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Chicago 2001 Part 1

Remembering my first marathon in Chicago, October 2001. My good friend Dave drove us to Chicago on Saturday for what would be his second Chicago Marathon. It was nice to have someone familiar with Chicago making the drive and making the decisions. I was free to dedicate my mind to getting prepared to run a distance I had never attempted. We stayed at Dave’s brother Doug’s tiny Chicago apartment. I slept on a tiny cot, but barely slept. We got up early and took a bus to Grant Park. Doug took a backpack with our spare clothes and would meet us at the big old fountain that is seen in the opening to the old TV Show “Married with Children” after the race.

2001 was the last year for a start without seeded start corrals, so we were there early.  I lined up with the 3:10 pace team as I was attempting to qualify for Boston. Dave went back farther for a slower pace group (I can’t remember what exactly) he ended up finishing in 3:40. I was nervous and pumped up as well. I had on old ratty sweats on to throw away just before the start, which was a trick I had learned from watching the 2000 Chicago Marathon on TV. Frank Shorter on the telecast had pointed out that the items being throw in the air were old clothes, which the participants had worn with the intention to throw away. One detail I had failed to notice was that the elastic on the bottom of my sweat pants made it difficult to pull the sweats off right before the start. In subsequent years I would cut the elastic to made it much easier to pull off over running shoes. As the start time approached the National Anthem was played. The start gun went off and it took me 54 seconds to get to the start line. Good thing for timing chips.

With over 20 thousand runners it was very difficult to make any moves to create any space. I just remember being worried that I would step on someone’s heal or that I would be tripped by someone else. Just as I was thinking just that, someone next to me got clipped and went down swearing. What a way to start a 26.2 mile race to be down and bloody in the first point 2.

I reached the first mile at 8:00 minute mile pace. Slower than I intended, but there was very little chance of setting my own pace this mass of humanity. The crowds that came out to watch were amazing. Back then the estimates were 800,000 people would come out to watch. These days they say it is over a mil. So awesome to have that many people yelling support. It’s kind of like a full college football stadium that moves with you down the road.

(to be continued)

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