Wednesday, October 3

Chicago bound

History starts now -- Five for Fighting, World

Within the next hour, I (rslight) am off to Chicago.

John "The Penguin" Bingham says some people couldn't even see a starting line from where they were in their lives.
As you all know, I was born with spinal meningitis and spent the initial weeks of my life in intensive care. Dallas doctors said I would not live to be six months old. I stopped breathing at times, and they said my lungs were too weak to live.

Although I survived, I suffered from scoliosis that gave me back pain whenever I tried to run. Other children routinely mocked me for my inability to run. It was especially bad for me when my elementary school participated in relay races against other schools. Other kids strongly advocated my exclusion from the team.
I overheard one boy tell the coach: "Please don't make us run with (rslight). He's just going to embarrass everybody."
On race day, they loaned me to another school that wasn't as good. Everyone got a nice medal except me. I bowed my head in shame. I never tried running after that, although I sometimes dreamed about what it would be like.

During my 20s, I started weight lifting as one of several efforts to impress a young woman. At first I worried about hurting my back, but I discovered the opposite happen. Weight lifting actually strengthened my back, and alleviated much of my back pain.

Last year, at age 30, I found myself speaking with St. John's Hospital officials about the 2006 Sunshine Run 5K and 10K in Springfield. Knowing nothing about running, I'm sure I asked a couple of ignorant questions, such as: Is it a hard race?
"Well, it depends on your experience," one official said. "Of course, we've done the Chicago Marathon, so it wasn't tough for us."
The official mentioned this marathon thing like it was some snobby, elitist activity.
Debbie Mikkelson, who heads the burn unit, suggested that I actually participate in the Sunshine Run. I laughed. The thought that I could run three miles was comical. She apparently saw my disbelief, and quickly added: "Or, you could volunteer too."
I'm a huge baseball fan, and the thought of a race going through a minor league ballpark was exciting. So exciting, in fact, that I felt it would be worth looking foolish to do it.
A month before the 5K, I practiced walking three miles just to assure myself that I could at least do that. Then I practiced jogging the distance.

I was very nervous when the Sunshine Run started, but to my delight I was able to jog the whole thing in 33 minutes without stopping. It was heartening to see bl cheering us on at the halfway mark prior to his 10K, even though he was the only spectator.
I felt so great after crossing the finish line that I decided at that moment I wanted to run a marathon. I could even do this snobbish Chicago marathon.
My first step in marathon training was to figure out what a marathon was. This entailed purchasing a marathon book. When I saw the distance was 26.2 miles, I nearly fainted. I decided to spend some time running 5Ks, and then races with increasingly longer distances.

Dozens of races and personal records later, I'm about to run the big one in the Windy City. Or Second City, or whatever folks there like to be called. I'll be wishing bl and ms their best race ever in the Twin Cities.
I'm dedicating my first marathon to my mother. She was a beauty queen who died of cancer as a young woman many years ago.


Blogger MS said...

I was checking the weather forecasts for this weekend and saw that Chicago was expecting near-record heat, with race-time temperatures probably well in the 70s or even 80s. And I was thinking to myself, "wow, rslight is going to have a pretty tough go at it."

But with everything you've done so far, somehow I doubt a warm day is going to hold you back any.

October 03, 2007 3:07 PM  
Blogger bl said...

I agree with ms. No need to be nervous.
You've got a good goal and you should accomplish it.
It's not supposed to be easy, but I think you'll do well.

October 03, 2007 3:44 PM  
Blogger Jaime said...

Good luck on your first marathon! Your story is an incredible one and you've conquered what many people said you couldn't. It just shows the strength of the human spirit -- how when the mind and body come together extraordinary accomplishments can be achieved. Congratulations!
Jaime B. (News-Leader)

October 03, 2007 5:46 PM  
Anonymous Karen Culp said...

Ryan, We'll be cheering you on from the cheap seats here in Springbilly!
I'm so inspired by your story, and proud you're part of our "team" here at the N-L. We don't give out medals, but there is the free popcorn ...
Karen Culp (News-Leader and Signature mag)

October 04, 2007 10:21 AM  
Blogger Jim Evans said...

You will run your first marathon like you ran your first 5K and you will win.

October 05, 2007 4:31 PM  

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