My race recaps always start in a similar way, looking back to where it all began…
Six and a half years ago my gorgeous and last baby completed our family. 3 under 3 and a tonne of weight to lose lead me to running, you know the “cheap and easy” way to lose weight (feel free to laugh hysterically now)….I lined up on the start line of the half marathon at Brisbane Marathon with no idea what lay ahead. At a similar time I joined a little Facebook group called Running Mums Australia with just under 100 mums around the country. Well, the rest is history…
On 13 October 2019 it was my immense pleasure to line up on the start line of Chicago marathon. A day when the women’s marathon world record would break and dreams would come true for many thousands of runners.
After 2 weeks of holidaying around the USA and a very poor lead in, I was not in marathon shape. I really didn’t mind, because I love running and the thought of running all day never worries me. I had no intention of running fast, my only goal was to run happy.
My road to Chicago started in Tokyo in 2016. I went over to run the marathon and was told by now long time friends Bronwyn and Wayne Spies and Greg Biggs that there were “World Marathon Majors” and a spark was ignited… a dream I couldn’t shake. Tokyo lead me to New York which led me to Berlin and then London. Each an incredible experience with their own unique memories.
Boston was sacred for me and I refused to allow myself a place on the start line until I earned it with a qualifier. That qualifier came unexpectedly at the 2018 Sunshine Coast marathon whilst training for Surf Coast Century 100km. The qualifier not only gave me an entry to Boston but also Chicago and so my 2019 destiny was laid out.
The days leading up to the race my thoughts were really entirely focused on Lisa Weightman and her race. I dreamt about her finishing. I prayed for her and she was seldom out of my mind. I also thought about my other friends running and their goals so my own run didn’t really cross my mind too much until race day.
We woke up race morning and had the usual routine of getting ready. I put on my beautiful special bracelet Amanda made me and remembered for the millionth time how grateful and lucky I was to be here with my girlfriends.
It was cold as we walked to the start line and the nervous energy was all around. Kylie was running her 2nd major in 2 weeks, Amanda was chasing her Boston Qualifier and Cindy was there to PB, so each were focussed on the run to come. With a final hug we went to our corrals and lucky for me, Kylie and I could huddle together. Due to the lines at security we were late, and before long the gun went off and we were running.
Within the first quarter of a mile we were in a tunnel and our GPS watches stopped. They couldn’t handle the buildings and runners were panicking not knowing their pace or distance. I was very happily running along still in my 5 layers of clothing. We wound in and out of the city streets and the wind tunnels between the buildings. I happily waved at and high fived everyone.
Finally I was brave enough to take off my last layer of jumpers. I had a bib on my back to let everyone know it was my last major and there began the real fun. Hundreds of runners came to congratulate me, ask me questions, hug me. It was quite insane. I have never talked so much and that’s a BIG call because I talk in my sleep! To each and every one of you who took the effort, thank you! You made my day beyond special.
Just before 10km Amanda came up behind me and just about knocked me over. 45,000 people and she found me. We hugged and I reminded her the race didn’t start until 30km. As she ran off I burst in to tears and told the guy next to me “that’s my friend there and she’s gone to chase her dreams”. I continued to cry for the next half a mile. Just when I thought the tears had stopped I got to the biofreeze screen. The screen is famous in Chicago where 3 runners are featured with a message from a loved one. It’s super unlikely it will be you because so many people are running past at the same time. Now knowing that, would you believe and to my complete shock and surprise, 2 of the 3 messages were for me! A message from Nicole and RMA and a message from Amanda. People all around yelling “hey that’s you you’re a rockstar”, “six stars way to go girlfriend”. Crazy! And of course more tears.
I spent much of the race checking my phone tracking Lisa, Amanda, Kylie and Cindy. I FaceTimed Nicole and took photos at all the landmark miles. I live video posted on RMA and messaged my husband. I wanted my tribe to experience this last leg of the journey.
Some stand outs of the one million plus spectators were Mexican supporters with their singing, dancing and chanting in Spanish, the Korean elderly group dancing to Gangnam Style on repeat with their Korean flags and of course the many hilarious posters. What was special on this particular weekend was number of people who had #nohumanlimit written on their arms, on posters and on their shirts. As I stayed up all night to watch Kipchoge achieve the sub 2 hours for humankind I believe with all my heart that he is right- a running world is a peaceful world.
Running the world marathon major series is by no means an individual commitment, it’s a family sacrifice and it’s committing to a long term goal that may take years to complete. It takes a village, family and friends and I’m so grateful for mine many of which are my tribe here in RMA. I was so lucky to have Cindy, Amanda and Kylie waiting for me at the finish line in Chicago to watch me finish and wipe my tears. I was also so honoured to receive my 6 star with Jill on her 40th marathon and to embrace and cry- knowing what it took to get us both here and to celebrate together. Running is so much about the friendships and those you meet along the way. The journey was definitely the best part and the finish line bittersweet knowing I’ll never have this chance again.
Ana Croger, RMA Ambassador.