Living vicariously through friends is a lot more fun when you have friends like ours.
We are five races into 2018 and most of them have had very little free time between airport arrival and departure. Dallas was a 30 hour round trip. San Francisco was a last minute change to a drive-in race because the start and finish lines were announced after our time share reservation options were full. Even RunaPalooza was a one day trip for me while Susan stayed on the east coast to visit with her parents. As I’m writing this, we’re in Chapel Hill for a day before heading to Rock n Roll Nashville.
Following friends on social media really filled in a lot of gaps for us. Every time we finish a race and say goodbye, I wonder what we’ll have to catch up on the next time we see each other.
The last time I saw a Rock n Roll expo, the Hall of Fame pictures were on a rotating slide show. Now we got to see all of our friends at once.
The next time we see Drew, he will break his goal of petting a dog per mile.
The next time we see Brent, he’ll extend his world record for the number of countries where he’s run a marathon. The picture below is a year old and 35-ish countries ago.
The next time I see Laura, I’ll have to congratulate her for getting her daughter to finisher her first half marathon (two years after Laura’s first!).
The next time I see Ann, I’ll let her and Peter know that they’ve changed the way I look at life… again.
The next time I see Al, I’m hoping he loses this new accessory and has a good path to finishing the year at Ironman. Thanks to Fred and Leny for helping him at Dark Side.
The next time I see Beth and Jim, I’ll want that picture of the two married couples to have both finished 100 Rock n Roll races.
The next time I see Julia, I know I won’t see Tom. F*ck cancer. It’s a colder world without him.
The next time I see Lida, I’ll ask her what it’s like to run over a hundred fifty miles in the desert at the Marathon des Sables… for a second time.
When I see Caryn and Tawni again, they’ll be finishing milestones – Caryn’s 100th half marathon and Tawni’s 50th State for half marathons.
The next time I see my wife will be later today when she picks me up at the airport in Raleigh. We’ll see Meg for dinner and Susan’s parents for breakfast before we head to Nashville for a couple days.
Life goes on without us. Even though we get to see the pictures near-real time, I look forward to catching up with friends.
In our longer trainings, probably the best trick to keep us focused mentally is not only check how many miles you have to go, but also look back and feel good about how far you’ve come. So maybe I can’t start a new race year without taking a quick look back. Besides, that gives me a heads up of any upcoming milestones worth a celebration.
Twelve years into marathoning, we’ve finished 180 races according to Athlinks. 135 half marathons, 17 marathons, 21 5K, 8 10K, 2 15K, and a one-miler. The math doesn’t quite add up because a few races didn’t get posted online – yet, or ever.
We’ve finally finished marathons on all Seven Continents. It’s official now that the Rock n Roll Chengdu results were posted. I need to check on a few things, but I can’t imagine too many people will want to claim that they’ve walked marathons, much less one on all seven continents.
Rock n Roll remains our race of choice, finishing our 100th Rock n Roll Heavy Medal race in October in San Jose. The 104 lifetime Heavy Medal races puts us at #8 and 9 on the all time list according to my records. Joining the Century Club this year also were Jeff (RNR DC), Kamika (RNR Seattle), Greg (RNR Chicago) and Mitchell (RNR San Antonio).
We finished the year with 129 Rock n Roll races (99 half marathons, 5 marathons, 20 5K’s and 5 10K’s – Susan has one more full and one fewer half). That total puts us tied for 6th behind Sherry (174), Greg (152), Joe (151) and Al (140). The 98 and 99 half marathons is behind by Joe (135), Kevin (116), Al (111) and Jeff (104).
Lifetime leaders for the 5K and 10K’s are less complete since we’ve been concentrating on tracking the heavy medal races, but of the folks with 70+ RNR’s, top 5K totals belong to Sherry (42), Greg (35), Amy (32), Deb (27) and Mitchell (22). Greg and Jeff have the most 10K’s at 8. We’re going to need a lot of help for anyone who’s racked up a lot of finish lines in the last 3 years.
