The Road to my 2nd Marathon

'The Clock
Tick Tock...
And I Want
And I Feel
And I know
And I Touch


"Did you have to make it so high?"


It's Sunday, April 6th, 2013.  I'm running in The Trailbreaker Marathon in Waukesha WI and having a bad day.

My first attempt at the Marathon distance is slowly imploding on me. At mile 17  I was telling myself, 'Never again.'  At mile 23 I had to stop, walk briefly, then resume running in agonizing fits and starts, until the finish line, which I managed to run across before cramping up. Truth be told, the distance was at least 28 miles, 26.2 of which I'm sure I ran.  But my body was beaten, I'd hit the legendary Wall, and though crossing the line and receiving the medal was truly wonderful, inside I felt ambivalent.  My training was inadequate to keep me running from start to finish.

No one has ever been able to describe The Bonk, or Hitting The Wall, in a way which adequately evokes the suffering involved.  Words fail.  (Funny, no one can ever remember how bad it really was, either.)  Passage of time causes a visceral amnesia.  Despite the romantic notion that it's something everyone should experience as a Rite Of Passage (and it is), one thing was clear to me.  I didn't want a repeat engagement.

On the positive side, I had finished my first Marathon, and discovered along the way that I really enjoyed running.  It was inspiring to think of running longer distances without it being such a Dante-esque struggle.

With that in mind, I would enter that Dark Wood again, find a Virgil, and this time pass thru that Inferno-esque Wall in search of that most elusive of experiences:  A Happy Finish:

"Hey Virgil...  Are you sure this is the right way?"

'Midway on our life's journey, I found myself
In Dark Woods, the right road lost...
And savage that thinking of it now, I feel
The old fear stirring...'
Dante Alighieri, The Inferno, Canto I, 1314


At the beginning of 2014 I had a string of injuries I was still recovering from.  Hip, hamstring and Turf Toe, all conveniently on my right side.  I was sidelined from running for a few weeks.

I wondered if my running mechanics were to blame.  In Christopher Mcdougall's book, Born To Run, I'd read about 'minimalist' running.  The Tarahumara Indians from Copper Canyon in Mexico ran either barefoot, or with sandals made from old truck tires.  They're were amazingly efficient at it without the benefit of having the latest technologically advanced running shoes.

Thousands (perhaps millions) of years ago our upright ancestors ran on less.  While on the hunt, they'd spend roughly 3-4 hours running after, exhausting, corralling and eventually capturing their prey.  Fast forward into the future, we're still doing the same thing, though the prey in this case is a finish line at the end of a 26.2 mile hunt, and a medal around our necks (which you might be inclined to bite).

ACE (American Council on Exercise) was holding a Barefoot Running Clinic out in Barrington that February.  

Initially, we were all put on treadmills in our running shoes just to see how we ran.  The critique on me was I pitched forward too much, ran heel to toe, took too few steps, and wasn't breathing correctly.  Anything else?

Over the next 8 hours we all learned to:
  • Run on our forefeet.   
  • Run at 180 BPM's (Beats Per Minute - that's 1 beat per foot strike).  We also did this as a separate exercise where we jumped double and single footed.  The singles were difficult.
  • Run upright and relaxed, looking ahead not down, arms easy and swinging at our sides, chest open and shoulders back, kicking our legs back to use our hamstrings.
  • Toe-Ga, exercises intended to use each of our toes individually and together, flexing and extending them, while standing or kneeling.  
The catch was that we did all of this - whether on the treadmill or a mat - barefoot.


From February to March my training was adaptive, meaning it was preparing my body for the upcoming intensity and volume.
  • I did my Toe-Ga exercises.
  • I jumped rope barefoot at 180 BPM's for 3 minutes, with 1 minute rest, repeating this cycle 3 times - a challenging workout on it's own.  
  • I ran barefoot on the treadmill, upwards of 2 miles, which had the sensation (at that distance) of running on hot coals.
  • I continued my Kettlebell and Calisthenic exercises.
  • I was able to run again (in running shoes).  
My injuries had faded.  The pain in my hip, hamstring and Turf Toe were all gone.

