(Photo courtesy of Dave Wick)

I was fortunate enough to run and finish in this year’s Chicago Marathon. It was my fourth — and first since 2014. It was a blustery day with high wind gusts and cool temperatures. Luckily, the sun was out for most of the race. Being 56 and carrying 250 pounds, my finish time was not great (5:52). So I was near the back quarter of the finishers. 

Let me share why this is actually a great thing.

I noticed that running at a slower pace I am able to take in all of the many sights and sounds that a marathon has to offer. I get to see so many of the estimated 1.7 million people along the course. These onlookers are there to cheer on family and friends who are running. They are also simply people who might live on neighboring streets, or come in from the suburbs, to lend support to the 45,000 runners who cross their path. 

To all of them I give a huge thank you for being there and supporting us. Your enthusiasm for all of us was infectious. And if you have never been to a race, let me tell you that they are some of the cleverest people when it comes to the signs they hold up. Here are just a few that I remember:

You’re Running Better Than Our Government

Was It Worth The Free Shirt?

Hurry! The Kenyans Are Drinking All The Beer!

Keep Chafing Your Dreams!

Pick A Cute Butt And Follow It

Along with the thousands of signs, people dressed up in fun costumes, had their pets with them, and many had cowbells to ring support. Then there were the many charities that were there to cheer on the runners who ran for their cause. These great volunteers also showed their support for all of the other runners. So many people, sights and sounds to take in along the 26.2 miles (don’t forget the .2 — it’s the hardest part!).

Here is why being toward the back helps. I was not going to win anything. So no need to run fast and get a personal best. Slow and steady was the pace for the day. And by doing this, I was able to see all of the people, signs, etc. that lined the path. I made sure to give as many high-fives as I could. I thanked many of spectators for being there. I also was sure to thank a lot of the 17,000 volunteers for giving their time. In essence, I was not focusing on the road ahead but rather everything around me. 

Even though I didn’t have the best finishing time, I still had the best time in any race to date. The fact that my family was also there to cheer me on at three spots just made it even better. I cannot wait for 2020 when I will do it all over again!

David Wick is a life-long resident of Oak Park. He ran on behalf of Hephzibah Children’s Association. 

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