Runner’s accounts of the 2007 Chicago Marathon

Caryn Gray

I want to say thank you to all my friends and family who helped me reach my goal of raising melanoma cancer research funds for Jack’s Team during the 2007 Chicago Marathon event.  I know most of you will have heard about the race cancellation due to oppressive heat, etc., but I thought I would send you a personal note to share my experience and to further express my gratitude.  (I am giving you details that aren’t pleasant to read.)

The 2007 Chicago Marathon was a completely surreal experience…

I was at the 22nd mile when the cops swarmed the course with megaphones to tell participants to cease running. There was one cop at the 21st mile who said something, but nobody really listened.  My husband saw me there and said I looked pretty strong so keep running, as I only had less than a 10K to go.   I did.

But, when I got to the 22nd mile, I was told to walk the final 4 miles of the course so I did actually complete the race and picked up my medal.

Throughout the race, I knew something was up.  I’ve run this marathon a few times before, and knew that the constant blaring of the ambulance sirens was not normal.  I’ve never heard so many ambulances for so long.  Cops and firefighters opened fire hydrants to spray runners with water, too.  All the neighborhoods we ran through had people out with hoses, ice buckets, etc.  Everyone was trying to help the runners keep cool.  (All the focus on the runners, but I have to think that the spectators, themselves, needed some relief from the heat and sun, too.)

Every aid station was overwhelmed with runners who needed help.  People were lying on the ground everywhere along the course — beside the over-taxed aid stations as well as on parkways along the course. People were throwing up, etc. I just couldn’t believe it.

I wore my heart rate monitor so I kept a very close watch on myself.  I didn’t even wear my iPod shuffle so I could be focused and alert.  I didn’t have any issues with water stations or anything.  I think they did have enough water, but here were so many runners who took 4-5 cups of water to pour on themselves.  The race committee certainly did not plan for that.   I did have a belt with 4 small water bottles so I could hydrate when I wanted to.  I used them sparingly and then ended up loaning one of ‘em to a fellow runner in need.

All in all, I faired fine.  My only complaint is that my feet are very sore.  With the hydrants flooding the streets, my shoes were all wet and my feet moved around in my shoes so both my big toes are bruised and battered.

I know the stats from the race are bad — e.g., — only 4K of the 36K starters have official finish times, over 300 spitalized with 3 in the hospital in critical condition days after the race, one death, etc.  I count myself blessed to have finished without incident.  …with so many friends and family thinking of me, it just had to be the outcome I was destined to have.

In sum, I said I was never going to do another marathon — before I even signed up for this one. Now…I don’t really ow.  If I say it again it would not be because of the 2007 Chicago Marathon experience.  I’ll never forget it, but it wouldn’t convince me not to do another.   Maybe half-marathons?

Thanks again for all your support.  Couldn’t have done it without you!

cg

 

Frank Danner

Hi Everyone,

Wow! What an experience. Chicago is a beautiful and fun city. Dinner at the hotel late Friday night. River tour of the city Saturday. Watched the LSU game at a Chicago, LSU alumni bar. FUN! Sunday, out of bed at 5:30 a.m. and at the race start by 7:30.

Temp started around 75 degrees at 8:30 a.m. when we crossed the start line. Got water and Gatorade at the first watering station about 1.5 miles in. At the next water station they were out of everything! I think that meant we went nearly 5 miles from the first station to the third station, without fluids. The temperature began to creep up into the 80s. Runners were outraged (including myself) at the lack of preparation by race officials. Watering stations were chaotic as people were in a minor state of panic. Officials had known about the heat for a week. The anxiety level became pretty high. We continued on, for what seemed like a race to water stops, instead to mile markers.

I guess that became a good distraction for me. Not so much noticing any pain, I became more focused on finding water. I was going out of my way to get to a hose to cool off. Spectators were a HUGE help as they had pulled out garden hoses, opened fire hydrants and passed out water between stations. They also provided great emotional support with their cheering!

14 miles in, Stacey pulled away from me. “Git er done!” We all needed to finish as quickly as possible because it was only getting hotter. I don’t run well in the heat because I perspire (lets face it, SWEAT!) a lot, which increases muscle fatigue. So I was on my own, grabbing up water & Gatorade at every station. I was bound and determined to finish.