It seemed I was transitioning nicely into being able to run in minimalist shoes outside soon.  To be sure, I had no desire to actually run barefoot. The point in all this was to run more efficiently and naturally.  Also, to prevent injuries in the long term by strengthening my feet.

I bought a pair of Vivobarefoot (Stealth model) running shoes.  The shoes themselves seemed far too wide for me. A bit of a Bozo look, frankly.  They had tough rubber soles with a canvas top, were light, and as promised, offered no support in the sole at all other than protection from rocks, glass, nails, etc.... While running in them, however, you'd feel every twig you went over.


"Don't make me use this tail."

'Minos, great connoisseur of sin, discerns
For every spirit its proper place in Hell.'
Dante, The Inferno, Canto IV

Somewhere in all this I decided to run the Chicago Marathon.  Going from an un-certified marathon to 1 of the 6 biggest in the world (Boston, New York, London, Berlin and Tokyo being the others) was no wee jump.  The amount of people who ran at the Trailbreaker was .003% compared to the amount who would run on the Mighty Streets of Chicago.

I was too late to get in.  However, I heard about Rise International from a client, a charity which had built a school in Angola, Africa, and now needed funds so the kids could actually use the school.  They still needed runners, so gratefully I joined their ranks.  They would prove to be a constant source of inspiration, encouragement and practical guidance.  It would be even more incentive to run for something beyond myself.


I started the first phase of my training in March (which took me thru till the end of June), transitioning from my Adidas to the Vivobarefoot's for running in April.

Weekly Training looked like this:

Run 2-3X/Wk. (Weekly mileage was as little as 5, but never more than 21 miles).
Strength and Conditioning using Kettlebells and Calisthenics 2X/Wk.
Bicycling 1-2X/Wk.
Spinning 1X/Wk.

  • The Chicago Botanic Gardens.  As the Polar Vortex began to recede, I ran around the Gardens service roads and trails.  It was cold but you could feel spring trying to bleed thru.
  • Hill repeats in The Winnetka Ravine, Tower Beach Hill and Lloyds Beach Hill.
  • A couple speedy 10 milers at 77 and 73 minutes, respectively.
  • Las Vegas.  I ran the strip 3 days in a row, totaling over 20 miles.  Fun people watching, goofing and dodging.  No iPod necessary.
  • A Half-Marathon training run in 101 minutes while it was 80 degrees outside. (With less than 140 miles for the year).
  • Meeting my fellow Team Rise Runners.

"Now look what you've gotten yourself into!"

'Have you observed how that one's steps displace
Objects his body touches? Feet of the dead are not accustomed to behave like that.'
Dante, The Inferno, Canto XII

In the next 2 weeks I hit a 'soft' wall.  Intense fatigue, slower times, emotional burnout. Then a minor nightmare.

After an 8 mile run I felt pain in my left heel.  I figured it was just a tight Soleus (lower calf) muscle, or maybe a bit of Plantar Faciatis, which I thought could be easily stretched and worked out.

I tried running again a couple days later (on the treadmill to lessen the impact) but had to abort.  The heel hurt too much.  After talking with my Doctor, he said I had tendinitis in my left Calcaneous between the ankle and the heel, and needed to stop running until the pain went away.

It would take 3 weeks, which when you're in the middle of a very successful training run bites a chunk out of everything you've accomplished.  In the meantime, I continued all the Phase One training I'd been doing, but substituted running with a CycleOps WATTS Spin bike and an Elliptical machine.


"How many times do I have to run around inside this damned thing?"

I went to my favorite running store, The Runner's Edge in Wilmette.  I told them of my dilemma.  I was introduced to Steve, who's way of saying Hi was, 'Those sure are minimalist shoes you're wearing.'