2018 should have three, possibly four, new members of the Century Club. If all goes well, Beth and Jim will have Rock n Roll Raleigh for their 100th. Juan will hit triple digits at Rock n Roll Los Angeles. Deb is less than a dozen races away, but may be concentrating on other races. Amy, Hyalker and Jessica are likely on track for 2019 at their current count.
A more obscure record actually fell in San Antonio. Back in 2012, David Deniere ran 27 Rock n Roll locations in the year. A record that due to scheduling and overlaps has been logistically impossible ever since. But in addition to 2011, he ran the last 11 races and in 2013, the first 7 races for a streak of consecutive 55 Rock n Roll races. We had to do some actual date-digging, but Sherry did 25 races in 2017, 25 in 2016 and (in reverse order), San Antonio, Las Vegas, Savannah, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and St. Louis, bringing her streak total to 56!
As for the Hall of Fame medal? The unofficial Pannell Report has 14 people who have three straight years of 15 or more races (2015 – 2017). Since the class of 2014 was so small, we’ve verified that only 5 people have Hall of Fame Legacy status – Joe, Jessica, Mitchell, Susan and Ron.
As far as I can tell, Susan and I don’t have any major race milestones this year. We’ll be adding a few more states for half marathons, trying to make it 5 years in a row for Hall of Fame and celebrate a big birthday some time in May.
My only New Year’s resolution for the last half-dozen years has been “every year better than the last”. Looking back on what we did in 2017, I think we’re still on track.
Let’s start this all over again in Arizona next week.
The final Pannell report numbers for 2017 have been delayed due to the data transition post-CGI. RNR San Antonio times just recently came online so now it’s easier to tell which entries count toward the Heavy Medal numbers. It’ll be interesting to see how we did against 2016 and how 2018 looks with the new management in place.
Because of the Global TourPass starting the wave of 20+ races/year for a lot of people, it’s entirely possible that I’ve missed a few people who are within a year or two of hitting 100 RNR’s. If you’re reading this and want to get on the tracker list, please leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you. With luck, Ironman will continue to celebrate the loyal runners who continue to come back to Rock n Roll year after year.
Two states. Two Half Marathons. One Day. Seemed like a good challenge in 2013 when Rock n Roll San Antonio and Las Vegas were on the same day. Beth, Jim, Kamika, Caryn, Al, Susan and I were part of the group of 87 who completed the SA2LV challenge and Beth nicknamed the event the “Double Live Album” tour. In 2014 and every year since then, the Disney Avengers (renamed Disney Superheroes) fell on the same day as Vegas. Kamika, Al, Susan and I did it every year and Drew joined us for 2017. Earlier this year, Disney cancelled all of the California races for 2018, citing construction at the park.
Each year the blog for this weekend got longer, so this time around, fewer words. More pictures. 2017 was a bittersweet ending to a November tradition.
Two states. Two expos. Pretty much the same calm but excited mood.
Two states. One awesome vendor. Two themes to show off your goods.
Two states. Two meals. Both with tortillas and drinks.
Two states. Two medals. And something to carry our bling.
Two states. Day one. Take in a movie and a show after dark.
Two States. Off to bed, but first a churro in the park.
Two states. Day 2. At the Disney start line for the last(?) time.
Two states. Feeling good. On the field at mile 9.
Two states. Different corrals, but we come together at mile 10.
Two states. A Coast to Coast medal. But he couldn’t get a churro again.
Two states. Hop a flight. Take time to relax and smile.
Two states. On the Strip. High security at every mile.
Two states. Wall to wall crowds. We’re still able to find our friends.
Two states. The fireworks start. We’re off to the races again.
Two states. Race number two. After the tragedy, we celebrated under the lights.
Two states. The finish line. The perfect end to a perfect night.
Two states. Two Races. Hall of Fame year Four.
Two states. Two races. One Day. What a way to end the Tour.
