My daughter’s high school classmate and good friend, Jennifer Mirocha of East Moline, ran her first marathon on Sunday, October 12th in Chicago. Jen had never run more than 13 miles in one day, but the Augustana College (Rock Island, IL) double major in Economics and Marketing began training for the race a year ago and vowed to complete it with only her boyfriend, Josh Sun and me cheering her on.
Commenting on the run, Jennifer said, “The first half was not bad, but at the 18 to 19 mile mark, it got bad. It was really hot. One person was wearing a shirt that said, ‘It can’t be hotter than last year!'” The 2007 race was cut short when a seasoned runner dropped dead in the near 100-degree heat.
Josh was able to run barefoot alongside Jennifer at a few key places along the race route, because 26 Chicago McDonald’s restaurants had a tracking system in place that helped the rest of us know where to find our favorite runners amongst the throngs participating.
I sat in a grandstand situated at Roosevelt and Columbus and tried to pick Jennifer out of the throng that was rounding that corner and heading for the finish line, which was just a short half-mile down that road towards Millennium Park. The runners just kept coming and watching them was hypnotic.
Jen said she “tried not to stop and to run as hard as I could” for the last 4 miles of the race. Prior to that, she had taken advantage of the water stops to rehydrate. (That was a good thing, as an older female contestant was seen lying on a cot, convulsing.)
The announcer speaking over a loudspeaker near me announced that a 70-year-old woman had just completed the race, and many were in a wheelchair division .I began to feel like an underachiever, but my duty, today, was to help find Jen, present her with flowers (real and fake) and buy us all a beer in the beer tent. We hadn’t thought about how to prove that the 21-year-old Jen, who looks younger, was really 21. She didn’t carry her cell phone, nor did she have identification on her person, other than her race number (#28733). That number reflected how soon she registered for the race.
Jennifer is the daughter of Cary and Lyn Mirocha of East Moline and will study abroad in Vietnam as part of Augustana’s Study Abroad program in February. This day, she was a true champion, finishing in 5 hours, 6 minutes and 55 seconds for an 11:42 pace, per mile, in her very first marathon. Jennifer commented that her feet have grown in size from 7’s to 9’s since she took up running, she now has flat feet (whereas she previously had high arches) and she appeared to be limping after the finish, as did many who completed the race. All the runners who made it through proudly wore their medals, and many wore pink rabbit ears, courtesy of Energizer Bunny batteries, or draped themselves in lightweight silver reflector capes, courtesy of Bank of America, to ward off the heat.
Twenty-nine neighborhoods, 31,000 runners, a million and a half spectators ran the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 12th. A 26.2 mile course is a lot to cover, whether as a runner or as a journalist. Evans Chernuiyot of Kenya pocketed $140,000 for winning the Bank of America Chicago Marathon: $100,000 for wining and a $40,000 bonus that was based on his time of 2 hours, 6 minutes, 25 seconds, the 9th fastest time in the 31 year history of the race. (firstname.lastname@example.org). These statistics courtesy of the Monday, October 13, Chicago Tribune special Chicago Marathon section which noted that Kenyans scored victories in 4 of the 5 point-scoring races on the 1008 World Marathon Majors: London, Boston, the Olympics and Chicago. The New York Marathon is next.
The Chicago neighborhoods that the race traveled through included: Bronzeville, The Gap, the South Commons, the South Loop, the Prairie District, the Central Station District (where I sometimes reside), the New East Side, Streeterville, the Magnificent Mile, the Loop, River North, Near North, Old town, Old Town Triangle, Lincoln Park, Park West, lake view East, Park West, Lincoln Park, Old Town, Near North, West Loop Gate, Greektown, the West Loop, the Near West side, the West Loop, Little Italy, University Village, Illinois Medical District, Pilsen, East Pilsen, Bridgegport, and Chinatown.
It was at Chinatown that Josh caught up with Jennifer and, she said, “When I saw Josh in Chinatown, it really helped.” Josh works for the Davenport School District as a computer whiz. (Not his real title, but it will do).