The plan was for Dave to drive to my house from Columbus Friday morning and then drive my truck to Chicago as I am not a fan of driving long distances at all. After seeing Grant off to school we were on our way to the windy city! The drive turned a bit lengthy when we were trying to find a bookstore for Dave to purchase some books for the gift bags he had made for Deb and Missi. My Garmin pretty much sent us on a wild goose chase to get us back to the highway after the stop at the bookstore. It would tell us where to turn and then we would get there and we couldn't actually get back on the highway because it would be fenced off. Forty-five minutes later we finally made our way back to the highway thanks to the directions we received at a gas station. Of course the bookstore didn't have what we needed so we knew we would have to make another stop. Luckily we found a Barnes and Noble and they had the books we needed. Once we were back in the car Dave asked me if I would fix up the bags for Deb and Missi. I was more than happy to help out. We finally made it to Chicago around 4:30 in the afternoon. Once we got there we met up with Deb, Missi, and Mary Jo and took some time to relax. At this point Dave gave the girls their gift bags and I knew they would love them. There were a few tears sheds which was to be expected. We had a great dinner and experienced a bit of Chicago before calling it a night.
First thing in the morning we headed to the West Egg Cafe to have some breakfast. I had the most delicious french toast made with raisin bread. Who would have thought that would be such a good combination! After breakfast we headed to the expo so that Deb and Missi could pick up their race packets.
After we left the DetermiNation booth Deb and Missi wanted to do a little bit of shopping. As we were walking around the corner Missi noticed there was a sign for Hal Higdon's books and then she looked down and realized that Hal Higdon was actually sitting under the sign. Missi and Deb were both very excited to meet him as they had followed his training plan for the marathon.
Get to Goal so we could try and meet up since she was running Chicago as her first marathon. We all went and grabbed a small bite to eat. The interesting thing about our meeting was that Deb and Missi thought Dave and I had known Amanda for a long time however we had just met her minutes before at the expo. She is a great person with an amazing personality! I look forward to seeing her again soon!
We decided to just order pizza in since Deb and Missi wanted to get to bed early to be well rested for the morning. Once we finished eating Dave and I went downstairs to the lobby with the course map in hand to figure out our plan of attack for race day. Who knew spectating was such hard work!! Once we were confident we had everything figured out we decided to call it a night. The girls got up early and started preparing for the race. Once Deb had gotten her DetermiNation tank top on she asked me to pin her memory bib on her back.
Dave and I wished the girls luck and left them prior to their arrival at the start line. They seemed confused as to why we were leaving them so soon. What they didn't know is that we had planned to stop at the store and buy them flowers for after the marathon. Plus we had also decided we were going to be around the 8 mile mark to cheer them on! Dave took control of the map which is a really good thing because I have absolutely no sense of direction. We managed to navigate the subway and arrive at our first stop prior to Deb and Missi's arrival. As luck would have it the girls were running on the opposite side of the street so we cheered them on from afar. I am pretty sure they heard us but I know they didn't actually see us. Now we had to get to mile 18 so that we could jump in with them as we had planned. We decided to get off the subway at mile 16.5. Once there we waited for an update on our phones to figure out when we should expect to see the girls. Shortly after arriving at mile 16.5 the text alerts came through and I instantly knew something was wrong when I saw that the girls were no longer together and they were at a much slower pace than what they had planned. We also were really worried about Amanda at this point as we hadn't gotten any text updates on her. Dave had her cell number so he decided he would text her and see if she would respond and sure enough she did. She was at mile 15. We knew Amanda was disappointed because many of the people that said they would be there to support her changed their plans at the last minute and weren't there. At this point Dave and I decided we would jump in with Amanda and run with her to mile 18 where we would pick up Deb and Missi. The best part was that Amanda had no idea we were planning to run with her. Once she got to us we shared a hug and a smile and then Dave and I jumped on the course and she said: "you're going to run with me?" and we simply said: "yes". Amanda was feeling pretty good and looked pretty awesome when we were running with her. As we approached the 18 mile marker we wished her luck and sent her on her way. I am so glad we had the chance to run with her and offer her some support! While we were waiting for Deb and Missi we cheered on the runners as they came past. A few of them stopped to take a picture of the mile 18 sign. Of course we offered to take a picture with them in it and a couple of people were very excited to have those pictures! Shortly after we took the last picture, Deb and Missi arrived. Missi mentioned that Deb was having a hard time breathing due to a cold that she was fighting. Deb asked for a gel and some tissues as we had extra supplies of both. Once Deb took a gel Missi said okay guys go ahead and jump in so we did. I could tell Deb was very disappointed and frustrated which I completely understood as I was in the same situation back in May at Cleveland. I asked Deb if she wanted me to talk or what she wanted me to do. She said she didn't want me to talk and she said she was sorry. I told her there was absolutely no reason for her to be apologizing. I was there to support her and I would do whatever she needed me to do no questions asked. As we were running Deb talked a little bit and said "this isn't how it's supposed to be, this sucks, I'm hot and I just want to be done." At this point I realized how appropriate it was for me to be with her. Afterall, I had said the exact same things during my marathon. I assured Deb that I could relate and we pressed on. Shortly before mile 20 Deb stopped to stretch out her back and the police officers on the course came over to ask her if she was okay to which she told them she