So ends the Disney/Vegas double run. I’m not certain we’re going to try to replace it since I actually like spending time in Vegas. It’s usually the weekend Susan usually flies back from a quarterly company meeting in Chicago. Having one destination would be actually a relaxing trip for once, but who knows? We may want to find another challenge when we get closer to the fall season.
The Disney Superhero race was in its fourth year in 2017. The cancellation for 2018 is a real bummer because it would have been year 5 of the Infinity Gauntlet challenge. People who did the 10K Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday earned the bonus medal and an Infinity Stone for the first 4 years. The fifth and final stone may be lost to the ether for all time. This year, the course didn’t have a lot of the typical Disney cheer stations we’re used to seeing. Absent were the army outside Angels Stadium and the classic cars. There were even fewer cheerleader squads. I hope for the runner’s sake that Disney makes a comeback. Even with the high price, Disney races have a very loyal fan base.
Rock n Roll Las Vegas was in its 9th year, the 8th time it was held at night. After the Route 91 Harvest shooting, the starting area had to be moved to the T-Mobile Arena. Spotters were monitoring the numerous hotel windows and the side streets were blocked by city buses all along the course. Even the corrals were lined with law enforcement vehicles. Security was a priority with such a large crowd and we didn’t hear about any incidents.
After Vegas, the Hall of Fame inductee total for 2017 got to triple digits. The unofficial Pannell Report numbers put us at 101 people with 15 or more Rock n Roll races for the year. We’re assuming that the 74 people with 14 races all showed up in San Antonio, making this year the biggest Hall of Fame group ever.
This was also the final Rock n Roll event led by the staff of Competitor Group. Starting in San Antonio, the new owners will be organizing the races. While we hope to see some familiar faces there and in 2018, we do thank the CGI Staff for all the love, support and memories they’ve given us over the years. Without the event, we wouldn’t have met so many amazing people. And without all of the amazing CGI people, we never would have the events. We hope our paths cross again in the miles ahead.
Life is all about the choices we make. Sometimes, those choices are small. Left or right? Paper or plastic? Red or white? Sometimes, the choice can change your life. Lacing up a pair of shoes and choosing to finish a marathon falls into that category. We travel a lot for races and sometimes two races fall on the same weekend or the same day, like this year when the Rock n Roll series added a new race in Chengdu the same weekend as Los Angeles. That creates a choice that’s full with opportunity.
Getting to Chengdu was a 14 hour non-stop flight from San Francisco. We met Jeff and Maggie as we waited to board and also Paul and James, connections from the Marathon Maniacs page. I can’t thank Sherry enough for using one of her United Global Pass upgrades to get me set up with seats in business class. Susan was in 1B, Sherry and I were in 4A and 4B. The flight attendant was a little confused that she saw two Carinos not sitting together (‘WHAT?! My WIFE is on this plane too!?’). A few movies naps and meals later, we were landing after sunset halfway around the world.
Friday, October 27th.
The time change actually wasn’t too bad. We arranged a car for 3 with Travel China Guide for about $100 for the hour-long drive. Right away, you got a good taste of why first timers really shouldn’t drive in China. Lane lines are suggestions and the electric moped and pedestrians were absolutely fearless at intersections. I was amazed we never saw an accident the entire time we were there.
We slept a good 7 hours and woke up in time for breakfast at the Uvila Resort and Culture in Dujiagyan (found through Agoda.com – some pics of our room below). It’s a higher end hotel by any standard with pricing in the $150/night range. The key criteria for us was the location, a 10 minute walk from the start and finish lines. The sponsored race hotels were located in Chengdu, 40 miles south and train and car round trip can easily eat up cash and free time.
Packet pick up was at the Dujiangyan Sports Complex, about 5K from the hotel down the main streets of the city. The guide books said that the Chinese aren’t shy about staring and apparently, we were quite the sight. They were very polite though the language barrier was pretty high. I recommend getting an international data plan with VPN, Google Translate and WeChat (in that order). The locals did a good job with their own phones, too. Everyone was very friendly. The route to the stadium crossed a few bridges, some great photo-ops and more crazy driving episodes.