I told him my story.  He wondered if I'd transitioned too fast into the minimalist shoes. How about more support for your heel?  His solution were the Brooks Pure Flow model, which were a neutral running shoe (my Adidas' had a sole which helped offset foot pronation).  The Brooks had a nice cushion to protect my tender heel, and they felt good to walk in.  I got some heavy duty Orange Superfeet to use as insoles.

I finally ran again Sunday, July 6th.  10K in 47 minutes.  I felt no pain in my heel.

These Brooks would see me all the way to Marathon's end.  I set aside all thoughts of 'minimalist' running.  I decided my flat feet, after 43 years of being supported by soles, and also being a post-Stone Age man on asphalt and concrete, meant I would never adapt.

From July until Mid September my training was as follows:

Running 3-5X/Wk (Weekly mileage from 22 to 46 miles).
Kettlebells and Calisthenics 1X/Wk.
Spinning X1/Wk.


  • The Chicago Rock 'N' Roll Half-Marathon in July.  I discovered I might be claustrophobic while standing in a crowded Corral waiting to start the race.  However, I enjoyed the experience and was thankful that I ran it at a respectable 106 minutes, done with only 2 weeks of running after the heel injury.  It would be great prep for the Chicago Marathon.
  • More Hill repeats in The Ravine and Tower and Lloyds.  I achieved a personal best of 20 hill repeats divided evenly between Tower/Lloyds, and 9 miles of running to get it all done. 
  • My first Interval speed work on the track.
  • Building up my endurance in distances from 14 to 15 milers.
  • My fastest 18 miler at 2 hours and 23 minutes.
  • Getting a bad cold (as always, it infiltrated my lungs) which took me out for 5 days.
  • A Half-Marathon+ (solo training) in Washington D.C., which I barely finished (still getting over the cold), but was extremely inspiring in D.C.s unique brand of Hellish humidity.  Rock Creek Parkway, Kennedy Center, Lincoln Monument, Arlington Bridge, the Mount Vernon Trail to National Airport and back.
  • My fastest 20 miler at 2 hours and 37 minutes.
  • Getting used to running with a Camelback.
  • Developing music playlists which became an integral part of the run, helping me pick the best songs for the Marathon. 

'Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back...
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'
Robert Frost 'The Road Less Taken' 1920

The week after I had my best 20 miler ever I was exhausted.  

I was at mile 12 on another 20 miler when I rolled my left foot badly in Highland Park, 8 miles from home.  I limped to the Braeside train station and called a cab.  With less than 5 weeks to go I wondered if I'd just ruined my Marathon hopes.

2 days later I was running again.  Lucky.

But the excessive fatigue I was experiencing was giving me concern. 

I found the book, The Hanson Marathon Method by Luke Humphrey (again, at The Runner's Edge), and learned a lot in a short period of time.  I immediately implemented as much of it as I could with only 4 weeks to go:
  • Cumulative Fatigue means that you never fully recover from your workouts.  You force the body to adapt to increased training demands.  However, this doesn't mean you're exhausted all the time.  Fatigue is normal, but shouldn't make you a Zombie.  
  • I used the Beginner's Program, being that I'd hit The Wall on my first attempt, and thus felt I was still new to Marathoning.  The program was 18 weeks in length, so I simply adjusted my training schedule to the last 4 weeks of it.
  • I targeted a Marathon time goal.  I wanted ideally to break 3:30, which would be an 8 minute per mile Pace.  All training times would flow from this projected Pace, which Humphrey had time charts set up for.  
The training week was divided into 6/7 days of running, with the following intensities:
  • Easy Runs:  Run 1-2 minutes slower per mile than Marathon Pace.  That meant between 9-10 minute miles for me.  Instead of challenging yourself to maintain your fastest pace every run (which was how I trained), learn to run slower, which will in turn teach the body to use fat as it's primary source, and build all the internal energy system pathways necessary to provide the body with ongoing optimal fuel levels.  This would be key to running from start to finish.  Once you've gone thru your glycogen stores, The Wall will be looming very soon.
  • Long Runs:  No more than 16 miles in length! Run it slower than Marathon pace.  The Long Run should never exceed 25-30% of weekly mileage, and should feel like the last 16 miles of the Marathon.  My Long Runs had often exceeded 55% of my weekly mileage.
  • 10 Days:  The time that it takes the body to adapt the endurance benefits of the Long Run.  Alternate your Long Runs with shorter ones every other weekend.
  • Speed/Strength Runs:  Instead of Hill Repeats, I used a track to run 1-3 mile repeats, with 800-400 meters of recovery in-between (jogged, not walked).  This was done at a faster than Marathon Pace, but not as fast as I could.  It was hard but never exhausting.  It would require extra Warm-Up/Recovery miles before and after.
  • Tempo Runs:  Run at Marathon Pace, with Warm-up/Recovery miles before and after. While the timed part of the run was 10 miles in length, with the extra miles it would often be over 13.
  • I still did my Kettlebells, Calisthenics and Spin class 1X/week.
Using The Hanson Method I was running more than ever.  In the last 4 weeks I ran 185 miles, which was 37% of the 500 miles I'd covered in 14 weeks since first wearing the Brooks.  

