This Sunday I will be running in the Chicago Marathon. Although I will be running with nearly 40,000 other runners, getting to the point to be able to do it has been mostly a selfish, solitary pursuit.
Iíve been able to do a lot of thinking during the hundreds of miles of training leading up to the race. Iíve decided that running the 26.2 miles in Chicago will be more meaningful if I dedicate my race to three of the people Iíve thought about most while preparing for my race.
In the spring of 2002, I finally got back into the habit of regular exercise. Every time the Cubs had a night game Iíd grab a small radio and headphones and head out the door for a walk while listening to Pat Hughes and Ron Santo broadcast the Cubs games on WGN. They sure are entertaining -- even when the Cubs are losing, and the miles always fly by. My walks soon led to jogs, and as I got in better shape I finally cast aside years of short-lived returns to running and started setting race goals. Although I donít often take a radio along on my runs anymore, Iíve spent hours and hours on the treadmill listening to Ron and Pat do the games.
Ron Santo was once a great athlete who had a long all-star career playing third base for the Cubs. He managed all of it while battling diabetes. In the last couple of years he has been faced with the amputation of first one leg, and then the other. Through it all he has remained positive and upbeat as he works as the Cubís number one fan. Now, as the Cubs are on the brink of a possible World Series bid, Ron has had to undergo surgery to remove some bladder tumors. Ron canít run, so Iím running for him, and Iím dedicating the first 10 miles of my marathon to old number 10, Ron Santo.
When I go out on my runs, especially the longer ones, the first few miles are filled with thoughts of how I feel, what the weather is like, where Iím headed, how the foot is feeling, etc. It is in the middle miles of my runs, when I fall into a nice rhythm, that my mind is free to wander. When my mind wanders it nearly always turns to thoughts of my son David. In March of 1999, less than two months from his sixteenth birthday, David died quite unexpectedly from rare complications of a sinus infection. As I run I think about what he would be doing if he was still with us, how our lives would be different. I think about how much I love him and how much I miss him. On Sunday Iíll be thinking of David, as always, and miles 11 to 20 are for him.
They say that the marathon really starts at 20 miles. It is then when those who are ill-prepared or who donít run a smart race will falter. It will be during those last 6.2 miles, when I most need to find the will to press on, that Iíll be thinking of my good friend Helen Mester. Helen is married to Gary, who Iíve known since Cub Scouts. Helen has MS.
It is difficult to watch someone, who Iíve always thought of as the epitome of vivacious, struggling just to walk. I canít begin to imagine how difficult it is for Helen, but she keeps working and fighting and nearly always wears a smile. When I think of Helen, I always imagine her with a big grin.
During the final part of Sundayís marathon I may want to start walking. I might have thoughts of quitting. Iíll probably wonder why Iím even running. When I most need the willpower to keep pushing for the finish line, Iíll be thinking of Helen. I know Iíll succeed.
Tom . . . South Bend, IN†