We ran into Andrea at the Sports Complex and had a few photo ops with the CGI rep who traveled to watch over the inaugural event. Aaron, Andrea and Sherry were 3 of the 4 who’ve run the table on RNR events so far (Leon was the fourth). All of them were taking on the challenge to finish the half in Chengdu, get back to the airport and fly to LA for the half in the states the next morning. The dateline would help them as long as they caught all flights and they were reasonably on time. Stacey and Chip from RNR were going to let them start with the full marathon start, giving them a few extra hours. We weren’t sure if there would be any problems if the half marathon bibs crossed the finish line early. That might be hard to explain if you didn’t speak the language.
Susan went back to the hotel to get off her feet and Sherry, Aaron and I did a little exploring, trying to find the best route to the starting line for the noon start. We did a bit of climbing and found a Wal-Mart to get some race supplies. Let’s just say the selection was a bit different from what we’re used to at home.
We dropped off our supplies at the hotel and found a back way to the starting area. The stage was as big as any of the US races and they were doing sound checks that we could hear from the hotel on the other side of the hill.
We had dinner at the hotel. Night races always make for a difficult fueling schedule, but the pasta was pretty good. Yes, that’s a pineapple pizza.
Saturday, October 28th. Full Marathon
The noon start actually worked really well since it gave us an extra night to get fully rested. I woke up around 7, went down to grab a light breakfast and started prepping for what looked like a warm rainy day until just after noon.
The starting area was just what you’d expect at a big Rock n Roll Marathon. Security was tight, but once inside the zone, it was a well-organized with a party atmosphere and plenty of space for people to warm up. We met a handful of Marathon Maniacs at the start including John, who’s done every Inaugural RNR Marathon.
The first mile took us through the cobblestone streets of the city to the west side of the Minjiang River over the irrigation system that was constructed in 250 B.C. And it still works! This was an out and back with the half turn at the Panda Preserve. I was able to catch Sherry before the turn and saw Aaron, Andrea and Leon on the way back.
It was a really good day for a marathon. The mist was keeping us cool and there were a few mile long stretches of frontage road that were lined with trees. At the accessible points, the locals were out in force.
We noticed one cheer in particular repeated all the way along – “Jai You!”. When we did the Rome Marathon in 2008, the locals would cheer “Die! Die!” (I think that translated to “keep going”, not the English meaning”). I figured at some point, I’d have to figure out what Jai You meant.
Miles 11.5 – 13.5 were a 3% uphill grade to the turnaround at the Qingchengshan Temple. I was on about 5:10 marathon pace, but could feel the incline taking its toll. This sign couldn’t come soon enough. I’d been following the fellow in the green shirt for about 5 miles. He asked me if I was a professional race walker. Yeah, I wish.
Cramps started on the turn downhill. So much for the PR, but I was still in good shape for a 5:30 finish. I saw Susan coming up on the hill about 5 minutes later. The lady in the orange just ahead of her was a story I’d hear about later.
At about 30K, a local named Soon Ri (I’ll edit the spelling when I see the Chengdu results post), pulled in beside me. He spoke just enough English to hold a basic conversation and told me this was his first marathon. His target time was 5:30 and he was having trouble with his pacing, so we started clicking off the KM’s together. He’d never been outside of China but eventually wanted to visit the states. I told him I was enjoying China much more than I was expecting. Running connected us even through the language barrier. He was the one who told me that Jai You translated into “Keep Fighting”. Google’s version – ‘add oil’ – was in the spirit, but not nearly as motivating.
The thing I love about out and back courses is that you know the route and what to expect after the turn. You can save something for hills and keep focus mentally when you get back to the long stretches of monotony. Making the last turns over the dams meant we were within sight of the finish line. The stairs going into the South Bridge at KM 41 so pretty on the way out, but the dozen or so steps on the way in were good for a wince or two.
