On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On Saturday night, I got a frantic call from my sister. "Have you been following the weather?" she asked.  "It's looking like it's going to be bad."  I knew immediately what she meant: the Chicago Marathon.

No, I hadn't been following the weather, but there are two ways it can go: too hot, or too miserable (rain and cold).  And since 2007, most of the time you hear "bad weather" and "Chicago Marathon" in the same sentence, it refers to the heat.

I went immediately to WGN to see what Tom Skilling, local Chicago meteorological hero, had to say.

Huh.  That is not good.

Now, I know that it's impossible to predict the weather a week in advance with any accuracy.  But, I was there in 2007.

(Warning: I'm about to use hyperbole to talk about the 2007 Chicago Marathon as though it was a mythical tragedy instead of just a canceled road race.)

In 2007, it was hot.  It was very hot.  By the end of the day, it would be nearly 90 degrees.  Maybe not the worst weather ever, but Chicago is notoriously flat and usually has mild-to-cold weather.  I don't know how we made it through.

Replace "Terrorist Attacks" with
"Marathon Problems" and you're on!
I was volunteering at the 5m elite water station, and I was sweating as we set it up.  I was sweating as we closed it down.  We started hearing ambulance sirens pretty much as soon as the race started, and we heard them throughout the entire race.  After our water station was closed up, we walked over to the 10k water station and tried to help those volunteers.  They were not out of water (as we'd later hear), they just couldn't pour it into cups fast enough for the desperate runners who wanted water on their heads and bodies as well as for drinking.  Later stations were evidently out of water.  A  man collapsed onto the curb and we tried to help him.  Two runners, both doctors, offered to look at him.  We told them not to ruin their races, that we'd take care of him, but they both looked up and said, "Our races have been over since they began."  I was upset - My sister was leading a pace group when they canceled the race and forced her to walk the last 6 miles.  We waited for her at the finish, frantically, for several hours, checking the medical tent and wondering what had happened.  No one could tell us what was going on; we just knew that my sister wasn't at the finish like we thought she would be.  It was harrowing.

I was there, man.  I still have PTSD from it.  When the weather is just right and I see joggers sweating...  Flashbacks.  It's like I'm there again, man, in 'Nam Chicago '07.

Most weather reports have calmed down some and are predicting highs in the low 70s, although if you believe Tom Skilling it will still get into the 80s.  Additionally, a mass email went out to all participants to remind us of the "Emergency Alert System" to notify us of their terrorist-threat-level-esque alert system for marathon weather.  I get that the weather is no joke, but I also get that 30,000+ runners have been training for months (and traveling from great, expensive distances) to get to this day.

Please, please, Carey Pinkowski, don't cancel the race on us?


  1. Ay! Fingers crossed for some crisp fall weather! Nothing worse than racing in the heat.

  2. You have no idea how nervous I am - this is my first and I just want it to be fun. Let's hope the weather plays nice!

  3. Majo, funny you should say that - just this morning I was walking the dog thinking, "Hm, it's a little chilly out here..." Nooooo - it's actually perfect out right now!

  4. Ugh, I knew we all would get punished for being infidels! I'll send out temperate-weather vibes for all of my fake internet friends running. Y'al deserve the best.

  5. I don't think they'll cancel, just be more prepared.

    I'm freaking out about the weather, but at the same time, I RAN 14 MILES ON 105 HEAT. I can freaking deal with 80's weather. And since the heat wave was across the country, most people also trained under 100+ heat.

    I thought your report was funny though -- it's almost like my WTC report! HA!

    I know a girl who was at mile 16 when they cancel it, and she still had to walk the rest of the 10 miles to the end. That was going to be her first marathon, and she never ran another one again because of the disappointment.

  6. abs stinks. how is it that every yr chitown is hot?!?!
    your report cracked me up, you have nyc to look fwd too as well :)

  7. ahhh, I hope the forecast continues to calm down. Are you running? How could I not know that? My fingers and toes are crossed for ya!