How Halloween fuels an endurance athlete

How Halloween fuels an endurance athlete

November 1st already. And it feels like winter here in Northeast Illinois. Trick or treating in these parts has been postponed due to the three inches of snow that fell yesterday. So, I guess it’s okay to still write about Halloween.

Having grown up Catholic, the first of November was always a holy day (All Saints Day) and a day off for us Catholic School kids. That meant the opportunity to stay up late sorting and counting our candy haul. For years it was a tradition to sleep over my friend Tracy’s. She lived in the best neighborhood for trick or treating – lots of generous home owners, lots of kids, and streets with only a little traffic.

We grew up in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey – a wealthy suburb of New York City. It’s more recently been the home to The Real Housewives of New Jersey (for the record they are nothing like the people we knew there). It also had one acre zoning. Tracy and I both became endurance athletes, perhaps as a result of being able to navigate that whole neighborhood in just a few hours 40-some years ago!

I didn’t realize what a feat that was until my daughter started trick or treating. We lived in Paramus at the time. The entire neighborhood was quarter acre lots. Theoretically these kids were hitting four houses in the time it took us to hit one! And today’s kids are spoiled! Parents now follow the kids around the neighborhood with a wagon or maybe even the family SUV or minivan stocked to rival an aid station on a marathon course.

Back in the day we just sustained ourselves by eating some candy. I never remember having water. We must have been pretty dehydrated by the end of the night. Thankfully it was cold enough most years that I never remember working up much of a sweat. The one thing I never remember having to contend with was snow.

When my daughter and her friends were finally able to go trick or treating without parental supervision, Halloween (or rather trick or treating) was cancelled two years in a row! The first time for an unusual late-October snow, the second because of Hurricane Sandy. In both cases the area was without power. Understanding, although disappointing.

All ready but no trick or treaters. Vernon Hills, Illinois.. Halloween 2019.

I was disappointed yesterday. I was looking forward to trick or treaters. I didn’t get many at my apartment last year. This year Kurt said I didn’t get enough candy for what he had seen in past years canvassing his development – townhouses, attached, doors that are very close together, efficient.

Since I was home all day yesterday with the candy and no trick or treaters…yeah, we need more candy for the kids expected tomorrow. I made sure I got my run in this morning. Four miles on the treadmill. Fueled with a few Milky Ways and perhaps a half-dozen Reese’s. Some things about Halloween never change.

Although too slippery for running, it sure was pretty. Vernon Hills, Illinois. October 2019.
“After the Marathon” signals the end of summer

“After the Marathon” signals the end of summer

“After the marathon” became our plan for almost everything at an increasing degree over the last several weeks. We really need to stop eating out so much…after the marathon. We need to clean the house…after the marathon. I need to get back to my job search…after the marathon.

So it’s now, “after the marathon” and we’re still struggling to switch our focus to the other important things in our lives. For week one post-marathon it’s still about the marathon…recovery. That’s perfectly acceptable, but there’s no more denying that summer is over.

Monday was a holiday. I think that’s one of the things I love about the timing of the Chicago Marathon. While Memorial Day (3 weeks before the real start of summer) is an unofficial kick-off to the season, Columbus Day (3 weeks after the real end to summer) is a nice conclusion.

To be clear, I am not a fan at all of “Columbus Day” and recognize all issues in celebrating Christopher Columbus in this way, but I AM a big fan of having a holiday the 2nd Monday in October. It’s great timing for a long weekend and final hurrah down the shore, by the lake, or wherever one spends the long, warm days of summer.

If you’ve ever spent the second weekend of October at the beach, you know that’s when everything starts closing up for the winter, not Labor Day. For adults anyway, there’s still some warm days to enjoy a more quite vacation time after the kids have returned to school. I tend to hold onto summer for as long as I can.

For those of us who trained all summer, the Chicago Marathon was a celebration of all that we accomplished to get to the starting line. Monday we showed off our medals and began our recovery. Kurt and I got out for a walk Tuesday at the Chicago Botanic Gardens and last night we put in a few easy run/walk miles with our crew in Logan Square, while I began to think about the training plan for the Surf City Marathon in February.

Slowing down to enjoy the fall foliage. Chicago Botanic Gardens. Glencoe, Illinois. October 2019.

“After the marathon” means getting serious about life goals again and letting go of care-free summer days, switching out all the summer gear for winter gear. Getting caught up on laundry and housekeeping, preparing more meals at home, and for me, finding a full-time job so I can continue to pay college tuition and race entry fees, and find fulfillment beyond running.

