On October 8, 2016 I was lucky enough to be one of the 1.7 million spectators to watch the 40,400 runners run the Chicago Marathon. Seeing the crowds on the side of the street cheering for people they don’t know reminds you that these streets are more than just a daily walk to work. They are a place to celebrate, inspire, and realize what you are capable of.
This year I was able to see my mom run her third marathon of 2016. As I anxiously clicked refresh on the tracking app on my phone I looked up and there she was, running towards me. She stuck out like a red balloon in a sea of yellow balloons. I unrolled my obnoxiously bright pink neon sign as fast as I could, held it over my head, and yelled, “Hey! That’s my mom!” The two little girls next to me sitting on the cold curb of State Street looked up and laughed as their family all turned to look at me. I looked down at my hastily unraveled sign to make sure it was right side up, and that none of the letters had fallen off, just as she ran over to us with only a brief moment to pause, with which we filled with fumbling to open the camera on her phone to capture the ever coveted marathon selfie. We took a couple of shaky, yet perfect, photos then she tossed down her jacket and was on her way. I looked up after her and yelled, this time louder, “Love you mom!”
As I watched her fade into the sea of neon, name brand-clad runners, I looked at them, and was truly inspired. Behind the runner in the sombrero and the guy in all cardboard dressed as the Willis Tower there was a runner with “I beat cancer, now I’m beating this marathon!” on the front of his bright blue t-shirt. While on the red line heading up to Boystown I thought about what, or who, I would run the marathon for, if I were able to run farther than from my apartment to Chipotle (it’s .14 miles in case you were wondering). Would I be one of the 10,000 runners to run for one of the 250 plus charities? Would I be one of the countless runners to not run for an official charity, but run for someone close to them who was unable to run? Would I do it for me, to just to see if I could?
Regardless of their purpose for running they all had one thing in common, faith in themselves. Seeing people with red cheeks drenched in sweat, but still smiling and excited at the 24th mile, made it clear that these people had faith in why they were running and did not give up until they had accomplished what they came for.
As I made my way through the shoulder to shoulder crowd of people waiting for their friend or loved one to emerge, I scanned the runner exit looking for my mom’s signature scrunchie (don’t hate) ponytail. She appeared, post marathon heat wrap, and medal, in hand. In that moment I, like many others, could not have been more proud. I was not only proud of my mom, but of all the other runners who poured their heart and soul into doing the best they could, and all of the spectators who cheered for everyone, not only the person they came to watch, but everyone.
Whether you want to walk, run, jog, or watch, participating in any capacity is inspirational. I may not make it to the 2017 Chicago Marathon as a runner, but I will definitely be a spectator with the crowds of people cheering on people I don’t know because the thrill of that day is indescribable.
By Andrea Johnson, 2016-17 Topics & Trends staff member