The Chicago Marathon, October 12, 2014
Bryon Guida and Chris Madden are my guides for the Chicago Marathon again this year. They live in Oregon, Illinois, a town which is about one hour away from me to the west and the north. We were going to take the train in and the train leaves Elburn 4:40 AM. Elburn is about 35 minutes away from me to the east. They picked me up at 3:45, and we made one stop for coffee at a gas station before boarding the train.
This is a special train that leaves much earlier than the first train would normally on a Sunday morning. It is there just for the Chicago marathon, so all those that ride the train are runners, spectators, or volunteers for the Chicago marathon. The train makes probably 20 stops before it gets to the Ogilvie train station in Chicago. By the time we got to the Ogilvie station the energy was high in the train. There were a lot of excited people talking, laughing, and getting ready for the big run.
From the train station to the starting point of the marathon it is roughly a one mile walk. It was easy to know which direction to go to, just follow the crowd. We were starting in the very front of the marathon in the corral called the ‘athletes with disabilities corral’. That corral is fenced off and there is only one entrance to it. When we got there, that gate had already been closed and sealed by the police. We showed the security guard behind that gate our wristbands that said we were to have access to that corral. This security guard had no sense of humor and told us it was too late, the police had sealed it, and that was that.
The three of us walked along the outside of the fence for just a short distance, and fortunately, a man recognized me. He is Dan, from the ‘Dare to Tri’ program that I did in the summer. The Dare to Tri program is a program for people with disabilities who want to pursue triathlons, or any of the three disciplines, but it’s focus is mainly on preparing people with disabilities for triathlons and supporting them in any and all triathlons. Dan is one of the co-founders with Keri Serota.
Dan talked to the security guard and got the attention of a nearby police officer to break the seal and open the gate. The police officer had no problems breaking the seal, as he had others with him. We no sooner got past the fence when a woman named Caroline Gaynor approached me and said hello. She has guided many visually impaired women in many triathlons, including Iron Man events. She is a phenomenal athlete and lives in Texas, though she is originally from Chicago. It was nice to actually meet her, as all I knew her from was Facebook. For the Chicago Marathon Caroline was going to be pacing with a gentleman who has a prosthetic leg. He lost his leg in combat action in Iraq. He was wanting to finish the marathon in four hours and 30 minutes, which would be about 20 to 25 minutes ahead of me.
We then went into the tent where there were other athletes with disabilities and their guides. It was warm inside the tent and there were bagels, bananas, and coffee. Also, a lot of really great athletes. One of them is Israel Antonio. Several years ago I ran the Sugarland (Texas) marathon with him. I passed him probably 5 miles from the finish line and he was really struggling. Since then he has improved dramatically as a runner and as an all-around athlete. It is fun to watch somebody improve themselves so well. Israel’s target time to complete the marathon was three hours and 45 minutes.
I was also hoping to meet Aaron Scheidies, as he is an amazing visually impaired athlete. He was supposed to be in Brazil right now for the Paralympic trials, but I found out there is a strange rule this year that excludes visually impaired males from the Paralympic trials. Visually impaired females were able to participate, andin fact, one of them, Amy Dixon, was down there and took first place. Amy is also an amazing success story who improved herself dramatically within the past year and one half. Through Facebook she has given me a lot of great swimming drills that have helped me improve my swimming. As it was, Aaron Scheidies was not in the tent with us prior to the start of the Chicago Marathon as he is an elite runner.
After just a few minutes of being in the tent and meeting a few people, including another blind athlete from Philadelphia, we all went out to the start line. People in wheelchairs start the marathon 10 minutes before the official gun time start. Two minutes later, that is, eight minutes before the official gun time start, the other athletes with disabilities start.
When we started, Bryon Guida was guiding me. Bryon has improved dramatically as a sighted running guide over the years. He has guided me in a total of six marathons. About 4 miles into the marathon, Bryon needed to use a porta potty, so Chris took over. This was the second time that Chris would be guiding me. He also guided me for last year’s Chicago Marathon. He is one of those people that is naturally gifted and understanding of what other people need and do not need. Last year, within the 1st mile of Chris guiding me, he had it all figured out as to what information I really needed to know and what information I did not need to know. He is very impressive as a sighted running guide and is in an elite category.
When Bryon left us to use the porta potty, Chris joked around that he and I were going to pick up the pace and ditch Bryon. For the next several miles we were running ahead of pace. Sure enough, it seems as though we did ditch Bryon. Mile after mile we did not see Bryon. Unfortunately I did not train properly for the marathon.
A strange thing happened on my break from the run around America for my granddaughter. When I stopped running in Tomah, WI, my body was sore, especially my ankles. I was worried about my ankles, but with rest, they improved. Even for the Ironman I wasn’t quite sure what I could expect from my ankles, but after it, again, my ankles improved. Thinking that my body needed a lot more rest, I spent quite a bit of time sitting at the computer on Facebook and sending emails. My hips and my left knee began hurting, increasingly so.
Over several days the pain got so severe I even sought medical attention for it. I was sure that I had damaged either my hips and or my knee and that my running career was over. My doctor pushed and prodded in the area of my hips and my left knee looking for pain. There was discomfort, but no real pain. When he asked me where the pain was I pointed to the outside part of my left hip. That was the worst place. He pushed on that, and, yo baby!, did it hurt.
