Running for DetermiNation – A Chicago Marathon to Remember and Honor

On Oct 9th, I awoke at 4:20am after a surprisingly decent night of sleep.  Although we were able to get an upgraded larger room at the Westin with 3 beds and a crib, my biggest fear of not being able to sleep with 7 of us in the room (including our precious 10 month old son) never materialized.  I began my pre-marathon routine for the 3rd time in 12 months; a half cup of coffee, a peanut butter sandwich on wheat and a 16 oz gatorade.  Then in the dark of the room I saw my running singlet.  

Race Morning 10/9/11 5:00am

My wife had carefully placed every name carefully on the back of my Determination running shirt.  I saw my mothers name at the top and the memory of her announcing 25 yrs ago that she had breast cancer came rushing back in my brain.  The name of Kerry Peoples stared back at me on the white ribbon – my childhood friend who had died of cancer at the age of 35.  Also, the name of Charlotte Rich – an amazing woman who touched so many of us at Hamilton High School with her teaching and kindness but inspired us forever with her long, courageous battle with this terrible disease.  The name of Norman Holloway – our neighbor – the beloved father of the 3 “Holloway Boys” who was diagnosed and died within weeks earlier this year. 

I left the hotel at 5:30 and began the 2 block walk to the Chicago station and the Red Line that will take me to Grant Park.  There were 2 runners from South Africa who were standing on the corner looking at a map.  They had no clue where the train station was.  My good deed for the morning.

Ready To Run

Walking down the stairs into the subway station I saw many runners waiting on the next train.  Two ladies stood beside me.  They smiled nervously at me and I said “Its going to be a great day”. They both nodded, smiled and then began talking in German to each other.  As we got on the train, I grabbed a seat and pulled my running singlet from my backpack. 

I rubbed the ribbon of my Aunt Corrine who had died just a few years ago after a very hard battle with multiple cancers.  On a red ribbon was the name Angela Bryowsky.. my sister-in-law who is now in her 5th battle with cancer and who I had talked to just a few days earlier as she was preparing for her monthly week of chemo for her brain tumor. 

I then went over every name.  Read every one a few times.  Tried to remember where each name would be on my back. 

Honoring Our Grandma!

We arrived at the Roosevelt Station and began the long walk in the dark towards the Charity Village and the Determination-ACS Hospitality Tent where I planned to continue to hydrate, stretch and add one final, very important ribbon. 

The night before I had miscounted how many white ribbons that I needed.  I needed one more.  For Erik Schmipf.  You see, in memory of Erik is why I’m now less than an hour from running the 26.2 miles.  Erik was the son of Heidi who works in our Lake Forest office.  He passed away in 2007 at the age of 20 from Hodgkins Lymphoma and made my decision very easy to pick Determination to support for this race.

As I tried to calm my nerves stretching in the tent I began looking at my running teammates who were now streaming into the tent.  More than 700 strong would be running for the American Cancer Society in this race and each has wore the names of their loved ones honored on their backs. In total, our team has raised $1,000,000 as we trained for this race. Incredible.

 I slowly slid my running singlet over my head – making sure that each ribbon stayed on even asking someone next to me to make sure that they could all be seen – all 38 names. 

The race was amazing.  The city of Chicago came out over 1 million strong lining the streets to cheer all 38,000 of us who finished the 26.2 miles.  I saw so many of my fellow Determination runners on the course and several times out of the blue the “coaches” ran with me for a few minutes…encouraging me…. talking to me… asking me if I needed any water or anything….. and telling me to remember why I was enduring this pain.  It so helped me more than they will ever realize.

The Bling

At mile 20 I began the final 10K desperately trying to keep my pace and my dream of breaking 4 hours intact.  It was somewhere on that mile that I saw a sign that said “Six Months Ago This Seemed Like a Great Idea!!!”.  I laughed when I saw it but I didn’t agree with it.  I was very proud of what I was about to accomplish.

I crossed the finish line in 4:08:55 and accomplished my goal of running my fastest race yet. 

I got my medal and had my photo taken and then made my way slowly back to the Determination Tent.  I walked with David Pittman, who honestly convinced me in 2010 that I would love being a part of their team.  David is devoting his running life to fight cancer and many have joined this great purpose because of him.

I arrived at the tent; immediately stuck my feet in the ice bath and stared at my medal and reflected on that hot race. 

Team Determination - Chicago Marathon 2011

It was at that point that it hit me.  My official racetime was 4:08.  I had received two more donations late on Saturday night and my current fundraising total at noon on race day?  $4,080  

My goal next year?  Make sure I cap my fundraising at 3,059.99   🙂

To make a donation to my Team Determination fundraiser please click below


About Running Dad of Five

I am a father of five who runs marathons and eats hills for breakfast. I am 46 years old, blessed with a wonderful wife of 21 years, four beautiful daughters and an infant son. On a mission to juggle family, work and my love of sports.
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2 Responses to Running for DetermiNation – A Chicago Marathon to Remember and Honor

  1. Sue says:

    Wonderful post – and a bit of a tear jerker. I’m glad I wasn’t running behind you – seeing all those ribbons would have made me burst into tears. Very inspiring. Congratulations!

  2. Love your blog! You are good writer. Looking forward to more posts in the future. 🙂

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