Soon Ri had friends waiting for him on the other side of the bridge, snapping pictures as we went through the markets and on to the finish line. This was a sweet moment for him. I was happy to be there to share it. We came close to our target time, but its his new PR.
Susan finished about 10 minutes later, hand in hand with the lady I saw her with at the turn. Her new friend didn’t speak a word of English, but through hand gestures, they fell into the same run/walk interval and made sure each other were staying hydrated and motivated. They were together for 20 miles.
Both of us finished will within the 6:30 cutoff time with enough extra to take a lot of pictures. At the finish festival, Jeff reminded us we needed to pick up our World Rocker medal for completing a race outside the US.
When we signed up for the race back in June, it was the last continent we needed to visit for full marathons. Some of the running clubs are recognizing the new Zealandia continent, but until that gets internationally sanctioned we plan to rest on our laurels and work on half marathons in new states for the next few years.
That’s a choice we’re making now. It seems like we’ve made a number of good choices in our lives since we started racing.
Rock n Roll Chengdu was the inaugural Rock n Roll event in Asia. It was announced in the last few months of the negotiations with the World Triathlon Corp, operators of the Ironman series. With numerous Ironman events already running in Asia, it’s probably just a matter of time that more Rock n Roll events are announced on the continent.
The course starts in the parking lot of the Mingguan Ancestral Temple and finishes nearby at the Chongsong Ancestral Temple. After crossing three bridges in the first few miles, the course turned south on highway 59 and 4 past the Panda Preserve at mile 6.5 (the half marathon turn). The Qingchengshan Temple marked the turn at 13.4 miles. The scenery was a good mix of high density residential, country back road and tourist attractions. Susan says it her favorite full marathon course on the Rock n Roll circuit. I’d have to agree.
While the results are still not posted to date, the estimated participation was in the 8,000 range for the full, half and 6K fun run. I hope it is back for 2018.
If Chengdu is in your future plans, be sure to get your Visa application in early. Most US-based embassies will take about a week to process it. The San Francisco office required photocopies of your passport along with the application, passport photos and the ticket number for your flight (both legs). Take a world phone with you or activate T-Mobile unlimited or AT&T International Day Pass (I was told that taking a US phone and trying to install a local SIM card there doesn’t work unless you register with the local authorities). The data plan comes in handy for character recognition/translation apps and taxi cards. The locals really appreciate the effort.
Aaron, Andrea, Leon, Sherry all made their flights and landed throughout the night before Rock n Roll Los Angeles. All four are on track to race in 25 locations in 2017 as all were in Savannah and Vegas and plan to race in San Antonio. It was great to watch the extra level of awesome in action.
We spent 3 days in Dujiangyan and another 3 in Chengdu. We had enough time to see both Panda breeding facilities and the Giant Buddha statue in Leshan and walk around downtown Chengdu day and night. It was a wonderful way to finish our last continent.
Over the weekend, Susan and I finished our 100th Rock n Roll event, becoming the 8th and 9th people to reach that mark. Susan is only the second woman hit the century mark. I’ll never be able to capture all the moments and feelings we experienced over the weekend in a single blog, but there was something so magical about the weekend. Sometimes, a theme writes itself.
We were joined by almost all of our closest friends and even had my family there for the first time. My brother Eric was impressed with everything he saw over the weekend. When he posted pictures, he referred to us as “Rock n Roll Royalty”. I immediately thought of the Chronicles of Narnia, a story where four young children walk into a mysterious wardrobe to find that it’s a gateway to a magical land. They become heroes – the Kings and Queens of Narnia.
“We pass through the archway and out of our reality and we enter the land of Rock n Roll.
We meet the herald who announced our latest journey. We thank him for the kind words.
We are accompanied by our trusted companion, dressed in the armor which protects us from harm. Our shield is inscribed with the names of the warriors who go into battle with us daily.
We greet the citizens of the magical land: The keeper of the keys to the dance. The woman with the voice of an angel.
