Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Running for a Ride – Chicago Marathon by Meghann Gunderman

My friend Lauren Fischer’s Blog inspired me to try and take in all the sites as I ran 26.2 miles in the Chicago Marathon. It is very easy to forget what you see as your body starts to react in anger to the many miles you are putting on it. I signed up to run Chicago back in May thinking it would be a wonderful way to get “my people” behind the work The Foundation For Tomorrow was doing. I find these days people are more inclined to support friends charitable passions when they are seeing them exert some sort of energy outside a donation letter. For me, fundraising is nonstop, it’s my job and what I do to help keep TFFT up and running. At this point all of my friends know what I do and know about The Foundation For Tomorrow, my thought was that running a marathon would get them even more engaged and potentially a little enthused to see me in pain…this enthusiasm turning into some cash. This in fact was very much the case. My friends came out in person and through their donations to wish me well, cheer me on and send funds enabling TFFT to serve more children.

SO, lets get to the good part: 4+ months of training ,Friday nights lost due to 6am Saturday am runs, a great running group, friends made along the way and an awesome boyfriend at my side as we start October 9th off with a 4:45am wake up call!

The Charlotte crew got to the start with a solid hour to go. We all met up at Buckingham Fountain around 6:30am. The sun was rising over Lake Michigan as the excitement builds. The crowds were starting to get me nervous, excited and nervous but nervous none the less. I had done a marathon before but it had not been for over 5 years ago so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

There was plenty of music to wake us up at the start line, Music and the smell vomit were what I recall of the start. Really?? were people that nervous? I thought we were about midway back in the open corral but geez the gun went off and I didn’t even know the elite runners had started. We just started walking forward as a mass crowd. It was only then I realized we were pretty far back. It took me a solid 15 minutes to get to the start line. I crossed it right at 7:44am. We were off, running out of Millennium Park. Mile one done- slow and steady at 10 minutes, so many fun faces standing on the bridges, hanging signs, cheering us all on. It was congested but everyone was still in good spirits. We were going right through the heart of the city. The crowds were insane. It was then I started to get a bit worried, crap - I should have told those who were cheering for me which side of the road to stand on. I think being a spectator at this point was harder than being a runner..all fighting for prime watching position. 2 miles in feeling good.

5km came right after we ran over the second bridge- love the water and this city but definitely should stay on the carpeted parts of the bridge, kind of slippery. I was starting to find my way, dropping my pace down to 9:45 a mile. I crossed the 5km mark at 8:14am.

It was here I realized I should start looking out for people. My mind was in a state of frenzy trying to recall what miles markers my friends and family said they would be at. I just kept scanning the crowd, getting a kick out of all the funny signs people made. There were nice, inspiring ones, encouraging us to keep going, there were massive cut outs of peoples faces, one lady had a sign with her number on it informing us all that she thought nipple chaffing was “sexy”. The ones I wasn’t as keen on were the ones reminding us we had 20+ miles to go..I even saw a guy hold one up that told his wife she had laundry to do when she got home, so she better hurry up. I noticed throughout plenty of people held signs saying “Congrats or Well done Complete Stranger.” I got a kick out of those ones…just grateful to have the consistent support from the Chi.

At around mile 5/6 we were passing Lincoln Park Zoo. It was kind of nice, thoughts of relaxing in the park brought me some peace. That was shortly overturned by the well dressed, preppy folks that were way to fresh faced and perky for my liking. It was 8:42am, I felt strong, I had brought my pace down to 9:09 at the 6 mile marker but realized I still have 20.2 miles to go.

Mile 8 I had been looking forward to since before the start. I heard about you guys.. It’s Boystown..I loved the energy.. Men in tutus, Elvis singing, plenty of bands and cross dressers to put a smile on my face!

I crossed the 15km mark at 9:14am..my pace was back at 10 minutes a mile..I had a little bathroom break in there..yes it took me 8+ miles to find a porta potty without a line! Loved it though because then I started drinking more water again- refreshing!

