. By the time the real people started making their way past us the cheering got seriously loud. People who weren't in costume put their names on their shirts so we could cheer for them by name, and we did. I had gotten to know the people around me. Conversation was lively and fun. I am in this weekend for my own entertainment, and I know I won't be disappointed.
I missed seeing Rick running in the massive crush of runners that last time. I hope to see him this time. That's my goal. His goal is to finish. No, he won't be wearing a costume. Yes, he will be almost as entertained as I will be. And of course there will be the obligatory embarassing pictures on Facebook.
I can't wait.
standing and cheering and making a big public fool of myself over 26.2 miles,
PS: If you read this far, you may be interested in knowing that Rick is running the Chicago Marathon to raise money for the American Brain Tumor Association. His mom is recovering from brain cancer. If you would like to read his story and donate, please click HERE.