“The best and most beautiful things in this world cannot be seen or even heard, but must be felt with the heart.” -a card from my husband
I had completed training for the Chicago Marathon. I ran 30+ miles a week, strength trained, went to yoga, and I was ready. I had no goal or expectations, I just wanted to finish uninjured and alive. Once more my mother joined me on my adventure. She did not agree with most of my decisions but she supported everything I did. Marathon running worried her. She had seen the commercial and heard the stories of people being rushed to the hospital for dehydration, broken bones, heart failure and heat exhaustion. She brought along a colleague from work to help ease her mind. We all rode to Chicago together. The drive was enjoyable. We sang to random songs, told stories and laughed. I had not laughed or smiled that much in a long time. I finally had something to look forward to, to be proud of, to be excited about. I was going to complete the unattainable dream, a FULL marathon.
Upon arrival to the windy city we headed straight to the expo. I had never seen so many runners in one place! It was amazing; there were vendors in every direction. I will never forget looking up and seeing the countdown clock to the start line. I immediately ran under it and begged my mom to take a picture. I was here, it was happening, all of my hard work and dedication was about to pay off in the next 16 hours. We walked around the expo for a while; finding swag and maps of the city. The metro system is extremely efficient in Chicago. The trains and buses can get most spectators to any mile marker. That night we planned different meeting places along the race. I would run on the outside and look for my mom’s face. I knew I would need to see her smile around mile 16+.
I could not sleep that night. I felt like I was 8 years old waiting on Santa to drop all my gifts off. The thought of crossing the finish line was too stimulating to sleep. After hours of tossing and turning the wake up call came! I jumped out of bed and began getting ready. I tried to be quite and let my mom and Jennifer sleep in. I pulled my running tights on as my heart began to pound. As I laced up my shoes I felt light headed from all the anticipation. I ran down to the hotel lobby and ate oatmeal, a banana and chugged a cup of coffee (this is still my breakfast before a run). I was dressed for the cool weather, fueled for the distance, and eager to get started. My adrenaline began to take over as we approached the start of the race. I had the shakes and an unsettling feeling in my stomach. Was all my hard work going to pay off today? Was I ready for 26.2 miles? The furthest I had ran was 22 miles, would my body hold up the final 4.2?
Once out of the car I noticed the cold air and gusty winds. I knew today was going to be challenging. We found a nice clear area near the start where I could stretch and try to calm my nerves. My mom took a few photos, hugged me tightly, gave me a big kiss, and wished me luck in my journey. Little did she and Jennifer know they would be on their own voyage for the next few hours. Spectators almost run a marathon trying to make it to the trains and mile makers. It is almost as difficult as running the race. Soon I left the comfort of my mother’s arms and made a dash for the start line or should I say “cattle gate.” There were runners as far as the eye could see. I am a small person which allowed me to maneuvered through the large crowd. I found a cozy spot in the middle of the insanity. An announcer came over the speakers and handed the microphone to the National Anthem singer. I had goose bumps all over my body and I could feel tears forming, “Keep it together, the race hasn’t even begun.” Shorty after the countdown to the start began; 10,9,8,7,6,5 (wow, it was really happening), 4,3,2,1, the gun went off and we were on our way. With no goal set to finish I brought along my camera and cell phone (this was before the iphone). I snapped pictures of everything, I wanted this moment to last forever and I wanted to share it with everyone I came in contact with. I took pictures with drag queen singers, college students, the dragon in China Town, locals, people with amusing signs, and the city scenery. I enjoyed every step of the race no matter how hard it became to take a step. Every time I began to feel weak I would see my mom, we planned the meeting spots perfectly. Around mile 14 I began to doubt my ability to continue on. I had to block all negative thoughts. I started solving math problems and then I thought about the New Yorker and anger fueled my body. I was able to keep moving forward. Around mile 16 I had planned to meet my mom and I did. This time she had tears streaming down her face, she yelled, “I love you Camille, good job!” Once more I had a surge of energy, I can do this! A few miles later I was running next to an older man who was in amazing shape. He had the appearance of a seasoned runner. I watched as he began to fall apart, he’s breathing was strained, he’s gate was off, he’s arms moved without control and he’s legs gave way. I stopped to help and he yelled, “Don’t touch me, I’m fine.” I stood there as the man try to do the impossible, stand up. His legs continued to cave back to the pavement. I will never forget the look on his face and how awkward his legs looked. The EMT came and scooped him away on a stretcher. I never believed the human body could just give out until that moment.
The crowds grew louder and stronger as we approached the 25 mile maker, this was it, 1.2 miles left! I was going to make it, I was going to finish! I trained myself to finish strong, which meant pushing my pace. I began passing others around me, I was tired and excited all at once. I wanted to give up as much as I wanted to sprint through the finish line. I picked my legs up as high as I could, I felt as if I was doing high knees to the finish. I was finally in the chute, people where everywhere, the crowd was screaming, music was pulsing through my body, and I could feel emotion all around me. I threw my arms in the air as if I was the first person to finish and crossed the final mile marker, 26.2. All things were now possible and I was born again.