He said he thought I had bursitis. Bursitis comes from overuse, but, if it was bursitis, I could not understand why resting was making it worse. The reason I am bringing this up is because on the train ride in I was talking to Chris Madden about this. He experiences the same thing. Chris is an amazing athlete. He did the Iron Man this year at Wisconsin, is running the Chicago marathon today, and next week will be running the St. Louis Marathon. I told Chris how the issue was resolved for me. The doctor prescribed steroids, which I put off using for several days, hoping the pain would subside.
I finally broke down and took two of the six pills I was to take for the 24 hour period. Within seconds of taking the pill I thought perhaps I should try stretching the muscles in my hips. Stretching is something I have not had success with. Usually stretching causes me more problems than if I don’t. The method I used to stretch was to lay in bed and lift my left knee in the air and cross over to the right side of my body with it to pull on the left hip muscles. I did the same with the right hip and muscles. I immediately noticed how tight everything was. After stretching, I got to my feet and found that there was an immediate benefit. I could walk normally again. Chris does stretch, but has not tried that particular stretch. So hopefully, that will help him. Anyway, back to the marathon.
It was evident that I had not trained properly for the marathon as in the second half I was beginning to feel pain and slowing down. It was obvious that I was not going to qualify for Boston. Chris then asked me what was my best pain.
“Best?” I asked him. He said, “yes, best”.
I told him I tried to keep my mind off of pain. We ran a short distance and then he said my best pain is in the muscles in the front of my upper leg. All I can think of is I was trying to keep my mind off of pain.
Chris and I crossed the finish line and still no sign of Bryon. We got our finishers medal and stopped to get a lot of the freebies they give you at a marathon after you finish. We then headed off to the tent for people with disabilities. Just outside of the tent we encountered Bryon. He had finished well ahead of us, roughly 4 hours and 30 minutes. My time, and Chris’s time, was five hours and 21 minutes. After Bryon broke off to use the porta potty early in the marathon, Chris and I came up to a boulevard. We could either take the stretch of road on the right side or the left side. Apparently, we took one side and Bryon, as he tried to catch up to us, took the other and passed us. Bryon said that he kept running and stopping and looking back but couldn’t find us ahead of him or behind him, so he thought, maybe we really did pick up the pace and he continued to try to catch us. Keri Serota, the co-founder for the ‘Dare to Tri’ program, also now organizes the athletes with disabilities corral. Since she has taken over we all agree it has actually been organized. She has done a phenomenal job. After Bryon crossed the finish line, he saw Keri. She saw him with his guide bib and he told her, “I lost my blind runner”. Ha ha, ha ha, ha ha, that is something a sighted running guide probably never wants to have to say, I lost my blind runner. Keri said she would check on me and walked away to use a computer that only race organizers can use. She never got back to him.
Poor Bryon – having to tell the dynamic and attractive director of the athletes with disabilities corral that he lost his blind runner. The good news is there was no harm done, just a unique situation as it will set this Chicago Marathon apart from all others. Every marathon has something unique to it, though this one is really funny. During those miles the Bryon was guiding me in the beginning of the marathon he was doing the best job of guiding me that he has ever done. He is really improving as a sighted running guide.
As we approached the tent for athletes with disabilities to pick up our gear and head home, a young man came up to me and introduced himself. He told me that his name is Michael Cantrell, Kim’s son. He had to say this twice before it registered with me. One of the many perks of losing my eyesight is that I got to attend college later in life. While attending Northern Illinois University, I became good friends with a woman named Kim Myers. She and I became officers in an organization called students who are non-traditional, or SWAN. We have been friends in college and we remain friends to this day. Her son Michael, who is an EEM S,was there to provide medical attention for those who need it. Mike and I only talked briefly, as he was summoned by his partner because they were needed to attend to someone’s medical need.
Inside the tent we found Aaron Scheidies, who as I wrote earlier, should be in Brazil right now at the Paralympics trial. Aaron ran the Chicago Marathon in two hours and 40 minutes. Like I said, Aaron is an amazing athlete.
As we were walking out of Grant Park we walked on a paved path. At some point, Chris and Bryon wanted to sit down in the grass and relax, so we did. When we got to our feet again, Chris noticed that we were next to a gate, that if we passed through it, it was a shortcut to the sidewalk that we wanted to get to, however, there was a security guard standing by the gate.
There were two ways to get to the street that we wanted to get to; one way was to follow the paved path that everyone else was taking, the long way, or, the short way, through the gate where the security guard was standing. We asked the security guard if we could go through the gate, and he said no, and directed us to the path that everyone else was walking on. With that, Chris told me to take his elbow and we began walking. The security guard then saw what was going on. He understood that Chris was leading me, a blind runner, and he changed his mind. The security guard then stopped us and told us that we could go through the gate and he opened it. Quite a departure from the security guard we faced in the morning who would not allow us into our start corral for the marathon.
On our walk back to the Ogilvie train station we countered several homeless people. Once at the station Chris and I had two huge burritos. Bryon did not eat, as his stomach was still upset from eating all the Gu gels that he ate while running the marathon. That was something I could identify with. Normally, I eat GU gels while running Marathons and have problems with my digestive system. Today I brought with me a energy bar that I had broken up into pieces and put in a plastic bag to eat. That bar was a lot gentler on my stomach.
We got on the train that went back to Elburn, from there we got into Chris’s car and he drove me home and dropped me off. Then Chris and Bryon went on their way back to Oregon. I was home. What a great day.