And just for good measure I rolled my left foot yet again 2 weeks before the Marathon (during an Easy Run in the woods). I'd run again 2 days later.  Really lucky.    

  • I forced myself to eat between 2400-3000 Kcal's daily (mostly carbohydrate), eating lots of mini-meals.
  • For training I'd do nothing but Easy Runs, including a 6 miler to pick-up my Race Packet at the McCormick Center on Friday, followed by a 2 miler the following Saturday.  The Marathon was the next day.  In the past I'd never run with 2 days to go.
  • I set up a Marathon Aid Station Plan.  I wasn't going to use my Camelback during the run.  I'd been teaching myself to take 4 substantial gulps every 2 miles while training, and had targeted when I'd needed to drink Gatorade, or ingest a Hammer Gel, along with the Water, utilizing all 20 Aid Stations that would be set up for the Runners.
  • I studied the course, knew what the cumulative mileage would be at each Aid Station, knew the streets, and was sure to target where The Wall might occur. 
  • Light Kettlebell and Calisthenic workout, no Spin class.
  • No alcohol, except 1 beer Friday night. 

'I must not fear.  Fear is the mind killer.  Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.  I will face my fear.  I will permit it to pass over me and through me.  And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see it's path.  Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.  Only I will remain.'

Frank Herbert, Dune, 1965  


I slept better than I thought I would, even though I was awake at 3:39.  I got out of bed at 4:30. 

Breakfast is Espresso and blueberry granola with milk. I look at the course, make sure I've got my Aid Station Plan memorized. 

I lay down again to rest.  

I get up once and for all and eat, this time it's Clif Shot Blocks, something that will go down easy.  The 3 Hour Rule states you should eat a full meal (150 grams of carbohydrates) 3 hours before an event lasting over 2 hours.  If, instead, I stagger the eating over that time period, I can just about eat that much.

It's time to go.  Lisa can't come down with me, so wishes me luck instead.  Hugs and kisses, 'I'll see you soon'.

I head down to Randolph and join the convergence of humanity making their way to the appointed Gates of entry. These Gates (Red - 1st Wave, Blue - 2nd Wave and Gray - 3rd Wave) will take us to our assigned Corrals.  My Blue Gate' entrance is all the way down at Congress.  

Everyone's in motion, walking - some jogging - down Michigan Avenue's sidewalk, spilling into the street at times, where there's already a bit of traffic.  We're all in a big hurry to run a long way.

I passed thru Gate 3 leading into F Corral, and found myself in a slow moving line as the runners went through the security check.

All cleared, I head to the Gear Check and stow my bag.  I set up my headphones, sticking them firmly in my ears with thin strips of kinesiology tape I've pre-cut.  I take my last Porta-Potty break. I eat a Gel.  I head to Corral F, behind a 10' high chain link fence, and move into it, between and around the people inside it, and find a place to settle in.  I sip water from a bottle I'll dispose of before the race starts.

I'm carrying all the Hammer Gel's (5 total) I will consume during the race either in my pockets or the belt pack which also houses my iPod.

