Take 26.2: My Road To and Through the 2010 Chicago Marathon

I ran my first 5K road race in 1981 on a dare.

As I meticulously built my charcoal briquette pyramid in anticipation of cheeseburgers to come, I heard my name called from somewhere beneath my second-floor apartment balcony.

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29 Responses to Take 26.2: My Road To and Through the 2010 Chicago Marathon

  1. Anonymous says:

    Congrats on the qualifying time! Great account of a great event.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice article Greg. I ran the KC marathon this past weekend…saw that you finished 3rd in your age group in the 1/2…based on this article, you were probably disappointed!

    I’m surprised Chicago didn’t print your names on the bibs…I waited until Friday to register for KC, but I think the early registrants had their names on the bibs.

    Have a great time in Boston…I’m betting the atmosphere there will be better than Chicago’s.


    GH: Red, I was really happy with my time for the KC half. I had never run anything but the 5K at KC’s marathon because of the hilly courses. But they’ve flattened them out enough now that it’s not as brutal. I noticed a lot of KC Marathon runners with the laser-printed names on their bibs and wondered how that happened. I’ll bet you’re right about them being early entrants.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nice article Greg. I too am addicted to running, and I have almost no talent to speak of like you and your brothers do. It’s an incredibly healthy hobby, and even if it’s just 5Ks, it’s one that most people would love if they only gave it a try.

    I ran a half marathon this month, and while it wasn’t on Chicago’s level, there’s nothing better than racing alongside 20,000 others with about 40,000 spectators cheering you on. What a rush!

    The last 3 miles of my race was the toughest 30 minutes of my life. I was miserable. And the next day, I was searching the Internet for another race to sign up for. I can’t explain why, but every runner understands.

    Great story.


    GH: The great thing about distance running is that all of us appear really fast to someone…no matter what our PR. I agree that a runner’s quality of life improves simply because he/she feels good about doing something healthy for themselves. It’s like the opposite of eating a Winstead’s triple with a chocolate shake as a chaser. (Which I have been known to do before/after/but never during a run.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great recap, Greg and congrats on the time. Next time you’re back in Chi-town, I’ll be sure to be there to show you some of the local cuisine (Lou malnati’s, Brick’s Pizza, Bird’s Nest (a husker bar!)).


    GH: Gus, I ran by soooo many local joints during the marathon that looked like great places to frequent. I was trying to take mental notes of the ones I wanted to come back and find. You are on as for serving as my guide for my next trip to your great city.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Uncle Dick
    And we thought all you could do was run your mouth. Good job, Greg. Now if you want a real challenge, run for school board in Liberty. I hear they run to the liquor store in record time and run up district credit cards doing it. If you spend 5K of the patron’s money, you qualify for a position with the district.


    GH: If my feet ever get as fast as my mouth, look out Kenyans!

  6. Anonymous says:


  7. Anonymous says:

    Good stuff, Greg. I finished my 2nd 5K a week and a half ago. I can’t imagine going 26 miles. Maybe someday.


    GH: For 28 years I said there was no way I was going to run a marathon. And I was training plenty during those three decades to give it a go. I just thought a 26-mile run was nuts. Well, turns out I was right. But nuts ain’t a bad way to go through life.

    OC, Write down Rock The Parkway Half Marathon 2011 and circle April 2, 2011 on your calendar. And then look at that date and entry every time you think it’s too cold this winter to get outside run. You and me at the starting line in April, brother.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Nice post…after reading you all these years, it was like hearing the account from a “real person” and not just in a feature story. Well done. I turned 40 this year and clocked my first sub-20:00 5K. Even though it doesn’t matter much to anyone else in the world, I’m not sure when I’ve ever felt better about reaching a goal. Running rocks…as did your post. Good luck in Boston.


    GH: GM, getting under 20 for your 5K PR is rare air. Congrats!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Half marathon, huh? I might have to graduate to a 10K first! 🙂

  10. Anonymous says:

    Awesome account. I, too, did the KC half. Nowhere near as fast as you, but I had a lot of fun. Beautiful weather and an easy, flat course. Running through the Plaza was especially awesome because of all the supportive spectators. I could relate to your comment about smiling, because I smiled the entire way through the Plaza. Chicago sounds even more supportive AND for the entire distance. Wow. I never considered the 26.2, but now it’s somewhere in the depths of my mind. I often wonder whether I should work to improve my times at my current distance or if I should increase my distance.


