SparkPeople Blogs  •  running  •  goal

Running Down a Dream: I Did Just That in Chicago

By , SparkPeople Blogger
There are many days in our lives that will define who we are and what we are made of. Let today be your day!

One of the most defining days in my life came on Sunday, October 11th, the day I ran my first marathon--the 2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. A dream I have been envisioning since I took up the great sport of running 3 1/2 years ago in the spring of 2006. The journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has been well worth the blood, sweat, and tears I put into the training.

While waiting to board my plane on Friday I had my first run-in with another runner traveling from the Dallas area to run his 50th marathon. Having already qualified for Boston in 2010, he was running Chicago to improve his qualifying time for a faster corral. Talk about feeling out of my league, that was a true understatement--but he was more than kind to tell me the tales of his own 30 year running career. What I learned is, we all came to running with our own goals in mind, but quickly discovered the great joy it brings to our lives as we overcome the obstacles the sport can bring to us. I have learned so much hands-on knowledge from other runners, but most importantly I take away much more--the camaraderie that few amateur athletes share and that is our true love of the sport!

Arriving at Chicago's McCormick Place to pick up my race packet and to attend the Expo I was left even more overwhelmed as so many runners donned their attire from past marathons, especially the Crème de la Crème--Boston. I began to have big doubts as to whether I was ready to tackle 26.2 miles, after all I still felt like a newbie, a novice, a fish out of water.

Picking up my race packet

All was put to rest when I had the pleasure to meet running legend, Kathrine Switzer, the woman responsible for paving the way for all female marathon runners today. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, she is the woman who "challenged the all-male tradition of the Boston Marathon to become the first woman to officially enter and run the event. Her entry created an uproar and worldwide notoriety when a race official tried to forcibly remove her from the competition," according to her website. If you are looking for an inspiring book about this great woman, running, and life in general, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of her memoir titled Marathon Woman.

She was so kind and eager to share her passion for this great sport and to spend her time with me. As to be expected, I was totally overcome by my emotions (yes, I was crying) just having the honor to meet her, but for her to share her advice with me, a new marathon runner, was priceless. She told me to stay off my feet on Saturday as much as I could, make sure to refuel at mile 20, and most importantly, enjoy the experience. These are words that will forever stay in my heart from a truly marvelous woman.

Me with Roger Robinson and Kathrine Switzer

Some people are thrilled to meet movie stars; my thrill was to meet the running legends that have brought so much to the sport and have taught me so much as a runner and now a coach. Not only did I have the pleasure to meet Kathrine Switzer, I met running great Hal Higdon, Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer at Runner's World magazine, as well as Roger Robinson, one of the world's elite runners and authors on the sport of running. The Expo was truly one of the high-lights of my weekend and one I will never forget. I even bought a first edition of Ms. Switzer's book in which she wrote the following to me "Running gives us everything...especially ourselves! Go for it, it's MAGIC!

Me with Bart Yasso

Saturday I did as I was advised and stayed off my feet which was more difficult than I ever imagined. Looking out at the beautiful city of Chicago from our downtown hotel with all the attractions I longed to see was tempting, but I was not going to let the opportunity to have well-rested legs go by the wayside, so I did as I was told.

That evening I had the honor and pleasure to meet Coach Jen, her husband, children, parents, and friends for dinner. We shared a great meal of pasta which helped relieve some of the pre-race jitters that were beginning to settle in. I asked Jen if she was running with music (which she wasn't) and what she planned to wear, which was still up for debate as the weather forecast was still uncertain.

Like many of my previous races, I found it quite difficult to sleep, but I finally dozed off somewhere around 11 p.m. in hopes that I would not sleep past my 0500 alarm time. Amazingly, I slept well and was up and at 'em early race day morning. I decided to go with a short sleeve purple tech shirt, my blue running vest, black capri running pants, that I thankfully bought at the Expo, along with removable arm warmers, which were also purchased at the Expo. I added my lucky hat and white gloves and headed downstairs for my standard pre-race breakfast of oatmeal, a banana and some coffee. For the first time ever, I felt queasy with my breakfast but I knew I had to get something down or else I would have a tough go during the first part of my run.