Sounds like Johnny Marr from WXRT is Master Of Ceremonies.  He tells us jokes.  'If you're late and miss the 7:45 cut off time for the 2nd wave, you will go all the way to the back of the last Corral, and there's a chance you may not win this thing.'

The First Wave starts.

I thought the waiting in the Corral would be harder.  At the Rock 'N' Roll Half-Marathon I experienced some genuine distress.  Too many people, too much nervous energy, I felt closed in and trapped.  But now, standing here, I felt calm.  No worries.  GPS watch and iPod ready to go once I've crossed that Start Line.

The F Corral Herd moves forward.  Getting closer.  It's a clear blue sky above and the sun is shining, it's around 51 degrees outside.  I feel optimistic for the first time...
  • 1st Absolute Goal:  Run from start to finish.
  • 2nd Absolute Goal:  Break 4 hours.
  • 3rd not quite so absolute goal:  Break 3:30.
I've started across the line...

I look up at the condo on the 55th floor, housed above Randolph Street, and wave.  Lisa would see me.


Over to the left and way back.  I've got a black cap and yellow T-shirt on.

The swell of over 50,000 runners up ahead and behind and all around is exhilarating.

The music on my playlist would continue to inspire me at each stage of the race.

'I've seen all good people 
Turn their heads each day so satisfied 
I'm on my way...
Take a straight and stronger course 
To the corner of your life,
Send an Instant Karma to me
Initial it 
With loving care.'
Yes 'I've Seen All Good People' 1971 
  • Negative Split:  First half slower than 2nd.  No world record of significance has ever been set with a positive split.  You want to be your strongest at the end.
  • Running Economy:  Get the most out of the least effort.  Remember all the barefoot techniques, but mix it up with some heel to toe and mid foot striking.  Stay relaxed, happy and focused.
  • Start slow, allow a couple of miles to go by before you settle into your pace.
  • The grates on all the bridge crossings are a bit rough on the feet and ankles. They had a type of rug over part of it that helped, but you could still feel the metal pushing back up into your feet.  Some of the runners on the course were going barefoot, so I was grateful for my padded soles.

Columbus Drive north (cross Chicago River) to Grand Avenue west to State Street south (cross Chicago River)

Aid Station 1 - State Street
Gel and Water 

East on Jackson Boulevard to LaSalle Street north (cross Chicago River) to LaSalle Drive
  • I wanted it to feel like nothing the first 7 miles.
  • All around us are crowds of people lining the course and cheering us on.  Now and then I'd do a fist pump and they'd scream.  I'm a Rock Star for a day.
  • LaSalle is the first long stretch, about 3 miles.  I've found I prefer this to short stretches and lots of turns.
1st Split pace 8:48

Aid Station 2 - LaSalle Drive

  • The crowd of Marathoners was opening up a bit. 
  • Locals were darting across the street between the runners.   
  • You can be taken out of your own rhythm if you try to stay with someone who's a bit faster, or worrying about someone trying to stay with you who's slower. 
LaSalle Drive past North Avenue, curves east towards the Lake, turn left heading north up Stockton Drive into Lincoln Park.

Aid Station 3 - Stockton Drive
Gatorade and Water
  • The Fall colors were quite a sight, the Drive rolling and twisting thru the Park, the only place on the course other than bridge crossings that it's not flat.
Stockton ends at Fullerton Avenue, dog leg back onto Cannon Drive heading north through Lincoln Park. 
  • Team Rise Supporters yelled 'Go Team Rise!' as I came by in my T and Cap.  The cheering really does work.

