Illinois

States

Location: Chicago, Illinois
Half: Chicago Half Marathon
Date: Sunday, September 8th, 2013
Finish Time: 1:54:08
Pace/Mile: 8:42
Who’d I travel with? Melissa, Cliff, Rob, Mom, Abby, Dylan
Pre-run meal? DEEP DISH PIZZA

My first half marathon. All I was thinking at the end of it was, “hey, at least I finished.” My cousin Melissa had asked me to run this race with her during my freshman year of college. Up to this point, soccer was my sweat of choice. I was a soccer player, fully equipped with the huge legs to prove it. But at least soccer players tend to have a bit of endurance packed into the package. At least that was a bit helpful as I began to train for my first half.

I started my training during the spring of my freshman year at Ohio University (yes, I know, I started training about 3 months earlier than I needed to). Slowly but surely I graduated from running 3 miles after soccer practice to running 5-6 miles during my off days. Summer came and I started running 7, 8, and then 9 miles on Sundays. Without the pressure of training for soccer during the summer, I could finally focus on trying to train my body for this long distance run.

During the last week of summer, I moved back to OU and began “hell week” for soccer… yes, hell week consists of probably exactly what you’d expect: a shit-ton of running. It challenges you to both sprints and distance runs each morning and soccer scrimmages each night. My body was completely confused. In the morning I’d wake up, run sprints with the team, take a small break, try to fit a distance run of about 3-5 miles into my day around noon, then go to soccer practice at night. So, needless to say, after a week of this, I was pretty much ready for anything, even a half marathon.

The weekend before my first soccer game, yep, that’s when I had my half marathon. Juggling soccer and running, alternating sprint training and distance training. Basically all I had to hold onto during this intense training season was my motivation for running this half in the first place.

As I mentioned, my cousin Melissa asked me to do this half marathon with her. One of the charities for this particular race was children’s cancer research. Melissa lost her younger brother, my cousin Scotty, to cancer years ago. This race was for him. This race was for all of the children that don’t have the opportunity to do the things that life has to offer. This race was for the children whose lives were ended too early, who didn’t have the opportunity to grow, to live, to laugh, to run. I held onto that motivation until the very last step of the race.

Chicago is an absolutely beautiful place. At the time, I didn’t realize this would be such an amazing place to start my adventure of completing each state. However, looking back, I’m so blessed to have started all of this in the beautiful city of Chicago, Illinois. If you’re familiar with the Chicago half marathon, you know that his race is HUGE. I was absolutely blown away by the number of people ready to race that morning, the excitement flowing through the start line, the frickin lines for the porta-potties. Who knew that ALL half marathon runners had to poop immediately before starting the race? I thought that was just a me thing…this was definitely my first rodeo.

As I started my first mile, I remember thinking “really? I had to have deep-dish pizza the night before running 13 miles?” But after a few miles I finally found my flow. I finally zoned out of the “ugh when will it finally be mile 12?” and into the “I’m so lucky to be running this morning.” I raced ahead, weaving in and out of people, and departing from Melissa (who is extremely well at pacing herself evidently). I listened to the same song probably 30 times that morning: “Roar” by Katy Perry. At about mile 8 I started to slow down, my body started to hurt, my breathing became irregular, I started to wonder whether I was going to make it.

Then something happened, almost like Scotty was right there with us during the race. I mentioned how I had sort of over-estimated my ability to maintain my speed, sprinting ahead and weaving in and out of people. Well, my pacing finally caught up, I was slowing down, I glanced back to see if anyone was immediately behind me so that I could stop and catch my breath without anyone ramming into my back, but when I glanced back I saw a bright smile: Melissa was just feet behind me, catching up to me with that ridiculous pacing of hers.

I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t let Melissa, and Scotty, down. I came here to run this with her and I was going to finish with her. Amazingly, I finished. Melissa had obviously paced herself very well and was able to finish the last mile with speed (I, on the other hand, steadily decreased in speed). We didn’t finish hand in hand, but we finished, together. We both finished the race. Half marathon #1 in the books.

I can’t quite describe the feeling you get when you finish a half marathon. It’s something like euphoria or bliss. It’s a lightness that comes over you, a sense of “everything in the world is exactly as it should be”. It’s a feeling of gratitude, of thankfulness, of peace and serenity. It’s the feeling of wanting to give, to spread the joy you are feeling, and you’re sharing this feeling with hundreds-thousands of others who have just conquered the same challenge. It truly is a magical moment. As I left the race full of happiness, I knew that this was not the end of running for me. I knew I had to chase that feeling back down, complete another big race, do this again. I knew I had to keep running, but I still didn’t know when, where, or why.

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