At this point I was more determined to find Ben (“BBE” – Best Boyfriend Ever) than I was to get to the halfway point. I wasn’t exactly sure what intersection I told him and I know my estimated times were way off..ekk.. will we ever see eachother?? RELIEF ..Mile 10..there he was all clean and fresh with him RIDICULOUSLY AMAZING FLOURESANT PINK SIGN! Thank you -Thank you!

I was good, almost halfway there (20km) in 2hrs and 2 minutes through, a little over 10 minutes a mile at this pace. It wasn’t ideal but I was known for negative splits so I was confident I could still get my 4 hour goal.

Starting to feel some hip pain but it was all mental..no problem, HALFWAY at 9:53am..2hrs and 9 minutes..slowing down, whats my issue now?…almost 11 minute a mile. Legs starting to really feel these miles…but in my head I was all confused 13 miles..thats nothing for me..I trained, this is mine..right? Maybe not so much!

Mile 14- Charity village –Mr. Rogers, no not the guy with the trains, Kaitlin’s dad! Something great to focus on..seeing another friendly face and getting inspired by all the charities represented in the race. I started to focus on all the peoples choices in running attire and the charities they were running for..lots of people had the names of people they were running for on their shirts, they had the mission, visions and goals for all that inspired them plastered across their chests..it was really cool to see how many people who were running were doing it for something greater than themselves. I was pretty pleased to know I was in good company. Then you had the ones that make you laugh.. The weirdos that have to make you wonder “What were you thinking”… Full on costumes, cave men, people in tutus, bananas even.

25km -15.5 miles – 10:22am – 11:56 pace – my legs are NOT cooperating at all! Shortly after the joy of Charity Village my muscle above my quad seized up –Really?? This has NEVER happened to me.. I’ve heard about it happening but in the 19+ years I’ve competed as a runner I have never had this happen. I was hydrating. A good amount of electrolytes and water.. I ate PLENTY before the race..protein shakes, weight training twice a week. I was strong..but I definitely didn’t feel strong! Then the sign "The last ten miles is all downhill"..come on – really? Do you think that inspires us..10 miles more..That sucks.

The light came shortly there after at Mile 16 when I saw Adam Rubin and Kaitlin Rogers. The TFFT crew arrived. Kaitlin had not only made a sign complete with a TFFT logo but also a stenciled of a runner and pictures of our kids. I loved it. I loved seeing them, the only bright spot in a dark moment for me. I tried to put a brave face on but I think they realized I wasn’t feeling it. I tried to just let them talk and get my mind off of things. Kaitlin informed me this was the “hood” we were running through– It’s no Unga Limited (Arusha’s hood) but I guess it works for Chi town. It was actually really a lot more friendly than expected. Lauren F had warned us on her blog the crowds thin out here but in fact people were still out in full force. Maybe more just out on their stoops thinking we were a bit off for running these long miles, but nonetheless they were out and keeping us runners entertained. I made a game out of finding the next kid with a garden hose trying to keep all us crazy runners cool. I felt like a pin ball being bounced around the back streets of Chi town…left-right-left-right..focus on the water. At one point we passed Church’s chicken. I thought I was going to vomit at the smell, not so appetizing at 17 miles in. It came right at the point a women was waving her cow bell at me with one hand, smoking her cig with the other – thank you ma’am for that breath of fresh air!

Mile 17 Kaitlin and Adam still running with me..thank god. They make me think that Mandu and Matayo are running by my side. For those of you who have never met these two, they are two of our TFFT Scholars, two big personalities. Mandu is half Kenyan, 10 yrs old and a rock. He had rickets as a child and couldn’t walk, now he could walk right over most of our middle schoolers. Matyo is lanky, squirrely and always in the thick of it. Both images make me laugh, smile and realize there is greater meaning to this mile than putting one foot in front of the other. While I don’t have any biological children, I have 76 kids I call mine, personalities that make me melt, that make me wake up in the morning and know I am on the right path. Thank you TEAM TFFT for reminding me mile 17 is just a number. Nothing more and that I can do this.

Mile 18 – BEN, yes finally ..again! Love it. Though it was obvious on his face I wasn’t looking that great. He took a little stretch with me at this point. I think I clocked in at 15 minutes that mile, probably the hardest point to get through. The sun was out, it was a little after 11am and I had been running for almost 3 and a half hours..this just isn’t natural.

