Bob Rice

An internationally famous speaker, musician, and writer, Bob Rice looks at the beautiful and the bizarre of life through a Catholic perspective. Also includes articles and excerpts from books he's working on.

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Location: Steubenville, Ohio, United States

My desire is to share the love of God to everyone I meet through the many gifts God has given me. My full time job is teaching evangelization and youth ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville, OH. About two or three times a week I travel around the country proclaiming God's word or do a concert/lead worship. I've published many articles and I'm working on my first novel. 12 years ago, I married the love of my life and now we have 5 beautiful children. You can find out more about me and download lots of free stuff on my webpage- http://bob-rice.com

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

FINISHER

This last Sunday, I ran in the 30th Anniversary Chicago Marathon. I had never run in a marathon before- and to be honest, I never aspired to. 26.2 miles seemed like a lot of running. And I liked running okay, but just in small doses. 5Ks and 10Ks were just fine with me (which are 3.1 miles and 6.2 miles, respectively).

So why a marathon? The main reason was simple: my sister Kim. She had run 4 other marathons and really enjoyed them. She asked me (dare I say, almost challenged me) to do it with her. And I loved the idea of doing something with her like that.

It took me a while to convince her that I was more interested in running the marathon with her than to run the marathon at all. She was convinced that I would be faster than her, and as we headed towards race day told me numerous times that I should feel free to run ahead if I wanted to. My response was always 1) I don’t want to, and 2) I’m not as fast as you think. I was good with short runs, but this was something all together new.

Though the main reason was Kim, there were others as well. Doing a marathon is a significant athletic accomplishment, and I was excited to be able to say that I had finished one. The location was important, too. Our family grew up outside of Chicago, so it felt great to come back to the place where we were from and do something like that. As a child, I was not athletic. In fact, I was distinctively un-athletic. Even up to a few years ago, I used to tell people that I enjoyed avoiding physical activity of any kind. My motto: No pain, no pain.

It’s hard to keep weight off with that kind of attitude. But it wasn’t until I went on a men’s retreat in Colorado that I felt the Lord revealed why I had such a negative attitude towards anything athletic. When I was younger, I was relentlessly picked on “jock” type kids. And somewhere in my childhood I made a silent vow that I would never be like that. Realizing that was a real breakthrough in my life.

That was 20 months ago, and since then started running, biking, and doing other athletic things. I did my first “super sprint” triathlon that August, and since then had done two more. I liked the idea of doing a triathlon because it seemed fun, and then I could tell people that I was a tri-athlete, which seemed three times better than a regular athlete. Though those were big accomplishments for me, they were nothing like a marathon. I estimated it would take me as long to finish the marathon as the length of all three triathlons I had done combined.

And then there was the injury. I had been on an 18-week training program that had me running incrementally higher distances each week. The first 6 weeks weren’t so bad, but when the long runs got into double digits it was quite a challenge not only physically, but logistically. It was hard to find the time with an active job, 4 kids, and an occasional gig on the weekends. I got up to 15 miles while on vacation, but then my school started, then the kid’s school started, then I took John to Space Camp, then had gigs in Memphis… A few weeks passed before I could get time in for another long run.

I tried to pick up where I left off, but my legs wouldn’t have it. I couldn’t go beyond 7 miles without some severe pain in my right knee. Less than three weeks before the race I went to a physical trainer, worried he might tell me that I shouldn’t run. Thankfully, he said I should be fine- it would just hurt a lot. But if I didn’t push it, I should be able to finish.

But then he gave me odd advice: stop running completely, so the leg would have time to heal. Not even short runs. It’s a weird feeling to know you’re about to run 26.2 miles but not do anything about it. But I listened to my doctor… mostly. 4 days before the race I ran 3 miles, because I was just dying to know how my legs were doing. They felt strong, and I was feeling good about the race.

I got an email that day from the Chicago Marathon folks. It said they were predicting warmer than usual weather for the race day, so make sure you were getting well hydrated.

