The Chicago Marathon: A Reflection


Photo courtesy of Madison Sanschagrin.

Madison Sanschagrin, Staff Writer

Thirty-five thousand runners and thousands of people cheering on the sides of the street surrounded me. With each step I took, I knew that I was getting closer and closer to that finish line. As I looked around, all I saw were people cheering, screaming, and supporting us. These people had no idea who I was, yet they came out on a Sunday morning just to be that extra voice telling me that I could and I would finish.

On October 10th, 2021, I ran the Chicago Marathon.

As you can believe, training for a marathon is insanely challenging. For eighteen weeks, I was pushed to my max physically and mentally. I struggled a lot more than I succeeded; however, that is what made the experience so much better. The first question I get when I tell people that I ran a marathon is – why? Though the answer may seem so simple, it is honestly very complex. I started running long distances in the summer of 2020. I used running as a way to get out of the isolation that we were put into during the COVID-19 pandemic. Running was not just exercise to me. Each run I went on was different. Some runs, I mentally was not in it and some runs I felt as if I was on top of the world. However, the one thing that never changed was my feeling after. Every run that I went on, no matter the distance nor pace, I was bettering myself.

Now, as I said, I struggled a lot more than I succeeded. As you may think I struggled physically, that was not it at all. I struggled mentally. There were a lot more mornings that I did not want to open my eyes and hop of bed just to go run. I somehow convinced myself that maybe this goal was too high and too hard to achieve. When I started to believe this, I began to think that the mileage and time I was running was insignificant, that I was doing terrible, and that there was no way I could run a marathon. So, you ask how I overcame this. Well, that answer is simple – my supporters.  My dad was my rock through this entire process. He joined me on almost all my runs, which I was running five days a week. He was there to lift me up in the challenges. He was there to remind me that this goal is going to be conquered. My mom never stopped checking on me. My mom was always there for me when I need to talk or just have a girls night and watch The Voice!  My family and friends never stopped supporting me. Whether it was the text, email, or call I received from them, they were constantly there for me. They reminded me of my self-worth, that I was capable of all things, and that I was going to achieve my goal. I am beyond thankful for my people and what they have done for me especially during this training experience. However, as expected, some people did not believe in me.

One day, a teacher of mine, said that something was too hard for me. As the specific comment is irrelevant, this teacher’s words affected me in numerable ways. After being told this, I told my parents that it was because I was average. It was because of this one comment that I began to believe that I was ordinary. I turned this negative comment into my motivator. I was going to not only show everyone that I am far from average, but I was going to show myself that I am beyond capable of all things and that I am going to change the world. Today, I look back and remember that one teacher that say someone was too hard for me, and I think of all the amazing things that I have done. This was a huge learning experience for me, and I am grateful for it. This one moment in my life made me realize what my motivation is for running a marathon. As I ran this marathon for myself, I also ran it for the girls out there that do not believe they can. I want them to look up to me and realize that they are capable of greatness. That they should not let others make them think they cannot. And most importantly, the sooner they realize that they are truly amazing, the sooner they are going to change the world.

Fast forward eighteen weeks.

It is Sunday, October 10th, 2021 and I am surrounded by 35,000 runners and hundreds of people on the side of the street cheering. I am standing in my corral getting ready to accomplish the biggest goal of my life so far. As I am standing there waiting to begin, I realize something. I was not nervous. I did not have one butterfly in my body. As I notice this, I realized it is because I am surrounded by thousands of people that are about to be by my side through this entire thing. One of my favorite songs, “Wanna Dance with Somebody,” by Whitney Houston is playing on the loudspeaker, and I was filled with tremendous amounts of excitement. As I am running, I am smiling almost the entire time.

One of the best things that happened throughout this entire experience was that my sister, Mackenzie, had made a playlist of my favorite songs and the playlist had voice recordings from some of my favorite people. One of the best voice recordings was of my favorite teacher, Mrs. Mackle. She said, “Think of all the people that are doing ordinary things right now, like filling up gas, boarding an airplane, studying, and napping, but look at you doing something extraordinary.” When I heard this phrase, my eyes filled with tears and I was so thankful in this moment for God, and for those, like Mrs. Mackle, that have influenced me in numerous ways. I would not be who I am today without them.

During the race, I was feeling powerful, each step filled with energy. Then all of a sudden, my legs shut down out of nowhere. My hips and legs went into excruciating pain, to the point where each step was heavy. The bottom of my feet felt raw and every time I added pressure, I thought they were going to fall off. I knew that at this moment, my mind was going to go into negative thinking. I was at mile twenty-two, and I knew that I have officially hit “the wall.”  Most runners hit this “wall” and their bodies begin to shut down. Well, here I was, crying for four miles telling my dad that I cannot do this and that this is the most pain I have ever been in. He was by my side through it all. He continued to support me through this challenge. I believe that without him, I would have mentally beat myself up even more.

After a hard four miles, I reached mile twenty-six. After some of the worst pain, all of a sudden my legs did not hurt anymore. Adrenaline had taken over and I knew that I only had .2 miles left to go. My dad stopped me before entering the final lap, and he said you are going to finish and you will now be the marathon runner I knew you always would become. He let me go by myself for the last .2. He wanted me to enjoy this victory lap by myself. As I am approaching the last .2 miles, I was filled with happiness and strength. I powered through and here I am crossing the finish line. The feeling at the finish line is what I have been chasing for eighteen weeks and it was worth it. I cried with happiness and accomplishment. At this moment, I proved to myself that I am capable of everything that I put my mind to. This is a feeling and moment that I will cherish forever.

Some would say that running a marathon at seventeen years old is crazy, not possible, and unachievable. Today, I prove those people wrong. I am a marathon runner and this is just the beginning. My advice to all of you is to not believe those who think something is too hard. To all of those girls out there that believe that they cannot, know that you can. Women are going to change the world. We are all capable of so much, and the sooner we realize this, the sooner we are going to change the world and make our mark.

Photo courtesy of Madison Sanschagrin.