Until that happens, I’m going to enjoy this “after the marathon” peace, the beautiful fall foliage, and use the self-esteem boost to carry me to my next achievement…in running and life.

2019 in Chicago running. The Shamrock Shuffle to Chicago Marathon. Photo credits: Micaela Bernal and Mike Calabro.
Medal Monday: Gratitude for the 2019 Chicago Marathon experience

Medal Monday: Gratitude for the 2019 Chicago Marathon experience

Well-earned. 2019 Chicago Marathon Finisher’s Medal.

Yesterday, a memory from 2015 popped into my Facebook feed: my reflection on that year’s Chicago Marathon. There were some parallels…

Then I reported that I had completed 5 marathons. 2 faster and 2 slower.  Now I’ve run 9 marathons, 4 faster and 4 slower.  My last Chicago was my first since turning 50. This was my 5th. Using age-graded calculations (like this one from Runner’s World), this could be considered my fastest (3:33:40 vs. 3:34:26 for my actual marathon PR set in New Jersey at age 48). This proves that qualifying for Boston actually gets harder as we age, not easier, as so many younger runners seem to believe. But that’s an analysis I’ll save for another day.

In the 2015 post, I also reported on the results of my fundraising effort.  This year I mobilized 36 people to raised $2,004 for Gilda’s Club Chicago. A huge thank you to everyone who gave and/or shared the link!!!

Four years ago, from back in New Jersey I declared “I love Chicago! Can guarantee it won’t take me so long to get back there (although maybe not to run another marathon).” You all know how that turned out! 

With friends from my New Jersey Club De Novo Harriers in for the Marathon at the 3Run2 Post-Marathon Dance Party. Logan Square, Chicago, Illinois. October 2019.

I also said, “I’m very happy to have shared this experience with friends, from those that shared the training miles, were running other major races this past weekend to those at dinner Saturday night, on the course with me, those I saw along the course cheering and yelling my name, and all of you in FB land that wished me well! Thank you!” The same holds true today x10. Read my other blogs from the past two weeks for more on that (What a difference a year makes and Three reasons this year’s Chicago Marathon is extra special). I don’t think I have ever been more supported on a marathon course, had more people tracking me, had such a celebratory marathon weekend overall, or had such a fun training cycle!

The major difference this year and my last Chicago Marathon is that I didn’t fall short of my goal. I didn’t really have a time goal per se once I was realistic about my readiness to BQ. I was thinking that maybe I could manage a 4:09 finish. I probably started out a little too fast, but kept my heart rate in check all of the way (except a huge spike close to my max as I passed through the 3Run2 Cheer Zone at mile 20). I did manage to reach my goals of running strong throughout and never hitting ‘the wall.” I finished in 4:15:44. 

Passing through the 3Run2 Cheer Zone at Mile 20. Chicago, Illinois. October 2019. Photo Credit: Micaela Bernal


Today I feel really good. I’m tempted to start planning for the next one, but for now I’m going to focus on gratitude. I am grateful for all of the people that supported me this past weekend and in the past weeks and months. I am especially grateful that I am simply able do this. I am grateful to be part of a sport where a women can beat the World Record and 54 year old empty-nesting mom like me can run the same course and cross the same finish line a mere 2 hours and 40 seconds later.  

I also feel pretty fortunate that I can share everything about this wonderful sport with someone I love so much. Thank you, Kurt, for being a big part of all of this!

The Gratitude Wall at the Chicago Endurance Sports Race Day Resort (perk of being a Charity Runner). Roosevelt University. Chicago, Illinois. October 2019.


Three reasons this year’s Chicago Marathon is extra special

Three reasons this year’s Chicago Marathon is extra special

The Chicago Marathon is now three days away. Three days! Although it will be my ninth marathon, there is just something so special about this one in particular.

There is of course something unique and special about every marathon experience, and like all marathoners, I have great stories to tell about all of them. What has made this marathon special though has already happened and will remain unchanged regardless of what happens on Sunday. Read more

What a difference a year makes

What a difference a year makes

The Bucktown 5k is Sunday. Kurt and I signed up months ago because we thought it would be a nice conclusion to marathon training. I had a coach that figured a fast 5k in the middle of the taper could serve to build confidence and give you something to focus your extra energy on without compromising the big race. So that’s what I do. Read more