Chicago Full Marathon – Running on Chemo
On Sunday, October 13, 2013, I ran the Chicago Marathon. This was my 13th full marathon in my 8th US State. I have a silly bucket list goal of running 50 Full Marathons in 50 U.S. States before I turn 50. A little breast cancer tumor at 42 wasn’t going to prevent ME from missing out on my first World Marathon Major.*
When registration for Chicago opened in February so many runners were trying to register for the race the Active.com website crashed. Registration was halted for a week before reopening. In order to secure an entry, I decided to register with a charity my colleague had suggested, Team Bright Pink. I had never heard of Team Bright Pink, but found out it is the only national non-profit organization focusing on the risk reduction and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women. It was founded by Lindsay Avner. At 23 years old, Lindsay was the youngest patient in the country to have a prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction. Considering my family history I committed myself to the fundraising goal and joined Team Bright Pink.
I always say, everything happens for a reason. Who knew when I registered with Team Bright Pink in February how significant a decision it would turn out to be? The support that Wendy provided as a cheerleader and confidant was exactly what I needed to power through my diagnosis and surgery. I made the fundraising goal within three hours of my donation email and I raised over $1700 for Team Bright Pink – not including company matches. Team Bright Pink invited me to speak at their Pasta Dinner and I was honored to share my story with the other runners, coaches and support team.
Unfortunately, I was undergoing chemotherapy treatment and my doctor would not budge on my treatment schedule. My 2nd treatment fell the Thursday prior to Marathon Sunday. Instead of receiving the shot of white blood cells 3 days after chemo, I would have it on Day 1. We now knew the reaction my body would have from chemo and the white blood cell shot. I worked with my nurse to combat the symptoms with sleeping pills, nausea pills, Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Colace. All would be taken around the clock until I returned home from Chicago.
Knowing that I raised money for Team Bright Pink and it was my first major I was determined not to let anyone down and to run the race to the best of my abilities. My friend, Lenore, a 5-year survivor and a 1st time marathoner joined me and we both prepared ourselves for a 6-plus hour marathon with a single goal of finishing before Al Roker.**
We arrived in Chicago the morning of October 12th, checked into the Chicago Hilton and made our way to the expo. The Chicago Expo was held in McCormick Place’s North Hall. All the major running brands were there to exhibit. I picked up a new pair of Newton Gravity’s, a Chicago Sweaty Band and some official Chicago Marathon merchandise! I also stopped by the runDisney booth to touch the Dopey Challenge medals we’ll be earning in January. But the highlight of my expo visit was meeting Hal Higdon and Bart Yasso in the Runner’s World Booth!
We stayed at the Chicago Hilton which is one of the best hotels to stay for this marathon because it is across the street from the start and finish line. The marathon start time was 8am and we got up at the last possible minute to make our way across the street. The weather forecast called for sunny skies and perfect conditions. My corral assignment was “G,” but Lenore’s assignment was “J” so we went back to “J.” Considering this was a major marathon of 39,115 runners, the crowds were not overwhelming. We slowly made our way to the starting line and soon we were off at 8:17am.
Our race plan was to run 2 minutes and walk 30 seconds (until we both needed to walk). The crowd support was amazing and the miles flew by. The course was nice and flat. It would have been a great day to PR! We ran through the city, over the bridges and through Old Town, but by mile 10 I was tired. The exhaustion of the drugs had just tired me out. It was time to walk.
We continued walking forward without looking back and just kept chugging along. Around Mile 16 is when the banana craving began. I swore the guide made promises of bananas at Mile 16!!! This at least gave me something to focus on – the search for bananas! Still we continued on our way checking off the miles as we made it to the banana station at Mile 20! At mile 25 we began to run again and it felt good. Soon we made the right turn towards Mile 26 and saw the sign on the top of a steep incline. UGH – REALLY! But we made it up and towards the finish! I let out a gasp and began to cry – we had made it. We finished in 6:02 and the best part – we beat Al Roker!!!
- It’s popular: I heard some rumblings of a lottery system for 2014. Never-the-less be ready to register when it opens.
- Run for a Charity: If you can’t get in consider running for a charity. You’ll have coaching and support. This was the third time I had run for a charity and all three experiences have been outstanding!***
- It’s Flat & Fast: Honestly, we powered through so fast walking because the course was nice, easy and super flat! This makes Chicago great for a PR or BQ.
- Stay Close: The Chicago Hilton is a great hotel and good for sharing with your friends. Some of the rooms have 2 full bathrooms.
*The World Marathon Majors are Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
**Al Roker finished the 2010 NYC Marathon in 7:09:44
***2009 Team in Training, Walt Disney World Marathon, 2013 Ronald McDonald House Charities, Disney’s Princess Half Marathon, 2013 Team Bright Pink, Chicago Marathon