Frank Sinatra totally wraps up what "Chicago is" in his song.
For a variety of reasons, that's why I am totally pumped for another trip to one of America's great cities. Returning to run its marathon on October 7, 2012, will have special meaning, different from when I first ran in it in 2005. Back then I had a blast being with close marathoning friends from Florida when I would say, I was in my best marathoning physical and mental condition. The 40,000+ runners were supported along the entire way by thousands of spectators screaming encouragement. Hundreds of bands and other forms of entertainment along the route essentially turned the marathon into a 26 mile block party! Spare time before and after the marathon was spent gorging ourselves on wonderful delicacies and touring many cultural features the city offers... check out the 2005 slide show I posted ... lots of good memories!
Since then I've run a dozen or more domestic and international marathons, and had a great time doing so with friends. Some marathons were in support of certain causes/individuals and others were for just the fun of it. However, after running the 2010 Hump's Marathon in my hometown Anchorage, AK, I decided to call it quits for running marathons...I was tired of the training (aka burnt out); I had other athletic things I wanted to do; plus, I was wasn't motivated like I was when in earlier that year I trained and ran my three European marathons after my 2009 retirement and corrective heart surgery. Don't get me wrong, running is still very important...that's why I decided to dial back and still run half-marathons as time and motivation allows.
OK, fast forward seven years to 2012. Two things happened to "temporarily" cause me to come out of marathoning retirement. A dear friend Casey Randell, who is an active Alaskan outdoors women and "jockett", is battling cancer - Hodgkin's lymphoma. Casey and her family just returned to (a snowy) Alaska (HOORAY!!) from Texas after successfully undergoing a stem cell transplant, chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It was to support Casey's treatment and recovery that I primarily decided to run one more marathon. She is an amazing person...a person of strong faith and "Be Alive" optimism. She lights up the room with her smile and uplifting personality. She totally inspired me to train hard and she'll be running along side me all the way in Chicago.
My second reason to run "one last" marathon is that I turned 60 years old this year, and I wanted to mark it in the similar way I marked my 50th birthday when I ran the Athens (Greece) Marathon. It was at that marathon where I made lifelong friends who for 10+ years tempted me (often successfully) to travel around the world and the USA to run marathons and tour the surrounding countryside.
I fully intend to take it all in while in Chicago...the museums, the food, the marathon expo, the food, the huge tall buildings, the food, Lake Michigan, the food, the 40,000+ runners, the pasta feed, and being with my buddies, especially Bob Bowker, who at 70+ years old, introduced me to marathoning in 1985 and has been along side me (actually in front of me because he is so much faster than I) most of the way. Marathoning one last time together while in Chicago will be a blast!
In closing, it's hard to sum up what marathoning has done for me, but I do know it has done-good. I think Dick Beardsley (a Boston Marathon legend) expressed it best when interviewed for the movie "Spirit of the Marathon" (which was filmed to highlight runners training for the 2005 Chicago Marathon), "When you cross that finish line no matter how slow or how fast, it will change your life forever." I'm living testimony that it has. Remember train hard...run far!