In 2011, I coached the Shriner’s Hospital for Children’s Marathon team at the Chicago Marathon. As a coach, I was not running that day but stationed at the team tent with my wife on mile 14 of the course. For those of you not familiar with the course, at mile 14, there is a 2 mile stretch that turns towards itself placing you a block away from its beginning. My plan was to cheer my ass off, passing out water, Gatorade and fuel, and run along side my team to inspire them to push through the pain. Anyone who tells you a marathon doesn’t hurt is a dirty liar. It is a grind physically and mentally, and at mile 14 you are in pain.
At first, I was looking for my brother-in-law, Jeff. He knew he was going to push himself that day and asked if I could pace him for a couple miles. While waiting for him, I was getting text message updates on his and others progress. HOLY SHIT, JEFF! He was running at a ridiculously fast pace. Jeff was actually on pace to run the entire race in under 3 hours! That is where the big kids play.
Jeff came to mile 14 and I jumped in. In obvious discomfort, he did not want me to talk to him; he just wanted me to run next to him and keep pushing the pace. We quickly came to the end of the loop where I would turn back toward the tent, but Jeff asked if I could stay a little longer. I did. I stayed with Jeff to the final stretch of the course when a police office pulled me off the course. Even though I did not get to see him finish, I was on cloud nine. Jeff set a PR that day by about 25 minutes!
When my elation faded into the realization that I was around mile 25 of the course, I decided to call my wife to pick me up later downtown. However, my cell phone was dead and no one on Michigan Ave felt compelled to let me borrow their phone either. I was 12 miles away from where I needed to be, had no money, and no phone to communicate to my family where I was located. Admittedly, I began to panic, so I ran.
I ran back to the tent, with runners still on the course, and I cheered my ass off. I also gave out water and fuel to countless other road warriors that day. I was even able to run the 2 mile loop with another team member who needed that extra push to the end. We packed up the tent later that day and headed home. It was at this point that I had my epiphany. We become fit to find freedom from our own struggles, in turn, giving us the freedom to help others achieve their goals. Fitness is freedom!
My fitness allowed me to give to others! I was able to help Jeff set a PR. I was able to help others push past a difficult point in the race. I was able to get back in time to help tear down the tent and put everything away. I also realized that this kind of fitness is about more than just making you look good in a bathing suit. It’s about overcoming the mental and physical fatigue; when most everyone else in the world wants to quit...you keep going. It is a relentless forward march towards self actualization. It is the realization that YES, I CAN DO IT! And once you realize that you CAN do it, everything else pales in comparison. You’ve become UNBREAKABLE.