October 10, 2010. A fun date for many because it is 10.1o.10. Last time that happened was September 9, 2009. And the other fun date this year was September 2, 2010. That was beverly hills 90210 day. In any event, the big fun with today’s 10-10-10 was that it was the Chicago Marathon. This is my hometown marathon race and it always happens on columbus day weekend. I have done it previously (more on that in another post) and it is always a fun time.
As I have done in past years, I went to Chinatown to watch the race. This year, I was actually up early enough that when I arrived at the welcome gate in Chinatown, the only people around were those who were local to the neighborhood and people who were helping to set up for the events. I really wanted to arrive early because I wanted to see the elite runners, both men and women. This year’s elite field consisted of some of the best in the world as well as Sammy Wanjiru and Liliya Shobukhova, who were the winners last year. Shobukhova set a new Russian record today with her time. Ryan Hall, who was going to run the race pulled out early due to basically being over trained and his training getting progressively worse before the race. I was sad to see him have to pull out of the race because he is one of the new crop of elite American men who has a very serious shot at winning some of the marathon races instead of it always being a Kenyan to take the title. It was super cool to see Joan Benoit Samuelson running as well. She is 53 and was trying to qualify for the olympic trials. She JUST missed the time, but in the process set a new American record for the 50-54 age group. Not gonna lie — if I could run that fast now, I would be so excited. And when I am her age, I’d probably kill to run that fast. She looked amazing when I saw her run past me in Chinatown. For complete coverage of the race with all the various stories, such as the fantastic showing by American Women, the stories of Wanjiru and Shobukhova, the 2:11 time of the first American male, etc., check out runner’s world’s coverage as it helped keep me informed while I was on the sidewalk watching and cheering on the runners.
All of the stuff that I saw today was even more impressive because of the temperatures. It was extremely warm out for running. In the mid 70s and only going higher. And I can hear the non-runners out there saying: ‘but wait, if I were to run, wouldn’t you prefer it to be warm? I mean, who wants to run when it is cold’? Well, if non-runners were to ever take on such a feat, then you’d realize that running in much, much cooler temperatures would be the ideal. As you start moving, you start to heat up and if it is also humid outside, it is much harder to cool off as you are running. The last few years of the Chicago Marathon have been rather warm of late. In fact, in 2007 it was the warmest time for the race and it actually had to be canceled in the middle of the race which was the right call given the extreme heat and humidity, but also devastating to so many runners doing their first marathon who could not finish as well as to seasoned runners who were used to the heat and humidity and wanted to finish regardless.
The big question is, why do a marathon when there are so many things about it that are so grueling. Some other common things I hear about running marathons from people who don’t do them are: 1) i hate running [good excuse because if you don’t like something, you will never get wanting to conquer the “gold standard” distance], 2) do you understand how you are damaging your knees, 3) you’re crazy, 4) you’re insane, 5) it is not a real sport, 6) who wants to watch someone exercise, and my personal favorite 7) you know people die running this distance! even the first marathon the guy died!! All I can usually say to those who don’t understand why people want to do it is that you probably won’t understand until you try it. Anytime I mention running a race, (which is usually some distance over the usual weekend 5K) I hear some combination of these various excuses that people have. When I pry a bit deeper about the excuses, I usually find that people think that running hurts and that is why they don’t like it. I know that running can hurt, but I find that is usually because of not being in the right shoe for that particular runner and once you get soured on something, it is really hard to get yourself motivated to try again.
As for the whole not being a real sport and it being an exercise of watching people exercise, well that is just crazy talk to me. Running is a huge sport. If you are defining a sport by it having competition, it absolutely qualifies. Or as I like to say, if running isn’t a sport, then neither is golf. If you ever watch a race and see how the top runners jockey for position to win the race and how they go about it, you realize there is a ton of strategy involved. This strategy involving the elevation of the race course, the temperatures, and the wind conditions. It is amazing watching what happens to ultimately come out as the top dog in the race. Not to mention that if you are at such an elite level, you can win some big money coming in as the winner.
Overall, it was a great day (although any race is always great) for cheering on the runners. I saw a lot of women wearing running skirts, of which I am a fan of. I also saw a man running barefoot, which is always impressive to see. I also saw a few people wearing the vibram five finger shoes, which is a way to simulate running barefoot but not actually be barefoot. It was super fun to see the wheelchair athletes competing as well. Those men and women have some amazingly strong arms and to see the various types of chairs they had to get through the race was amazing. I was most impressed by the double amputee who ran. Seeing a guy like that always makes me grateful for what I can do and am able to do because I am not limited in some way. Now, I cannot wait to start training for a marathon that I will do next fall. But first, I need to get my butt in gear for a 5K next month. What could be a better race than loads of hot chocolate at the end?
CONGRATULATIONS to everyone who ran the Chicago Marathon on 10.10.10 and any other races that happened today!