Then came Sunday. Race day. My parents were kind enough to get us hotel rooms not far away from the start of the race, so at 6 AM we walked to the starting point. I was pretty excited. There was a neat camaraderie among the participants. Many of them had pictures on their jerseys of people they were running for. One had woman had a picture of her husband who was fighting in Iraq. Another had a picture of their father who died from cancer a few months before. And then there was a lady who had a picture of her wiener dog. Kim and I weren’t sure about that one.

The American anthem was sung. The gun went off. Everybody was cheering. “Born to Run” was cranking through the loud speakers. We crossed the start line and started running. And 35,000 of us began the Chicago Marathon. It was pretty exciting. (There were 45,000 people who signed up to do the marathon, but many stayed home because it was going to be so hot).

There was so much excitement and adrenaline, the first 6 miles flew by. There were lots of racers around us, and we were running through the heart of the city, up to the area where Wrigley field was. I was amazed at all the people who came out to cheer for us- never in my life did I ever think about doing that. The legs felt strong. I was having a great time talking with my sister. It was awesome.

But then the heat started bearing down. We went to a water station and they ran out of water. A negative vibe started echoing among the runners. How could they run out of water? Didn’t they know how hot it was going to be? The marathon was supposed to 15 water stations along the 26.2 mile route. Not getting water at one, with that kind of heat, was not a good sign.

So we kept running. Kim was having a tough time at first, she thought she was getting dehydrated. My initial pace was faster than hers, and I had to keep slowing down so we could stay together.

My legs started feeling some pain around mile 9 or so, so we started having brief walks to vary our pace. We met our family at the half way point, which was awesome. I was so glad to see them! My beautiful, 7 month pregnant wife was there- a tough trip for her in that kind of heat! All my kids had signs, and my Mom, Dad, and Bob (Kim’s husband) had ice chips and bottles of water. We took a moment to drink, and then hit the road again. I was happy to pass the half way point. I did the first half pretty strong, especially considering the heat. But my right knee was especially painful. Kim was having a tough time, too. By mile 14 we decided to run two miles, and walk a mile. By mile 15 we decided to run a mile, walk a mile.

Kim started to rebound, but I started to slide. I tried to jog, but it was pretty painful. Still, we were determined to keep going. To be honest, I had never endured that kind of pain before. Remember my previous motto: no pain, no pain. Everything in me was telling me that I should stop and go to bed. But that’s not why I was there.

And then I saw a huge sign hanging from a building. It was New Balance, or Nike, or something. It was a picture of a runner, and it said, “At this point in the race, it’s not about your legs- it’s about your guts”. I would have rather it said “heart” than “guts”, but it motivated me nonetheless.

By mile 16 we heard the announcement from a volunteer speaking through a megaphone. “Your safety is our primary concern. We have ended the Chicago Marathon. It is now a fun run. You will be diverted to Grant Park.” A fun run? What was going on? Nobody seemed to know. Runners started talking to each other about what it meant. Have they cancelled the race? Do we get to cross the finish line? And the most important question: Do we still get our finisher medals?

I talked with Kim about it, and confessed I was torn. I didn’t want to do a “fun run”, I wanted to do a marathon. But I was feeling so much pain by that point, that if they forced us to stop, I might be okay with that. I could forever tell people that I would have run the full distance, but they made us stop.

The next few miles were a bit maddening, and really a psychological challenge. Nobody knew what was going on. One policeman said they were getting buses to drive us to the finish line. Another said that we were going to be re-routed. Still another said we could walk the full distance if we liked. But we were told that everyone would get their medals, so that made a lot of people happier (meaning they went from “angry” to “not as angry as before”). Then the police department started making announcements: “The race is over. Stop running. Walk only. We do not have enough emergency personnel to help you in this severe weather. Stop running. You have to walk.”