On the morning of the second day, we rode out to survey the roads of the kingdom into a glorious sunrise. We returned with many treasures.
After the ride, the signs of a coronation appeared. We were ready to follow the kings and queens of other regions who came before us.
We meet with the Queen of the Lone Star. We will be journeying with her to the far east before long.
The King of Paradise came bearing intoxicating gifts from his island.
Next came the Eternal King of the East. His grace and gentleness sets an example for us all.
The King of the City of Light arrived next. Our thoughts are with his land as it is recovering from devastating events.
We closed the faire with the warriors in our army. Those who have overcome great odds to participate in the battles and those who have more recently picked up shields to ride into the fray.
We dined that night with the multi-talented King of the Harvests and Wizardry. He was instrumental in planning for the festivities for the weekend, for which we are eternally grateful.
As we dined, a great bird appeared and transform itself into a mirror portal with which we heard the greetings from the King of the City of Wind. His close friends are fast approaching coronations of their own.
We were graced with the presence of Queens from other lands – accomplished in their own rights, and worldly enough for a seat at the table.
We sought our beds early, excited for the events of the next day. Before the sun rose, we received an owl from our friends from the Kingdom of the Tar Heels. We were sad that they could not be with us, and our hearts overflowed upon hearing their voices.
We rode out into the chill morning air. Smiles shone like stars, much like the clothing we wore. Somehow, my real life family was drawn into this fantasy world. I was happy to have them along for the story.
In the final minutes before the parade, the King of the West Palms arrived – his transport landing shortly before the clarion call. All was now complete for these brief hours in the land of Rock n Roll.
It was with these friends and companions that we started this journey and with these kindred spirits that we took the final 13.1 mile ride. We are honored and humbled to be counted among them.
This is the magic of the kingdom. Ordinary people who visit often can reap untold riches, wisdom, and happiness from the journey. Warriors can prove their mettle. Some come home victorious while others may leave the field to fight another day. In the end, with the energy of our friends and compatriots, we took the final steps to ascend to the thrones of the Valley of Silicon.
It may only be a fairy tale, but while we are in the confines of the doorway, it is as real as flesh and blood. The journey is not for everyone, but all who are bold enough to cross through the arch are welcome in this land.
We are the Kings and Queens of Rock and Roll.
Long may we race!
At the end of the first Narnia movie, the children step back through the wardrobe, into a train station in their own reality and get caught up in the every day lives of other people, oblivious to their alternate world. We drove home listening to news of the Las Vegas shooting investigation, instability in North Korea, recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the next morning friends and coworkers were fleeing for their lives from the wildfires raging in northern California. It seems that in this crazy world, even for a brief moment, Rock n Roll can give you an escape like no other.
Our deepest thanks to the countless number of runners, walkers, strollers, rollers, Team in Training, Biggest Losers, AACR, St. Jude heroes, Black Sheep, and Hogwarts Runners who we’ve met on the Rock n Roll circuit for the last 11 years. The stories we’ve heard, the things that we’ve seen, the lives that have touched us are memories that will forever be ingrained in our hearts.
To the staff at the Rock n Roll Marathon Series, past and present, thank you for your tireless work. There have been early mornings, late nights, times when events went wrong, when nature dictated a different outcome, and when tragedy struck. Through it all, you’ve been professional, courteous and put on the bravest faces. For Ann, John B., Garrett, Tracy, Nista, Shayne, Josh, John V, Cassidy, Thao, Colleen, Dorcas, Darlene, Grace, Cathy, Lisa, Mindy, Ryan, Amy, Diva, Emily, Kristin, Yinka, Elisa, Ashley (x3), Petey, Victor and many more I know I’m forgetting, know that you have made the events a fixture in our lives that we can’t live without.
To our dear friends in this story. Know that without your kindness, friendship, support and love, this journey would not have been as rewarding and fulfilling as it has been. And if and when one of us is unable to travel to as many races as we have been for the last few years, we look forward to flying to see you, just because.