    GH: Increasing your training runs will increase your speed. Gradually increase your weekend long run from 7-8 miles to 10-12. Your body eventually gets used to running at a comfortable increased pace for a longer period of time. If you can run a half, the full is just waiting there to be plucked.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Siv Adnar
    Greg: Awesome article! Until recently, I would only run if provoked or afraid. I just ran the KC marathon, my first, and it broke me. As soon as my wits returned, I was planning my next marathon assault. Maybe Chicago 2011…

    Siv Adnar


    GH: Congrats on conquering KC as your first marathon. That’s like tackling Jamaal Charles blindfolded — damn tough! I hope you get to Chicago next fall. It is truly a race every distance runner should experience and write their own story about. Tell the mob in Cabrini Green I plan to see them again as well.

  12. Anonymous says:


    Your beginnings in distance running are almost exactly how mine happened…except exchange Omaha for Manhattan — oh and I always finished last.

    Your article is inspirational though. Maybe the Badwater Ultramarathon (135 mile race through Death Valley) isn’t just a dream…

    Good luck in Boston. Remember, run March to October and lift weights November to February. You’ll run ’til you are 100!


    GH: Pt, Those ultra dudes are some crazy SOBs. I think about those Death Valley ultra runners when I run a half or a full. 26 miles to those guys is called a warm up.

  13. Anonymous says:

    P90X will make your marathon seem like a 90 second 440. If you really wanna see what you’ve got give it a try.

    I get bored after running 3 miles which I guess is close to a 5K. I get pissed off on any flight that’s over 3 hours. I can’t imagine running a marathon. The only thing I can compare it to is doing a 100 mile ride on my road bike.

    I’ll never get distance running but I have friends that swear by it and talk about it in semi-spiritual ways. They crawl out of bed at 4:00 am to run 10 miles before work 3 times a week even when the streets are covered with ice and it’s below zero. Their family vacations are trips to marathons around the country. They dread the coming day when they won’t be able to run any more or will have to cut back.

    I’ll stick with all things in MODERATION


    GH: I agree that too many runners go marathon goofy. You have to start out a bit nuts to even want to run 26.2, so that works against most marathoners leading a normal life. My guess is maybe 5% of runners are marathoners. So 95% of the people you see jogging in the streets are just trying to stay in shape.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Red Fan
    Wow Greg…who knew you could run like that? Very impressive!

  15. Anonymous says:

    Congrats Greg. Now to Uncle Dick, what you say may seem funny, but in all seriousness, its true. I think they are trying to steal the “Most Inept School Board and Administrators” award from the KCMO Schools.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Great race report Greg. And damn fine run.
    I also was running 10Ks, with no desire to run a marathon. Then I had the notion to run Hospital Hill, and ran a decent time, so wondered what I could do in a marathon. So just to be able to say I ran one, I did Kansas City, and ran a Boston qualifying time. So I figured I had better go run Boston because I may never get another chance. I went on to running 4 Bostons. Also did New York and Chicago. You’ll fuckin love Boston. Be sure to go to pre-race pasta meal, and pound a bunch of beers, just to show them who’s boss.


    GH: I have never attended a pre-race pasta feed but on your suggestion I will make sure I’m there in Boston. I got incredibly lucky with my 2011 Boston entry. It took 65 days last year for Boston to reach its 25K cutoff but they moved the registration back to after Chicago this year so I thought it might fill up faster. It did — like in 8 hours. I was going to wait until later in the week to go online and register but Monday I decided to save the website to my Favorites so I’d have the form. Well, the form popped up on my monitor about 10 AM and so I started filling it out and hit submit. About 10:15 AM I got an email back from the BAA with my confirmation number. It wasn’t until Tuesday that I heard how quickly Boston 2011 had filled up and that thousands of runners who had worked so hard to qualify would now have to wait for 2012. I have a feeling future Boston Marathons will involve a lottery. I am one lucky SOB to have gotten in when I did.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I drove my daughter to the starting point of the Lewis and Clark marathon in St. Charles a few weeks ago. Only 7,000 in that race but the traffic at 7am on a Sunday morning was unbelieveable. I was envious of her sense of accomplishment afterward. And … great party at the end down by the Missouri River.

