"Now this could only happen to a guy like me
And only happen in a town like this
So may I say to each of you most gratefully
As I throw each one of you a kiss
This is my kind of town,
My kind of town,
My kind of people too
People who smile at you."
And there were 45,000 other runners smiling at me and thousands more on the sidelines cheering.
I'm still smiling because my run in Chicago can’t be separated from the journey that got me there.
Way back in 2009 I was introduced to Team World Vision, a US concept where runners fundraised to support clean water projects for children in Africa via World Vision. I was immediately hooked.
A great cause, a great charity and - most important – a real solution. Over the years I’ve worn the orange Team World Vision top in many memorable runs. New York, Melbourne and others.
I always remembered seeing this photo of the Chicago Marathon and thinking "wow":
|Team World Vision Chicago in the early days (This year the group was too big for a photo!)|
I had the pleasure to meet the Director, Michael Chitwood, and run with him in Melbourne.
I told him how since I had seen this picture that running for TWV in Chicago was on my bucket list, He said, "when we started back 12 years ago there were 100 people who ran". Fast forward to 2017 and I was lining up with 2,000 TWV runners. That's a lot of orange!
My ballot entry came through and the travel planets aligned. Let’s do it.
The fundraising was a joy when 18 of my nearest and dearest friends from Melbourne helped raise nearly $2,000 to contribute to the programme in one of the most enjoyable evenings ever. We will talk for many years about how special that night was – thanks Phil Readman, who it couldn’t have been done without. Overall the target for the 2,000 runners was $2.5 million for the event. That’s US$2.5m. Wow.
|Team World Vision pre-race pasta party|
The night was full of church leaders and pastors, as well as the top fundraisers who were recognised. Kudos to one who raised $26,000 after having injured herself 6 weeks out and couldn’t run, so she poured the time she would have been training into fundraising and raised US$1,000 per mile. (And she was one of the loudest cheerers as we ran past!), These fundraisers weren't a one off thing either - the culture of support means that they now do this year after year.
|The oldest fundraiser/runner in the room. 86 not out!|
At 5.30am the next morning we were all in a tent near the Chicago Marathon start singing 'Amazing Grace'. It was as passionate as the Grand Final singing of Richmond’s victory the week earlier!
Then it was a sea of orange as we marched to the start line ...
Chicago, hat’s off to you. You showed the world how an event should be run. Brilliant.
|Security, just days after the horrific Vegas shooting, was superb to calm an edgy field.,|
Technically, this was the modernist of modern events. At the Expo all the bib checks were scanned and pre-loaded so as you walked up to collect it you were personally welcomed and handed your gear. Impressive.
It was the 40th anniversary of the event and the City really embraces it brilliantly. Unlike some of our Aussie events where I feel like we are a hindrance and inconvenience to the city, here they say “we’re closing this city down for the day and this is our city's event and we’re going to stand here and make it great and cheer you all the way.”
And the cheering is amazing. What else makes people stand, sometimes many people deep, for hours cheering on random strangers? This idea of just coming out on Sunday and cheering on as a thing to do intrigues me. Everyone is there for a good time and the atmosphere is contagious.
They had the best signs – so creative. Lots of political ones like “You run better than our Government” and anti-Trump statements as well.
And who doesn't love that they hand you a beer straight after decorating you with a medal! That was sweet!
All the drinks were needed because the day was hot – up to 70 which, coming out of Melbourne’s winter made for a toll. Thankfully there were plenty of drink stops and so so many volunteers along the road.
|The funniest photos of the day. Check out my face - the fake smile (really a grimace) shows the pain....|
|This is Pastor Steve Spears. He ran from LA to NY. As you do!|
|Says it all.|
Organizing 45,000 runners is always amazing. Again, the logistics were perfect and meant it ran as smooth as anything.
There were some notable Aussies there too like Lisa Weightman (6th outright), Kurt Fearnley
(2nd) and Michael Shelley (10th).
|That's what 45,000 runners looks like|
|Chicago you even know how to organise perfect blue skies!|
|With TWV's Michael Chitwood and Rusty Funk. Got a lot of time and love for these guys.|
Its the first time I've ever given this score but well deserved.
Great open roads, nice and flat ... with one sneaky rise with 300m to go that feels like Everest!'
The aid stations were excellent. Again there is nothing runners couldn’t ask for. Everything is there and in abundance.
This is the only time I will ever know what its like to compete with a Grand Final crowd
A nice Nike t-shirt and after the race - oh boy, so much stuff!
Take it out songwriter ....
Why I just grin like a clown
It's my kind of town
Chicago is my kind of razzmatazz
And it has, all that jazz
And each time I leave, Chicago is
Tuggin' my sleeve, Chicago is
- the marathon - Chicago is
for the runners. Chicago is
One town that won't let you down
It's my kind of town..."
8th October, 2017