"You're doing great!" my friends yelled. "You're running a marathon!!"
"I'm so tired, I was up before dawn!" I yelled while camped out at mile 21. "I'm freezing, and my feet are killing me!"
That was because my crew of positive-minded, stranger-encouraging cheerleaders was at the Chicago Marathon from start to finish — and when I say finish, I mean at the end line, 8 and a half hours after the starting gun sounded. We stood among the crowds downtown at miles 2 and 13, then had the corner of Halsted and Archer (mile 21) almost all to ourselves...then waited at the finish for the construction trucks to get off the course and allow the last 100 or so runners through.
Along the way, we cheered on almost a dozen friends from the Chicago Church of Christ, including:
J.D., who was looking cheerful even though his wife...
...Annie, was beating him by about 15 minutes. She kindly slowed up at the end, and they finished togther.
Peter, whose third marathon was his best time ever. We knew he would post a personal best, because months of worrying and wondering had ended for him only 2 days earlier, when his wife, Deb, gave birth to their first son. Deb, being the strong and giving woman that she is, let her husband race while she and Jeremiah recovered.
Kostya (hugging Jeff) and his wife Shannon (in the green beanie hat, plowing over another runner to get a hug herself), who were first-time competitors and jogged the entire distance.
And Ben, who was escorted across the finish by Amanda and Adrian, then greeted by his fiance, Carrie, in the pink beanie. Ben drew a good amount of attention from the course officials, who recognized him after the race as Most Hardcore, Pain-Eating, Self-Preservation-Ignoring First-Time Marathoner.
And while I was there, I grabbed a few shots of individuals running for groups I've either been a part of or supported in some way, including...
and PAWS Chicago.
As always, there was: A limbo line of costume-clad wackos, lending themselves to some fun shots; inspiring stories to watch go by, in particular the man in full Army fatigues and boots, carrying a packed rucksack on his back and running all 3 times I saw him; and this older athlete here. She looked wise enough to know better, but all 3 of the times I saw her, she was jogging, too. I spotted her crossing the finish...and I spotted a younger man trying to elbow his way up to the chain-link fence on the side of the end line, camera in hand, but no good angle available. I grabbed a few pictures for him — he told me he'd been looking for her the whole race, had missed her at every spot, and had been hoping to get a shot of her going across the finish. Hopefully this will do...
And as always, there was reason to celebrate with friends.