You can’t really, truly understand what the Chicago marathon looks like until you’ve seen it in person. Sure, I had read descriptions, seen pictures, and watched news footage, but that could not prepare me for the reality that greeted me bright and early (way. too. early) the morning of October 9.
I was awakened by a foreign cacophony of cowbells, screaming, whistles, and incredibly loud Christian music (I’m not talking about Lecrae here, folks. Think Family Life Radio. Actually, think Moody Radio, because that’s what it was). Bleary-eyed and confused, I made my way down the hall to the kitchen (where we have a view of the intersection of Chicago and LaSalle).
Six or seven of my floormates were gathered in the kitchen, peering out the windows. They half-turned to greet me with the grunted hellos of early mornings, then moved to make a spot for me.
That’s when I saw it. The Marathon.
The wide street was entirely filled with people of all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities. Though each of them were running individually, the crowd moved as a whole, like a river rushing down the street. I watched for several minutes and bodies weaved in and out like cars on a highway. I listened to the screaming spectators, stared down from above as they found their runners and embraced them momentarily or threw water on them.
An hour or two later, I got a phone call from a cousin who was in town to watch the marathon. She asked if I could meet her in Pilsen for an hour or two and watch with them before they headed out. I said yes, but forgot a very crucial fact in my excitement to see family.
I would have to cross the street to get to the Brown Line.
I didn’t fully grasp that reality until I had showered, dressed, and made my way out to the plaza. As I reached Wells, the point where I normally just walk across the street without paying much attention, I realized that my path was blocked. It wasn’t just blocked with a police barricade or some yellow tape I could walk around. No, it was blocked by hundreds of thousands of sweaty bodies doing the one activity I hate the most.
A group of students I knew was approaching the road at the same time I did, so I decided to watch them and just do what they did. I’m not sure what I thought would happen, maybe that a magic passageway would open, or that there was a “WALK/DON’T WALK” sign for crossing through marathons. I grew up in a cornfield, guys, I’m not too familiar with MASSIVE INTERNATIONAL RUNNING EVENTS.
Much to my terror, the group of students dove directly into the mass of runners, moving perpendicular to the marathon itself. I watched with growing trepidation as they wove expertly between the competitors and made it to the other side entirely unscathed.
Maybe I missed that orientation seminar, I thought. Maybe there was something in the MoodyCaster about how to cross the marathon-filled street that I ignored. Why didn’t I read my MoodyCaster?!
I am going to pause this story to tell you something very important. Read carefully:
I have no form of athletic ability or coordination whatsoever. The year I played volleyball at St. Paul (idon’twannatalkaboutit), I spent 98% of all games and practices yelling, “HELP.” I also don’t run unless I have had a lot of sugar or am being chased by a drugged Peruvian who wants all my money. I was also wearing flip flops. Just let this all sink in for a moment.
Aaaand, resume story.
The way I saw it, I had three options.
- Call Rachelle and say, “I’m sorry, I know I never see you and you live far from me and your son is amongst the top five most adorable children I’ve ever met, but I’m unable to cross the teeming mass of running bodies that has invaded my place of education.”
- Sit down and cry in hopes that someone would see me, take pity on me, and airlift me across the street.
- Squinch my eyes shut a little bit and run across, screaming apologies and praying to Jesus that I didn’t die.
Though none of those options particularly appealed to me, I chose the third one. I took a deep breath, looked around to make sure no one I knew was watching, and watched for some sort of a break. About halfway through my
deep-breathing exercises observations,
Finally I saw a gap between runners, and I decided to go for it. The next few seconds were a blur of me screaming things like, “I’M SORRY I’M SO SORRY EXCUSE ME I AM SO SO SORRY YOU ARE SO LEGIT FOR RUNNING THIS AND I AM RUINING IT I AM SO SORRY.”
Though my father doesn’t choose to believe this fact, I legitimately made it about halfway across the street without any issues. After the halfway point, I moved backwards and to my right a little to avoid one runner (this will be a much more clear mental image if your mind is picturing Frogger). As I avoided the first runner, another one ran directly into me. Or maybe I ran into him. He may or may not have cursed me out as he fell to the ground.
That’s correct. I didn’t just run into him. I knocked him to the ground. After this event, I gave up, threw my hands above my head, screamed, “SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY SORRY,” and ran the rest of the way across the street, choosing to totally ignore the fact that there was a marathon going on around me.
Aaaaand… that is the story of the time I almost ruined the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The good news is: I made it to Pilsen despite the Brown and Pink Lines being stuffed with tourists; I got to see Rachelle, Ray, and Wiler; and I didn’t hear of anyone dying in the marathon, so that guy I knocked over was probably-most-likely okay… even though I likely screwed up his pace or whatever.