I saw people in AID Tents, being put on stretchers. Sirens surrounded all of us in the race. I thought of Stacey and our friends who were also out in front of me. Hoped they were all OK. Then I heard a PA say, “if your not at Halstead St. in 8 minutes the course will be closed and you will not be allowed to finish. You will be rerouted to the finish or you will be taken back on buses.” I spent a whole summer training for this and I wasn’t going to let them cut my race short! I stepped it up and continued on. Halstead, they said, was a half mile away, and I was making beyond the rerouting point!

Mile 18, skin burning, I passed through the Hispanic district. We were solidly cheered on. They had opened hydrants and they had hoses to spray us off with. The water was cold. It felt like forty degrees and provided instant relief. There was drinking water readily available, provided by members of the community. Helicopters were flying overhead telling us, “The race is cancelled because of the heat. Everyone walk! Buses are coming to pick you up.” Most of us runners didn’t listen, we just lumbered on.

Walking and running (or shuffling as its been called), I was at mile 22. I still felt good as my focus was solely on hydration and cooling. I was running in the shaded side of the street whenever possible. Then, up ahead, I saw them. The friends I had started with! They were ok! What an exciting moment! New momentum!

We joined up to push through the last 4 grueling miles in a record high 88 degree temperature! We thrived off one another’s enthusiasm to finish and were invigorated by our comradery. They told me Stacey had passed them a while ago and she was doing great. We all felt beat up but no one even talked about not finishing. The PA announcers continued to tell us not to run, but we didn’t listen. It seemed to motivate us more! Walking and running, pushing each other on, we continued. Finally, at less than a half mile to go, we were sprinting across the finish line together! One of the greatest experiences of a lifetime! Stacey was there waiting on me. We were all ok! 5:35:53 was our time. I expected to finish around 5-5:30 so I was pleased.

There were over 350 people taken to area hospitals; 1 death was reported and 50+ were hospitalized for heat related injuries. Over 9000 people that had signed up, did not start the race (good thing or there really would have been hydration issues) and over 10,000 of the 35000+ runners, did not complete the 26.2 miles (of course, we were all told the race was cancelled due to the heat). Even spectators had suffered heat related problems as they were not selling or providing fluids for them.

Yes, I feel GREAT to have finished my first marathon. I couldn’t have had a better time with my friends. Knowing all of you were out there supporting me and the charity I represented, helped me to get through some tough miles. Thinking of my sister, and other cancer victims provided me with inspiration during anxious times. I never wanted to quit, but looking around me, I did get a little fearful of the consequences of continuing. Thank you all for believing in me.

Yours Truly,
Frank

 

Kimber Lucius

The weekend of the race was wonderful;I had a great time in the Marston home preparing for the race, seeing some of Chicago, meeting team members and friends, eating pasta, and going to the expo. I cannot explain my excitement and nervousness during race weekend, but I always look forward to it! The morning of the race, after our drive there filled with talking, we got to meet all the rest of the team and take some pictures. How cool it was to talk to these fellow runners who had previously been merely e-mail addresses to me! And it was amazing to see how quickly everyone cared for each other; I was encouraged, advised when I had questions, and looked after, and I saw the same happening for so many others.  I am glad that everything leading up to the race was so pleasant and enjoyable, because the race was definitely brutal! But even in the midst of the heat, chaos, and suffering, there were pleasant moments: spectators cheering me on, seeing the beautiful city, runners helping each other, and spectators passing out wet sponges and ice, getting out sprinklers, and finding water for runners.  These were all very touching moments.  And once the race was over, I cannot describe the worry that filled the Trophy Tent when all of our runners were not back and we did not know where they might be or if they were okay.  Whether we were friends, family, or had just met them that day, we had such care and compassion for each other.  We were all running for one cause, we were Jack’s Team, and that meant a lot.  And so, even though this marathon was a lot different than most others, and probably a lot different than most would have liked it, it did exactly what marathons are supposed to do: teach us about ourselves, and bond us to others through the experience.  Thank you Jack’s Team for an unforgettable experience!

 

Adam Miller

Dear Friends and Family,

“Runner down!”

With the constant whine of ambulance sirens serving as a sickening backdrop, I listened to this sad refrain frequently as I stumbled and sweat my way to the finish area to surrender my chip timer.  I was adrift in a sea of sad soles and souls, hundreds if not thousands of runners unable to complete the race.

As most of you have heard by this time, the Chicago marathon ran into some problems with the extreme heat and humidity.  I’m sorry to say I did not finish the race, but happy to report I escaped injury and will go on to run another day!  I’ll be back next year and will one day complete a marathon!