So we walked, as did all the people around us. Kim mentioned that she had never in her life seen something like this. Thousands of people… walking en masse down the streets of Chicago. To be honest, at that time it felt more painful to walk than to jog. And we still weren’t sure what lied ahead of us.

I thought about the finisher medal that awaited me at the end of the race. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about it until the other runners made such a big deal about it. I thought about the marathon poster I had gotten, something I was excited to hang on my wall. And I thought, when I look at these things, what will I think? That was the day I almost ran a marathon? That was the day I meant to run a marathon, but something else stopped me? I felt there was so many things trying to stop me from doing this race. My schedule made it tough to train for it. My injury made it painful to run. The heat was taking water from my body. The marathon people had ended the race. The police were making announcements to stop running.

The fateful moment occurred around mile 18. The police had sirens flashing and barricades up. They were telling everyone to turn to the left, tough the race was obviously supposed to go forward from that point. Most people turned, but we saw a few walk forward. Would they let us? “There is no more water or medical assistance from this point,” the police repeated though a loud speaker.

“What do you think, Bobby?” asked my sister.

“If they make us do it, we’ll do it,” I said. “But if we can go on, let’s go on. I came here to do 26.2 miles.” Kim smiled. They didn’t stop us. We and a number of other runners walked past the barricades and kept on going.

Though there weren’t “official” water stops, people in the neighborhoods were coming out of their homes with bottles of water, pretzels, ice chips, and even with garden hoses and sprinklers to keep us cool. I was so appreciative of them. It was an incredible feeling to be so supported by total strangers.

And then there was my sister, who helped me though. They had buses lined up at mile 22 to drive people to the finish line, but by then it wasn’t even tempting. We were in it for the whole distance. Both legs were killing me, and there was a time or two I needed to hold her hand and lean on her to help with the pain.

The miles went very slowly (or maybe it was us). 23… 24… 25… But then we saw the 26 mile marker. Only .2 miles to go. “Let’s run it,” I said to Kim.

“Are you sure?” she asked. Though sore, she was totally up to it and much stronger than I was.

“I didn’t come here to walk across a finish line,” I said. So we did a slow run to the finish. I was really glad we did, because as we turned the corner towards the finish line, my family and kids were cheering us on. When Kim and I held hands and crossed the finish line, we both started to cry. I was in pain, my feet hurt, it was hot, and I was a little light-headed, too. I kept walking forward when a guy with a medal asked me my name. In my delirium I wondered, why is this guy asking my name? So I told him.

And he said, “Bob, congratulations on finishing the Chicago Marathon,” and he put the medal around my neck.

45,000 people registered to the marathon that day. 35,000 people showed up. 25,000 people finished, and many of them took the shorter route.

But on a day we had every excuse not to, my sister and I did 26.2 miles in Chicago in record-breaking heat. And as the camera people pulled us aside to take the picture with our medals on, they positioned us in front of a backdrop that had a meaningful word in huge print across it:

FINISHER.

Kim- I love you so much! I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) have done this without you. Thanks for helping your little brother yet again.

PS. Right after I got the medal another volunteer came forward and handed me a blanket with the Chicago Marathon logo on it. Are you kidding me? They handed us a blanket on a 90 degree day after running 26.2 miles. Seriously, somebody needs to explain something to those people.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Tom Acemoglu said...

That was intense, yo...inspiration through perspiration. It's nice to see how little things can explain the big things and vice versa. It was just a race but it wasn't "just" a race. I remember a slightly pudgier youth minister who shied away from all non-thumb based athletics. Thems days is gone. Good work, man.

2:16 PM  
Blogger Kim_Rice said...

You were my inspiration to finish, Bob. I am so proud of you!!

I love you!
Yur Sis.

so ... Dublin? :)

4:15 PM  
Anonymous JamesP said...

Bob,
Wow. What a read. I'm tired just reading it!! Congratulations. What a huge achievement...and with every excuse to stop running. Way to go.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Olivia On Air said...

Congrats Bob

7:03 PM  
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