My Kind of Town: A Tale of Two Marathons

She did it!

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She inspires me too! Sign by her friend Heidi, who biked and Ubered the route to cheer Lauren to the finish.

My niece Lauren conquered the Chicago Marathon yesterday.  Not that there would have been one shred of disappointment otherwise, but she ran every, single, agonizing step in her 26.2 yesterday.  Every.  Single.  Step.  Agonizing is my word, not hers.  That girl smiled every step of the way, and I swear on all that is good and true in this world, her makeup didn’t even run.  Not even after pounding out the first eleven or so miles in the pouring rain.

Until several months ago, Lauren wasn’t a runner.  She was an incredibly fit, young twenty-something graduate student (speech-language pathologist in the making–so, so proud!), but not a runner.  Like not even hahahaha, I’m a runner.  But Lauren committed to running the Chicago Marathon as a member of Team Momentum, the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s support and fund-raising team, and suddenly last winter she sprung it on us that she’d committed to a full-on 26.2.

She sent me this photo early yesterday morning, and I couldn’t even talk.  My son and I were ready to hop the Hiawatha Line to Chicago’s Union Station to be part of marathon madness, and when I saw the photo, I was grateful for waterproof mascara.  I couldn’t talk.  My husband was all, “What’s wrong, what’s wrong???” until I showed him the photo.  And then I shared it with the world on social media, because goodness should be shared.

Ninety minutes later, still seated on the train, my boy and I spied runners crossing over the Chicago River from Union Station, and because I am a freak about time, I felt like if we didn’t get out there RIGHT NOW, we would miss Lauren.  It took about forty minutes, in a not-light kind of rain, to find my sister- and brother-in-law in the throng.  And let me tell you what an inspiring, encouraging throng it was: positive energy flowed from every cowbell-shaking, sign-carrying, hollering-for-anyone-whose-name-or-team-name-could-be-read-from-their-jerseys sideliner as the marathoners passed by.  The runners smiled, waved, cheered, thumbs-upped back to their adoring fans.  If you weren’t moved by the buzz, even in the deluge, your heart must be made of stone.

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My kind of humor

We first spotted Lauren at the 13-mile marker, the halfway point.  She ran over to us, hugged us all–enormous grin the whole while–and kept hammering.  I cried.  We spotted her at mile 17.  I cried.  We spotted her at mile 20, still radiant, and I cried.

When she began to pick up speed at mile 25, I cried.  Afterward, Lauren said that when she saw the one mile to go marker, she just picked it up and, I believe her word was sprinted to the finish.  I can’t disagree.  Look at her!  Smiling still, waving, taking it all in, even faster than the 25 miles before it.

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After her thermal blanket and medal were around her shoulders and neck, we hiked another mile north to the MDA’s race team headquarters, a snazzy, downtown workout facility.  My sis- and bro-in-law joked that we couldn’t possibly complain about our own aching backs, knees, ankles after, you know, Lauren had COMPLETED A MARATHON, but I was beat.  They were beat.  My son was barely hanging on.  BEAT.  As we trekked that last mile, (well, technically my boy and I still had another mile-plus walk back to the train station), my kid admitted finally that he needed a break.  And snacks.

See, the whole reason we’ve embraced and been embraced by the MDA is because my son has muscular dystrophy, and while Lauren killed 26.2, my boy crushed his own 10.4 miles yesterday.  And yeah, I cried. It was the theme of the day, after all.  The boy complained not once, not ever, but did agree that maybe hailing an Uber from mile marker 20 to mile marker 25 would “be nice.”  My son gets this posture when he’s fatigued, and he held that position for much of his day yesterday.  But you’d never have known how exhausted he was by speaking with him.  My son isn’t one with the social gifts, and he’s fourteen, so not what you’d call “chatty,” ahem, but he smiled for the camera as his weepy mother demanded.  Well, sorta.

So the moral of the story is this:  As Lauren demonstrated, you can do just about anything you set your mind to.  You can change the world for a kid with a horrible muscle disease, and lead by an example of determination and goodness.  You can reduce your aunt to a blubbering mess repeatedly, and she’ll only love you more for it.

We usually spend our days in Chicago looking up at its marvelous architecture, but yesterday was spent looking ahead, and the view was magnificent.

Chicago, you really are my kind of town.