I went upstairs to my room, brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, made one last bathroom stop then we headed the 1.2 mile trek to the starting line. The streets of Chicago were filled with runners making the mass exodus from their hotels to the course. The sky was still dark and there was crispness to the air which told me this was not a fall temperature--in fact this was like winter for this southern belle. The temperature was 30 degrees with a light breeze and for someone who had spent countless mornings running in 80 to 90 plus degree temps, this could have easily been Alaska, as far as I was concerned.

I waited in my pre-determined area as other runners began to ascend to the place where we were all going to leave our mark on the Windy City. I met a guy from Illinois who was also running his first marathon and he was so convinced that he was NOT going to finish that I spent a good 20 minute convincing him he was. We both were. This truly helped keep my nerves in check as I was doing more convincing with him than I was with myself. To know that we would be running with many of the world's elite runners was nerve jarring enough, but more importantly knowing that we were competing with no one else but ourselves brought a challenge beyond words.

Saturday's blog will go into great detail as to how running my first marathon and the obstacles I faced parallel my own healthy living journey.

Have you had a day that has defined who you are and what you are made of? If so, how has it changed your outlook on life and this great journey we are all on?

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See more: running goal


CECELW 9/30/2019
Well done. That is so exciting Report
Exciting! Report
I used to love running. Long distance was the best. I ran my first and last marathon in 1994. Disney Marathon in Orlando Fl it was totally awesome. I can no longer run now, but it doesnt stop the memories. I wish you well. Report
Well done!!! Congratulations! Report
I do not usually read running articles, but I am glad I did not pass this one by. So much enthusiasm! I felt your excitement. Report
Congratulations on your marathon! Report
great job Report
I lived in Chicago on West School Street near Lincoln and Belmont and just LOVED it there. It was a German neighborhood and I wish I'd never left. I love Chicago. Report
As always, a nicely written article by Nancy. Makes us all wish we were runners! Report
well done congratulations Report
Way to go Nancy, how inspirational! Can't wait to hear the next installment! Report
I have never had an ambition to run a marathon! More power to you. I used to run when I was in my 40's, but gave it up believing walking was best for my knees. Still walking, and hiking, and though the knees are 25 yrs. older, they are still MINE! ;-) Report
Wonderful blog! I can't wait to run my first marathon! Report
Great blog! Great pictures! I can't wait to read the rest of the story! You are such a wonderful role model for women! I am so proud that I got to meet you at the Teddy Bear Walk! Thanks for sharing this--
Patty Report
How awesome to do this!!! You are such a success to pursue your dreams and inspire others to do the same! What a major accomplishment. You are a super-star! Report
you get to meet who has run 50 marathons and chat with him meet,Bart and Kathrine, and Hal, and Roger. some whos who of running and run a marathon, WOW you got it all that week end. congrats Report
You did it! Can't wait to read the "rest of the story". Report
Nancy I am so proud of you . . .you are awesome. Mybe one day I can do a run with you. Report
All I can say is WOW...can't wait to read more.
Sounded like an awesome experience...not only the race, but meeting all the great marathon runners that were there. You must have been on Cloud 9.
You inspire us all...keep up the great work.
Barbara Report
What I remember most after going from 60 lbs overweight in early 2005 to finishing my first marathon almost exactly a year ago is feeling that nothing is too big. That feeling of confidence pops up every once in a while and I take a moment to reflect on where it comes from. It's great! Report
I think I HAVE! Not near as dramatic as yours though. It was Dec 26th 2007. I was a 5 year cancer survivor that day! Report
Great article. Very inspirational. Good luck and looking forward to reading Saturday's blog. Report
Go Coach Nancy! I'm so excited for you to have had this experience!

I haven't yet caught the running "bug" but all this buzz and excitement you and others have shared have left me feeling more than a little envious!

Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams

btw, love that Tom Petty song, it's on my mp3 player! Report
Thanks for the link on Kathrine Switzer- I remember when that was going on, how I cheered- my Dad was running marathons at the time, and he was totally positive about having women run the race.
Ahhh- memories. Report
Way to go! I'm looking forward to the race blog. Keep up the great work. Report
Congratulations. Wow you are an amazing women. You'er an inspiration. Report
thanks nancy, you are a true gem. very nice article Report
Nancy I am so happy for you (and a tad bit jealous!) that you got to meet so many racing legends! And to spend time talking with Kathrine Switzer AND get her autograph in a!