    Great story, Greg. Makes me want to lace them up again (almost).

  18. Anonymous says:

    As a basketball player who has a friend that routinely does 70 miles a week, I admire your discipline. You have now given me the impetus to get at it. Well written story, Greg.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Terrific story. Congratulations Greg!

    I could hear the locals shouting your name.


    GH: Thanks to everyone who posted their thoughts and enjoyed my Chicago Marathon story. I hope some of you get the hankering to get in shape and circle Chicago as a future goal. You will not be disappointed. Oh yeah, and the pizza in that town freaking rocks!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Did you get into Boston for 2011? Registration filled and closed in EIGHT HOURS for 2011. Last year took like 3 months. But then yesterday or today I read that an undetermined (might be in the thousands) number of those opening-day registrants were frauds or hackers or something, so they are going to have to open it back up once they figure out how many slots are really available. Big clusterfuck.

    Anyway, congrats.


    GH: TG, I got in Monday morning about 10 AM (CT) and got my confirmation number which is pending until they verify my qualifying time. I think we’ll see some major changes to how they handle registration in the future. I am thinking stricter Q times and a lottery.

  21. Anonymous says:

    What a great read, GH. Thanks for sharing your gift of writing with the rest of us. I’m taking your advice and planning for Chicago 2011. Sounds like one hell of a time.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Uncle Dick
    @kcredsoxfan-Trust me, there ain’t a damn thing funny about it. The good ol’ boy atmoshere is going away, but the mess is far from over.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I completed one 10k, more than 20 years ago. It was in a small town. We ran two laps, taking off from the city park and looping through the countryside back to town. About two-thirds of the way through the first lap, the last of the other runners had passed me and I was plodding along in last place. By the end of that lap, I couldn’t see the other runners. As I ran by the park with my motorcycle escort (I felt like the President out for a jog), the volunteers and onlookers were there cheering me on and the theme from Rocky was blaring over the loudspeakers. For somebody with absolutely no athletic ability, it was as cool a moment as I can imagine.

    Thanks for sparking that memory, Greg.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Does jojo still want to race you Greg?

  25. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Hand
    There’s a half-marathon/5k coming up pretty soon in Boca Raton, FL, on my birthday. I was gonna’ run the 5k and probably get a cheap victory out of it (average times range from 16:45-17:30), but just might, after reading about your Chicago experience, upgrade to the 13.1 race. I’m running another half in December, then heading down to Miami to shoot the Dolphins game for my job at a TV station right afterwards (which involves running up and down the sideline for 3 hours). I did the same thing last year (running a sub-1:20) and could hardly walk after getting off work later that evening. The physical demands of my job are probably what prevents me from taking on the full 26.2.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Greg job on the race. But now I have bad news on your couch potato related life. Word I get is your favorite show Parenthood is in trouble. Don’t look for it to be back this next year though my guess is it will waddle to the finish line this season.


    GH: Parenthood is just too good of a TV show to last. The good ones all die young. It is so well written and so well acted that it is the one show I watch live just because I can’t wait for the DVR replay. Maybe it gets the Friday Night Light reprieve from another network. God I hope so.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Greg, I think you need to market and sell an “Off the couch to 26.2 mile” training program. At the least, it looks like you should start an Off the Couch running club.

    And with the average marathon time much higher than it was in the 70s, do you think serious runners should bring back the ball huggers?


    GH: Red, If the ball huggers make a comeback, I may have to start shaving the boys. I wonder if that would knock a few seconds off my mile splits?

  28. Anonymous says:

    Every time I stumble upon a really great post I do a few things:1.Forward it to the relevant friends.2.keep it in all of the common social sharing websites.3.Make sure to visit the blog where I first read the article.After reading this post I’m seriously thinking of doing all of the above…

  29. runx says:

    Ball huggers
    I greatly enjoyed reading your account of your Chicago Marathon experience!
    Your comment on the ball hugger running shorts brought to mind an embarassing experience I had running in a park in the Northland in the ’80s in an old pair of ballhugger shorts. A car with 2 young ladies were yelling and cheering (jeering?) as they approached me on the road. Much to my dismay, I discovered that the shorts were not containing the family jewels very well!
    Thanks for bringing to mind an embarassing moment!
    Good Luck in Boston!

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