After volunteering at the start corral, I walked back to my little red wagon to charge my phone and eat my second breakfast. I could barely keep my eyes open and fell asleep looking at the course map. After my quick cat nap, headed out on the course to cheer on the marathoners and hunt down Chris and DC.
There were three good opportunities to find them. The first location was between mile 15 and 16. I hoped to see Chris or DC. After estimating their time based of the run tracker report on my phone, I decided to walk to mile 18. Mile 18 is one of the best places to find a runner. The field thins out between Malcolm X College and UIC. By the time runners get to Little Italy, they slowed down for water, port-a-potties, gels, and to stretch aching muscles.
I found Chris at mile 18. He appeared to be walking to work something out. My calves cramped up right before mile 18 of every Chicago Marathon I participated. I understood his walk. “Chris!” I yelled out. I ran to him to give him a double high five. I started to talk with him. Then we trotted. We began to run together. His spirit was high. He looked really good at this point of the race.
He seemed to power up while I was running next to him. I told him he was doing a great job. I pointed out how he looked good. He still had a good running form. We chatted. He didn’t stop. I took a photo of Chris. I photographed the course along the way. We even took a selfie together. I ran on the sidewalk. I ran beside him when possible. I walked behind the water stations so I don’t interfere with a runner’s opportunity to grab fluids and energy. I accompanied him for 3.25 miles I thought were the roughest for me and where I wish I had someone nudging me forward. I ran with him on the part of the course that was light on spectators and runners. During those miles with Chris, I asked myself, “Am I a bandit or am I just supporting my cousin?”
I left him right before Chinatown. The course narrows a bit in Chinatown. The huge crowd breathes new energy into the runners. There’s no room to run on the sidewalks. I wanted to find DC. Chris got this in the bag. He looked great. The race turned down Wentworth and into the heart of Chinatown. I continued on the sidewalk down Cermak Road. I hoped to find DC along Michigan Avenue at mile 23 or mile 24.
At this point, I was starving! It was time for lunch. While walking down Cermak Road, I stopped by a little pizza place for a slice. I was so hungry and the slice tasted so good. If I move back to the city, I would definitely visit that place again. The neighborhood has changed so much since my brother attended IIT. The projects were torn down. New buildings with shops popped up. Where was this development when this area needed these jobs? I digress. My hunger was satisfied. I went to Michigan Avenue to wait for DC.
I waited for DC. I saw Chris again. I trotted with him and he told me that mile 23 was rough. I told him he was almost there and I’ll see him at Grant Park. “Good job,” I thought. My phone vibrates. The runner tracker alerted me that DC crossed the finish line. She finished much sooner than I estimated. I walked back towards Grant Park to find Chris and give him a ride back home. So many runners were fighting to get to the finish line. Their shirts told me why they were running. Their expressions showed me what they were feeling. Pain is temporary. Glory is forever.
It was a long day but very fulfilling. I gave back and paid it forward. I supported my cousin and friends the way my brother supported me during my first marathon. My feet hurt as if I ran the entire distance with these marathoners. My legs were sore from all the walking. Chris and I found each other after negotiating the maze of fences and obstacles in Grant Park. We walked backed to the little red wagon and talked about the race. On our way home we chatted about family, weddings, running, work, etc. This has been one of the most memorable marathons I have been involved in.