Aid Station 4 - Cannon Drive

Cannon Drive and Lincoln Park ended at Diversey, head north on Sheridan Road.
  • We'd run our first 10K.  Feeling fine, so far so good.  3 more 10K's + 1.4 miles and I'll be done.
2nd Split Pace 8:17

'Think not now your journey's done
For though your ship be sturdy,
No mercy has the sea.'
Genesis 'Watcher Of The Skies' 1973

Sheridan Road north past Belmont Avenue and onto the Inner Drive, continuing north all the way to Addison Street, the Northernmost point of the Marathon.  Turning left and west onto Addison Street, then left again and south onto Broadway Street.
  • The sun was beginning to make itself felt.  You could feel the temps slowly climbing.  Later I'd hear how the wind had been a factor but I never really noticed it.
Aid Station 5 - Broadway Street
Gel and water
  • I took my first Race-Time potty break.  Run to Potty, make it quick, run from Potty.  Avoid running while in Potty.
Broadway Street south to where it ends and eases you via a soft left onto Clark Street, continuing south.  
  • The Crowds up in Lake View/Lincoln Park where so enthusiastic.  Diversity was the norm, but frankly all of Chicago would feel this way.  
'Neon heart dayglo eyes
A city lit by fireflies
They're advertising in the skies
For people like us'
U2 'City Of Blinding Lights' 2004

3rd Split Time 8:38
Aid Station 6 - Clark Street

Clark Street south to a little jog at Webster Avenue onto Sedgwick Street.  
Sedgwick Street took us down to North Avenue were we ran east and then south again onto Wells Street.  
  • Next to Lincoln Park, Sedgwick and Wells were the prettiest parts of the run, the streets lined on both sides by Brownstones, with a cathedral like canopy of trees with leaves of gold, yellow and rust.
Aid Station 7 - Wells Street (north end)
Gato and water
  • Wells Street's a long stretch, I feel a touch of fatigue and maybe a little fear.
You know I need you to be strong,
And the day is as dark as the night is long.'
U2 'Ultra-Violet (Light My Way)' 1991

Aid Station 8 - Wells Street (south end)

Wells Street to Hubbard Street, then west onto Orleans Street.

4th Split Time 8:36
  • The Porta-Potty had taken a wee bit of time out of my pace and I had barely made it up. I was inexplicably feeling low in confidence, a touch fatigued, worry and fear began to cut into my Zen and I began to panic.  
  • 'I can't do this.  How am I supposed to run all the way out to Damen then back down to 35th and then back up again?' 
  • I thought about my clients, all the people who had donated.  What would they say if I quit at the half-way point and walked back to Grant Park in shame?  
  • This can't happen.  
  • Oh man, lighten up!  
  • Smile, take it easy, laugh a bit, do some shadow boxing as you run, what's the big deal?
  • I thought of those I loved, how happy I was, I wasn't failing nor would I, my training will get me thru, I won't let those who believe in me down.
'Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle Flew out of the night
He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
Had to listen had no choice
I did not believe the information 
Just had to trust imagination
My heart going Boom Boom Boom
'Son', he said, 'Grab your things I've come to take you home.'
Peter Gabriel 'Solsbury Hill' 1977

Orleans Street south (cross Chicago River) becomes Franklin Street.

Aid Station 9 - Franklin Street
Gel and Water

Franklin Street south to Adams Street, turn right and head west (cross Chicago River).  
  • I felt a surge of strength.  
  • As we crossed over the River someone gave my arm an affectionate grab.  (I think it was affectionate).
  • In the distance of .7 miles I'd increased my speed by 23 seconds on the minute. 
5th Split Time 8:13

Adams Street west into the Near West Side, Greektown then West Loop.  
  • People were beginning to falter, many were walking.  
  • I'm singing to the songs on my playlist, just moving my lips but making no sound, keeping linear focus on the foot work ahead.
Aid Station 10 - Adams Street
  • Adams goes on and on.  Sun's more prevalent with very little shade.  I pass Loomis Street around 1400 West.  
  • Patience is another aspect of training.   
  • We pass over Ashland and keep heading west. I know that mentally getting to Damen will be big. We're too far south to see the United Center, and all the buildings are blocking the view anyway.
'Sun sits so high
Long day's mile 
and the radio crackles 
and the bones bleached white.'
Midnight Oil 'Bullroarer' 1988 

At Damen, the westernmost point of the run, we make a left turn south down to Van Buren Street, left and we're heading back East, left again and we're back up to Jackson Blvd, moving east for another long stretch.