was. After we went a few more steps Deb was starting to tear up. I moved her to the side of the course and gave her a big hug while she cried on my shoulder. I told her that we all truly cared about her and we were very proud of her and she needed to remember that. I also told her that we were in it together and we were going to finish it even if we had to crawl to which she responded not finishing isn't an option. Deb and I were rejoined by Missi and Dave shortly after this. Deb told Missi that she needed to go and run her race and that she would be fine because I was with her. Missi pretty much shot that down. The girls "argued" for a minute over Missi staying with Deb as Missi wasn't going anywhere and Deb was insisting she go. There was a bit of comic relief when Missi told Deb to stop it or they were going to throw down right there on the course! When we arrived at mile 21 Dave left the course as he has only been cleared to run short distances. I know he really wanted to stay with us but he had to do the right thing as to not injure himself again. He wished the girls luck and left for the finish line as promised. The next several miles were very quiet. I would give Deb tissues when requested and otherwise I would just run beside her and keep an eye on her to make sure she was doing okay physically. Once we had passed mile 24 Deb asked me how far it was until the next mile marker and I didn't respond to which she said can you just tell me please. Sadly I wasn't able to give her an exact distance as I hadn't started my Garmin on time. I gave her an estimate and we kept plugging along. She needed to walk again to which she apologized for and once again I told her I was there to do whatever she needed me to do so if she needed to walk we were walking. We got past the 25 mile marker and there was a group of DeterminNation coaches cheering for Deb like crazy. I am pretty sure she had a tiny smile but I could tell the emotions were at an all time high as she was certainly thinking of her mom. I knew I was going to be pulled from the course eventually but thought it would be at mile 26 as Dave had texted me and told me that is where they were pulling people. As it would turn out I was going to be pulled from the course with 800 meters to go. I told Missi I had to leave the course and she looked at Deb and said we got this. I gave Deb a pat on the back and told her to go ahead and finish this. I then told Missi that we would see them at the finish line. I came off the course and ran on the sidewalk beside them until they made the final turn at the 26 mile marker which is where I rejoined Dave. We didn't actually get to see them cross the finish line but we received the text alert that they had in fact finished the race side by side as was the plan for the past 18 weeks. The finish area wasn't set up well at all and it took us a long time to figure out what we were going to do. In the meantime Dave talked to Amanda and she joined us at the finish and we talked about her race for a bit which you can read about on her blog (afterall, it's her story to tell)! Dave and I finally decided we should head back to the hotel since we hadn't seen the girls. As luck would have it Amanda was walking back to her car she ran into Deb and Missi and called Dave and we were able to reunite with the girls and make our way back to the hotel. As we were walking back I realized I hadn't done a good job of keeping myself hydrated at all because I was keeping my eye on Deb and making sure she was hydrated. I told the girls to go ahead and I would join them shortly. I sat down and drank some water and then remembered I had my gummies so I ate those and that helped and Dave and I made it back to the hotel.
Deb had showered and was packing to get to the airport in time for their flight and she simply said thank you to which Dave and I said for what. Her response was simply everything and then she started to cry again. I walked over to her and gave her another hug and told her that I truly got it and I knew how she was feeling. She then mentioned that she obviously wasn't trained enough to which I pointed out that she was definitely trained. She hadn't missed one single workout in 18 weeks. It wasn't about being physically prepared it was about all of the emotions that she went through during the race that no one could predict would happen. Regardless of how Deb was feeling about the race I told her how proud I was of her because no matter how she got there she had finished a marathon. Deb and Missi gave us some of their stuff to take home since they wouldn't be able to take it on the airplane and then everyone finished packing up and we sent the girls on their way to the airport and Dave and I got ready for our long drive home. Shortly after we started our drive home I got a message of Facebook from Deb that said thank you for everything. I replied with just being a friend! So glad I was able to be there today! Thanks for allowing me to be a part of your journey. I'm incredibly proud of you and I know your mom is looking down with a huge smile on her face.
As we were driving Dave and I realized we had only eaten a bagel and peanut butter all day so we needed to stop for dinner. The only options on the turnpike were McDonald's and Dairy Queen so we kept driving until we found an exit that had an Olive Garden because we needed real food. We stopped at a few more rest stops to use the restroom and get out and stretch and we finally made it back to my house around 1:30 in the morning.
Monday morning I texted Deb to tell her I was very proud of her. Her response was I'm not. I feel like I don't even deserve to put the 26.2 sticker on my car. I once again told her I truly understood how she felt but in the end she finished a marathon. Later in the day Deb stopped by my office to pick up the items we had brought home for her and Missi. We talked a little bit and she mentioned that she was really hot by mile two and was wishing she had scissors to cut her pants off into shorts. It was all too familiar as I was right back to May when I was taking off layers at mile 2. Deb then saw my magnet on my car and told me that she needed the same one.
All this brings me back to the title of my post. I have never felt more strongly than I do now about the statement: Everything happens for a reason. You see if Dave hadn't gotten hurt we would have never met Deb and Missi and I wouldn't have been in Chicago at mile 18 where I needed to be to see them through to the finish line. It was my honor to pay it forward to my amazing friends.
Keep running, you're simply the best, and Deb your DeterminNation inspires me! Keep your chin up and be proud.