Mile 19 I felt like I was in Mexico –vamos vamos – the crowd was really engaged. I tried to focus on this instead of the pain in my quads..run 7 minutes, walk a minute, keep going at this and I can get it done!

Ahh – then the nice man with his icepops – it was such a joy..cool relief I never thought I would have at this point! GRACIAS

Wait – Kaitlin you’re still with me..the non-runner had been so freaking supportive she was still with me – Asante Sana Kaitlin Rogers for that commitment! A true friend at my side. Mile 21: CHINA TOWN – dancing dragons and a lot of interesting smells. Mile 23, rounding a corner and heading towards the finish. Kaitlin leaves me after a 7 mile jog, but not before we toast our accomplishment with a cup of beer passed out to us runners! At this point I was just thinking..5km..not that bad, a piece of cake..I can muscle though this. 24.85miles – equivalent to 40km – 12:29am and still pretty slow with my run/walk effort. At this point it was truly pride.. I was not about to finish over 5 hours. I don’t care how bad I feel or what muscles tear, I was going to get in. I was already almost an hour slower than the first marathon I ran. Just get it done! The last few miles that is all I could think of – keep your head up and look for people turning right. I knew that as soon as you take a right turn it was up a hill to the left and you’re done! Those last two miles I dropped my pace to right about 10 minutes a mile. I am not sure how I did that but I was determined and more focused on my 5pm massage then anything around me.

Ok – so these last two miles are taking longer than expected. I knew I was looking for a sea of people turning right but when?? Where is Roosevelt? Come on, make me a happy girl and show me that turn. I knew there was a hill but I didn’t care, I just knew it meant relief. At this point I kept my eyes pealed all I could see though were confusing signs, 1000 meters right next to 1 mile to go. Ummm.. 1600 meters is 1 mile – that is a BIG difference in my life now, I need to know when to kick it in to high gear and muster all the strength I have left. Is it 1000 meters or 1 mile, how far am I from the finish???? 800 meters/Mile 26..ok, whichever it is, I can do this – I was an 800m runner in highschool. I was about at the top of the bridge/hill. I knew I could give it all I had left, inaccurate signs or not…Bliss..I see the words FNISH LINE as I take a left off the hill and give it all that I can.

Mile 26.2: 4hr, 59 minutes and 42 seconds according to them 4 hrs and 57 minutes on my watch..oh well – not pretty – not fast but RELIEVED!

I didn’t run this marathon for myself. I ran this marathon for The Foundation For Tomorrow, for our 76 TFFT Scholars and the thousands other that benefit from the services our team provides. The inspiration, goofy faces, heart wrenching pasts of my kids helped me muscle through the physical pain. That pain is nothing compared to growing up without parents to love, support and care after you. I’m so thankful TFFT kids came into my life. On a daily basis they make me want to be a better person, fight harder and talk louder- enabling them the same educational opportunities we are provided here in the West. They inspire me to work for a world that allows them to dream as big as any other child in this world!

Thank you for being a part of this journey with us. May it continue to build steam and push on forward!

I have high hopes for you nuggets!

“Kid you'll move mountains

So... Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O'Shea,

You're off to great places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting.

So... Get on your way.”

Dr. Seuss – Oh, The Places You’ll Go!


North Star said...

"...there is greater meaning to this mile than putting one foot in front of the other. While I don’t have any biological children, I have 76 kids I call mine, personalities that make me melt, that make me wake up in the morning and know I am on the right path." This made me teary-eyed, Meghann! You are a superstar and you are too a ROCK... God bless you!!!!

Josh Nassari said...

Hongera sana Meg,

I feel way more inspired, Really you are laying the foundation for tomorrow. By moving one leg ahead 76 kids are receiving the opportunity of their lifetime, THAT WAY THEY CAN EMPOWER THEMSELVES IN THE FUTURE.

Keep up the good job.

Kathleen Hessert said...

I am Meghann's Mother. And I couldn't be prouder of the choices she has made and the foundation for tomorrow she is building half way around the world.!