6th Split Time 8:17

Aid Station 11- Van Buren Street
Gato and Water
  • We're heading back into the city, the half way point well behind us, we're in a corridor of red brick and trees.  It's quite nice through here, blue sky above, Chicago's skyline dead center. 

Aid Station 12 - Jackson Boulevard

Jackson takes us to Halsted Street, turn right and south down to Taylor Street, turn right again back west through Little Italy.

Aid Station 13 - Taylor Street
Gel and Water

Taylor takes us to Ashland Avenue near Rush-Presbyterian Medical Center, we turn left heading south towards University Village.  
  • Industrial section, not quite gentrified, watch the pavement, streets are wide open but lots of disheveled asphalt and concrete.
7th Split Time 8:29
  • My pace had slowed a little, but having passed thru the dreaded 17-18 mile marker without feeling myself beginning to implode was another milestone.  My confidence was building. 
Ashland Avenue took us past Chicago Messenger Service down to 18th street, we turn left, heading east.

'And you can dream
So dream out loud
And you can find 
Your own way out
You can build
And I can will
And you can call
I can't wait until
You can stash
And you can seize
In dreams begin
And I can love...
I know that the tide is turning 'round
...Don't let the Bastards grind you down.'
U2 'Acrobat' 1991

Aid Station 14 - 18th Street
  • 18th Street...  There's an Elvis Impersonator in Pilson!  Very festive atmosphere, lots of cheering, looking around I can see the other runners hanging tough.
Turning right, we're back on Halsted Street heading South.

Aid Station 15 - Halsted Street
Gato and water
  • Took my second and last potty break.  There were never any lines at these along the course.  It was worth it to lose a few seconds of time to gain a bit of relief.
  • I'm feeling strong.  I see more people walking.  Over to the side of the street someone is doubled up on the ground.
'A house of cards
Is never built for shock
You can blow it down 
In any kind of weather.'
Dire Straits 'Solid Rock' 1981

We crossed over the Chicago River and took hard left turn onto Archer Avenue, which took us back NE on a diagonal strait to Cermak Road and Chinatown.

Aid Station 16 - Archer Avenue
Water (just filled my mouth and spat it out)

8th Split Pace 8:58
35K/21.7 M

  • I was running my slowest, partly due to the time lost at the Porta-Potty, partly due to conservation on my part as I approached the Feared 22-23 mile marker, the Soul Crushing Wall point of my 1st Marathon a year and a half ago.
  • We were running South down Wentworth Avenue.  I passed mile marker 22.  They'd had Banana's at the last couple Aid Stations but I was sticking to my Gel plan.
Aid Station 17 - Wentworth Avenue
Last Gel and water

We continued south down Wentworth to 33rd and made our way east to State Street, which ran along the west side of the Dan Ryan as we headed South again to 35th.  
  • A man walking a dog gave me a sympathetic look.  
  • King Crimson's 'The Sheltering Sky', which got it's title from Chicagoan Saul Bellow's book, was playing, evoking visions of making my way through the Sahara Desert.
  • I had just passed mile 23.  I wasn't remotely close to failing, even felt rejuvenated.  We ran under some photographers perched on a scaffold over the course and I gave a Siskel and Ebert 2 Thumbs up.

35th would take us east over the Dan Ryan Expressway, passing through the  IIT campus.  We're at the southernmost part of the Marathon.
  • I came to the base of Michigan Avenue, the point of the race that next to the end was the one I'd most hoped to reach.  It meant I had just under 3 miles to run.  A straight shot, north to Roosevelt, and then the end.
'You can blow out a candle
But you can't blow out a fire
Once the flame begins to catch
The wind will blow it higher.'
Peter Gabriel 'Biko' 1980

Aid Station 18 - Michigan Avenue (south)
  • A young Mexican runner, encouraging his friend (they were both holding small Mexican flags) was along side me.  He looked over and smiled and we did a quick fist pump.  It was an incredible feeling to be on this final stretch, knowing nothing would stop us.  Everyone around you was a friend.