I struggled my way to the half way point and then took myself out of the race when I reached the Jack’s Marathon team tent just beyond the 13.1 mile marker. 

The concerned looks and furrowed brows of Amy and Sharon told me what I had feared… I looked terrible!  I think I actually looked better than I felt, though.

My friend Terrie who was waiting for me at the tent sat me down in the grass and brought me much needed water.  Amy and some other folks brought me some cold T-shirts so that I could bury my face and seek a moment of relief from the relentless oven blast of the day.

Terrie told me there was no point going back onto the course and hurting myself and I gladly accepted her advice.  My determination fought with my disappointment which was busy fighting with my survival instincts.  Luckily, survival instincts won!

I then told Terrie my tale of woe that brought me to the half way point 2.5 hours after my start totally depleted and defeated.

Soon after the race began, I passed a young man holding a 1km sign, the first marker of the course.  At this point I was totally drenched in sweat. 

This was not a good sign.

I made it to 5km and had taken a half hour, which I felt was nice and easy.  At 10km I was well over an hour and wondering how I was going to carry on!

At this point, the aid stations were turning into wax cup strewn war zones.

Decorum fled as dehydration dominated the dazed runners.  As we entered the aid stations, the first tables were completely empty.  The volunteers had huddled together for protection against the sweat soaked zombies hoarding around them with their rigid limbs outstretched and dry mouths constantly croaking “Water!  Gatorade!  Water!  Gatorade!”.

It became a fight to get a cup of liquid refreshment, people were grabbing everything in sight, including cups right out of my clammy hands!

At the last few aid stations I saw on the course, runners were grabbing cups themselves and dunking them into open vats of Gatorade.

Now, no matter how thirsty I was at the time you can rest assured that I did my best to stay clear of these community coolers of sportsdrink!  These were desperate times, mind you, but I have to look myself in the mirror every morning. 

Anyway, back at Jack’s Oasis, I mean Tent, I said good-bye to everybody including Joel and the girls (who where themselves rather hot and tired from the already long taxing day) and Terrie & I started the walk of shame to the finish line to give back my chip.

As we neared the finish area, I heard the announcer blare, “Attention Runners, the Chicago Marathon has been closed and changed into a Fun Run.  Please proceed to the finish line where you will be allowed to cross and given your medal.”

I was stopped dead in my tracks by the malignant misnomer nestled in this seemingly innocent statement.

Perhaps if Satan had a Fun Run, this race would qualify.

Fun run!? If the Marquis de Sade sponsored it, I suppose.

I did not cross the finish line as I was only interested in getting out of there and into an air-conditioned vehicle to make my escape back to the suburbs.  I did, however, notice something interesting in the finish area.

Namely the ENORMOUS WALL OF BOTTLED WATER lining the entire chute.

Too bad most of the runners never made it there to get some!

strength. passion. focus.

Your runner, Adam

P.S. No, you can not have half your money back.

 

Amy Saletta

Jack’s Marathon Team- Trophy Tent – Chicago Marathon – 2007

Strength. Passion. Focus.  It’s been our mantra this year, and never before has our team needed it more.  Each of you joined this team for a personal reason.  One signed up at the stroke of midnight January 1st because of his mission, others sought us out because of a loved on lost to melanoma.  Steve- I ‘m not sure what ultimately drew you to Jack’s Team, but we have all benefited from being touched by Ben and the values your family shared throughout his journey.  I have heard individual stories of injury, frustration and heartache.  And yet you are all here-Strength.  Passion.  Focus.

This is my third year in the tent, and the night before ritual has become sacred to me.  It’s a time for me to reflect on the goodness of you, the sacrifices you’ve made and the amazing generosity of the donors who support you.  And it’s my time to really think about my friend Jack Marston.  He was a competitor in the best sense of the word.  He embodied strength, passion and focus.  He would have responded to this heat with –“Bring it on!  Let’s get a little extra challenge going!”

But beyond his own personal competitiveness, Jack was a coach.  He could instill confidence with just a look, he could offer encouragement with a smile meant just for you and he celebrated both the smallest successes to the biggest win.  And his “game on” “love of the game” attitude superseded any loss-because tomorrow you got to play all over again.  He led by example and he touched lives.

You guys are on his team.  He ran this marathon 4 times.  You can count on him to run with you today.  Just know there will be an angel on your shoulder (or perhaps several) to pull you through.  Good Luck and God Bless.

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