I have a fondness for Richard Bach books that dates way back to college. I find that when I reach a big milestone or turning point I end up pulling some quotes from his books. It seems appropriate to do it now. There are a lot of lessons we’ve learned from our time racing with our friends. Here are just a few.
“Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”
1) Never be afraid to try something new. Also, upgrading to the latest tech feeds your inner geek.
2) Take care of your body, and it’ll take care of you.
3) You can never be too careful 😂
4) Always be prepared.
5) Generosity is a virtue. As is humility and kindness.
6) Petting a dog makes most thing better (even the dog).
7) You can be small in stature, but have a giant’s will and courage inside.
8) It can be a great achievement in itself to make someone else happy.
9) There is always the right attire for every occasion, especially at national monuments.
10) Capture your memories. Don’t forget to post and tag.
11) Don’t throw away your shot.
“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.”
“True love stories never have endings.”
Thank you to all of our gypsy family who have made these last few years so memorable and to all the Black Sheep, Team in Training, Team Future, AACR, Biggest Loser, SportHooks, and CGI friends who’ve been with us every step of the way. We hope to share the journey to 100… and beyond!
We turned right onto Michigan Avenue right about the 10K mark. My early estimate was that he’d be coming up to pass us between mile 6 and 9. Sure enough, not 100 meters past the turn, there was Greg, passing us on the right. He slowed down just enough that we could hand him our beer tickets.
Rock n Roll Chicago 2017 was another milestone for the RNR loyalists. Greg Heilers became the 7th person to finish 100 Rock n Roll Heavy Medal events (101 if you count the 10K in Brooklyn, which he didn’t). He’s the third one to reach that mark in 2017. He’s been racing on the RNR circuit since 2008, and after ramping up to do 55 in the last three years, it was just a matter of time.
I say that last sentence lightly, but it belies the magnitude of the work required to keep going that long. There’s the physical toll to doing 34 marathons and 66 half marathons and dozens of 5K’s and 10K’s – and that’s just in the Rock n Roll series. Then there’s the financial aspect. The races are in 30+ different locations, and now five different countries and three continents. Greg has raced in all locations except Lisbon. Reportedly, that’s on the list for 2018.
100 races seems to be frighteningly common though. Before we started racing, we didn’t know many people who did more than a couple of races a year. Now it seems we know more people who’ve done 100 races than people who have NOT.
Chicago in July can be a bit muggy, but this year was surprisingly nice with temperatures for the 5K and Half starting in the mid-60’s. There were some apps we had that were forecasting thunderstorms on Sunday morning, but they never materialized.
This year we had the honor of celebrating another milestone – the 50th anniversary year of Katherine Switzer’s historic run of the Boston Marathon. She was the first woman to run Boston, back when race directors were worried that running 26.2 miles would make a woman’s uterus fall out. She had to register as “K. V. Switzer”, like she always signs her name. But the initials masked her gender.
We spent a few hours at the Expo as usual. The redesigned Hall of Fame medal was finally revealed at the Rock n Roll booth. The first chance to pick one up will be in Virginia Beach.
We also picked up a few items for Drew. He couldn’t make the trip, but he was on our minds. In addition to the special edition racks for the Chicago locals, Pete and Marcey at SportHooks had something that crossed the miles with the just the right sentiment.
Saturday July 15th – 5K
The new course was a double out and back with some time in the park and some on the water. Katherine kicked off the weekend with a word about 261 Fearless, her organization that promotes women’s empowerment through fitness. She’s 70 years old and can still clock in the low 2 hours for a half marathon.
One at the start. One at the finish. We’ve done this so many times, it’s a lot more fun taking pictures of my friends than of the course. We were just a few dozen meters behind Katherine and her 261 Fearless group as she added yet another chapter to her inspiring career.