Aid Station 19 - Michigan Avenue (midway)
Water only - last Station I'd use

9th Split Time 8:30
  • I'd increased my speed a bit.  I heard some big cheers from the crowd, more Team Rise supporters. Oh man, we're getting closer and now I'm wanting it so badly.
  • The Avenue seems so big.  And so long.  Don't push too fast too soon.  I run faster anyway.  
  • 18th Street.  1 mile to go.
  • 2 more blocks.
  • 1 Km to go.
'Shine your wings forward to the sun
Hide the mysteries of life on your way
...Catch my soul, catch the very light'
Yes 'Starship Trooper' 1971

Roosevelt Road, make a right turn and head east up the hardest hill of the course, bridging us over Lake Shore Drive and left back onto Columbus Drive, were we descend with 200 meters to go. 

  • I sprint the final stretch.  
  • I'd written earlier that no words adequately describe Hitting The Wall.  The same goes for overcoming it.  
  • I crossed the Finish Line.
10th and Final Split Time 8:19
26.2 Miles
3:44:04 Total Time, just under a 8:33/Pace
  • I ran all of it.
  • I broke 4 hours.
  • 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

I received my medal from a volunteer, who gave me a high-five.  Another volunteer gave me my Bank Of America (white with silver lining) space age foil cover-up. I drink some Gato, then some water, eat a banana, and finally drink some chocolate milk.

All down Columbus we're a white processional of conquering heroes.  Some people are sitting and lying on the side of the road, but most of us are walking.

It's a bit of a hike north up Columbus Drive to Jackson Boulevard, but I barely noticed it.  I get my picture taken.

There's a press of people waiting for us.  I navigate my way into Butler Field  and find Lisa.

'To get back up to the shining world from there...
And following its path, we took no care
To rest, but climbed...
Through a round aperture I saw appear
Some of the beautiful things that heaven bears,
Where we came forth, and once more saw the stars.'
Dante, The Inferno, Canto XXXIV


37th Annual Bank Of America Chicago Marathon.  Abbott Health and Fitness Expo. The City of Chicago. The organizers, the officials, the administrative officers, the mayor, the police, the security, the park workers, the neighborhoods, all the volunteers, the clean up crews, all the people who came out and supported the runners, every single person involved.  Wow.  You made the day the best kind of well oiled machine I've ever seen.

Rise International.  Lynn Cole and the entire Team Rise Organization for their vision, courage and hard work.  The people of Angola for believing in the future.  I wouldn't have had this incredible day if not for you.

The Donors.  Your generosity, belief and love inspired me and got me through it. 

The Runner's Edge.  For helping a runner in need. Especially Steve, for his expert advice that put me in the right shoes.

Hammer Nutrition.  Giving me all the Gels and supplements I could possibly want.

Brooks.  Great shoes to run in, and shorts to wear.

Luke Humphrey, Keith and Kevin Hanson.  Luke for the book, the Hanson Brothers for the method.

Danette Lane from ACE.  Minimalist shoes weren't a good fit, but the barefoot running techniques were.

Peter Gabriel and Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, U2, Midnight Oil, Simple Minds, Dire Straits, Afro Celt Sound System, Moby, Pat Metheny, Blue Man Group, Paul Van Dyk, Mike Oldfield, BT, Sasha and Ofra Haza for making music.

Robert Pinsky for a thoroughly modern translation of Dante Alighieri's The Inferno.  700 years later it resonates more than ever.

Frank Herbert, Robert Frost, Pink Floyd and Stanley Kubrick for the ideas which continue to inspire.

Sandy and Frank.  Your generosity, thoughtfulness and endless support.  The condo was the perfect staging ground, and the best view of the city. 

Lisa.  My wife, best friend and partner.  Her unwavering support, love and patience through yet another one.  Wouldn't be worth it without you.

...and Harry the Cat.  Thanks for having your picture taken with me while I was holding my medal.