Thank you for sharing this part of your race with us.....can't wait until Saturday! Report
I am so happy for are such an inspiration!! Report
You brought a tear to my eye! Again, I'm proud to say I know you! You are an awesome lady - thinking of that other runner - during a special time for you!
Can't wait to read the next installment.
Frances Report
Nancy that was a great pre-race recap; way to keep us hanging right at race time.

It wouldn't be a Coach Nancy story without some tears as well. I think that it's great that you got to meet some of the 'living legends' of the running community.

Training for an event is the biggest part since you don't fully know what to expect. I know when training for my century bike ride this past summer had I not put in the training the event would have been disastrous. Well, you've put in the hard work and now you've reaped your rewards.

I hope that it was everything you hoped for!
Spark Hugs! Report
Congrats on this great accomplishment!! Can't wait to read the rest of it. Report
I'm looking forward to part 2! Report
Nancy, I have been awaiting this blog all week!!! I am LOVING it so far!!! What an amazing story and you tell it so well!!! Totally surreal to be meeting Hal Higdon in the flesh and all the others! I can't wait for Saturday's blog!!! Thanks for sharing, so so so inspiring!!! Report
Thanks for the inspiring blog. Report
Congratulations Nancy! I am so proud of you. I never realized how excited I would get to see Sparkers complete marathons. Now it's my favorite spectator sport. Can't wait to read more! Report
Incredible!.. I got emotional reading your story.. I hope one day I can tell a story similar to yours. Your an inspiration.. Report
congrats! Way to go! So proud of you! Report
I am shocked at my response to your blog Nancy! I am crying at the public computer at the neighborhood library! WTG I hope to run my first 1/2 marathon within this next year , ran my first 5k this summer and have 3 under my belt so far, medaled this past weekend at my first cross country race. I love the entire race atmosphere and the community of runners and how it is about us OUTDOING ourselves not outdoing someone else because we are competing against ourselves . I am proud of you! WTG.
pj Report
Way to go! I can't wait to read the rest of the story!
Nadine Report
thank you for sharing your journey and will look forward to reading more am not a runner but sure enjoy reading and sharing your experience one day at a time Report
My first marathon was in August of 2008. I met up with a friend there who is part of the 50 States Club - each individual in the group is trying to run a marathon in each state. She invited me to their afterparty and here I am with my one little marathon and there were people there that were on their 3rd or 4th trip through the 50 state rotation. I mean wow. I can't even imagine running marathons that often. But they were all so excited for me because they knew that that first marathon is something special.

Congratulations! Very jealous of all the cool people you got to meet. Report
Nancy-I think you know how proud we all of you! You, spark people and all this running have definitely helped me to change my life! It is so wonderful to listen to all the sp people sharing their stories. Can't wait to spend time with you again...perhaps NOLA??? Anne Report
Congratulations! I just ran Chicago too and it was an incredible experience. Well done! Report
Congratulations Nancy! What a great accomplishment - so happy for you. I, like so many others here, am on the edge of my seat waiting to read Saturday's blog entry. I'll have to wait until later in the afternoon - as Saturday marks my first race ever in my life... a 5K! Not a marathon by any means, but hey - we all have to start somewhere right. Reading this has gotten me even more fired up and ready to go than I already am! Thanks for sharing your story!!! Report
Way to finish what you started. You are a great example to all of us of what can be accomplished when one puts their mind (and body and soul) to it.
Congrats SparkFriend and Mentor . . . Deb Report
Congrats!!! I too completed my first marathon on October 11th! In reading what you wrote I related to all of it. Especially going to McCormick Place and feeling as though I didn't belong! Crossing the finish line all of those feelings flew out the window! I am so proud to be a marathon runner! Enjoy the bragging rights... I am! Congrats again!!! Report
Congratulations, Nancy! I'm glad this was your dream & you did it!!! Running a marathon is definitely not my dream, though. Report
Your blog gave me chills; wow! What an amazing journey and story, I can't wait to read the next chapter. So very impressed by you! Report