On the way home, we took a quick detour. Tamara and Al still hadn’t added the tyranitaur to their Pokemon Go inventory and there just so happened to be a raid a block off the path back to the hotel. Mission accomplished! Also, Beth and Jim in classic gypsy fashion, just happened upon us on the way back to their hotel, just in time for a group selfie.
After lunch, we caught the opening weekend showing of Spiderman Homecoming. 2017 has been a great year to take some time off our feet for race weekend movies! We had a good light dinner at Filini’s. I’m definitely marking that place down for a return trip!
The cool evening weather was a rare treat. Tawni, Al, Susan and I took a late night stroll out to the Navy Pier fireworks display. The place was packed. Note to tourists. Be careful if you sit on the grass. The sprinklers went on in two different patches.
Here’s the abbreviated version, in case you went to bed early and missed it. Tawni was live streaming it and SOME people who should have been asleep started a comment war :).
Sunday, July 16th – Half Marathon
The pre-race meeting at gear check was a well orchestrated surprise for Greg. Champagne shots flowed. Ainsley and Amy produced a few dozen custom shirts in Greg’s signature neon yellow color. The big reveal went over well.
Quick pre-race pic for our missing gypsy. Kamika went off to his usual start line position.
Greg usually starts in corral 3 and finishes in the 1:30 – 1:40 range for the half. Since he wanted to see people on the course, he decided to start with his brother in dead last and see people as he passed them during the race. This way a few of his friends could make it to the finish line to hold the tape and take pictures. Starting that far back must have been driving him crazy.
The course hasn’t changed much in the 8 years we’ve done it. We cross a few tricky bridges, pass the Chicago theater sign, pass 7 streets named after presidents take that right on Michigan for the three-mile straightaway, take the cheer tunnel hairpin on Martin Luther King Jr. and head back under the McCormick Center. Support was pretty good this year. The water stations were fully stocked, the sponges and cooling station between mile 10.5 and 11 probably didn’t have as many customers as they might have if it were hotter. I was working on some technique tips I picked up at the USATF outdoor championships and came within a few minutes of my Chicago PR. Susan has been running more consistently with a goal of putting up a sub-2:30 to let her move up one more corral for Disney Superheroes in November. She beat that mark with time to spare.
And Greg? He got his 100th Rock n Roll finish line. Apparently, he was going so fast that they missed him the first time around but Amy and Ann did a reenactment. After that many races and thousands of miles, what’s another dozen meters to get it right?
It’s been 50 years since that milestone at Boston. It’s been nearly 10 years since Greg’s first Rock n Roll to his 100th. The more I keep coming back to these events, the more I know that it’s all a matter of passion.
Keep working. Keep showing up. Keep finding something that inspires and motivates you and you’ll reach your next goal.
It’s just a matter of time.
Rock n Roll Chicago is in its 8th year. There were 14,985 finishers in 2017 (9.834 in the half, 2,207 in the 10K and 2,944 in the Remix 5K), down from last year’s total of 16,531. This is the 8th year in a row we’ve done the race, most of any RNR. Missing that inaugural year is really bumming me out now.
The course remains one of my favorite urban half marathons, even with the Midwest summer weather. It winds through a mix of classic old downtown, and is well supported. Short of 2016’s thunderstorms, we haven’t had any issues with weather for this location.
Greg Heilers has at least 250 lifetime races at all distances. Including the Remix distances, 137 of those are under the Rock n Roll brand, putting him third in that category. He also sits at 1888 total Rock n Roll miles (3rd) and has the most miles run in a single year (550.5 in 2016).
He is also raising money for the Chicago Marathon as part of the team representing the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicago. In some races, Transamerica sponsors a “Tomorrow Chaser” that starts last and the company donates a dollar for every person the chaser passes during the race. Transamerica doesn’t sponser this location and while Greg didn’t actually ask for donations, I decided to pledge a penny per pass based on his finish position. If you’re interested in helping him reach his $1000 goal, be sure to visit his website here.
Year 10 for RNR Chicago is next year. Once the 2018 Tour Pass goes on sale, we’ll be signed up for sure.