Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Women of the Chicago Marathon

The great Midwest race kicks off this Sunday.  One of the World Marathon Majors, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the most exciting for this Midwestern gal.  (The other Majors are Boston, London, Berlin and New York).  I’ve made no secret as to my love for Chicago, especially its beautiful lakeshore that stretches along Lake Michigan, with over 20 miles of run/bike trails.  Adding to the awe of marathon weekend, the first week in October represents the best of weather in my opinion.

Beginning in 1977, the Chicago Marathon has long been proclaimed the “people’s race” where anyone can come, run and enjoy.  When the race debuted, it was the largest marathon in the world at the time with 4200 runners.  On Sunday, nearly 45,000 participants will toe the line, with women representing an astounding 44% of them.  And with every runner comes spectators… 1.7 million fans are expected to line the course.

For decades, Chicago has appealed to runners for its flat and fast course.  In 2002, Paula Radcliff crushed the women’s World Record with an amazing 2:17:18.  (A year later, she topped that in London with the standing record of 2:15:25.)   In 2005, Deena Kastor took the top prize in her first big city marathon.  This year, two-time champion Liliya Shobuknova tries to become the first female to win three straight titles at the Chicago classic.  On the men’s side, racing icon Ryan Hall makes his Chicago debut this year, hoping to break the U.S. record after his dazzling 2:04:58 in Boston this past spring (which didn’t count due to course elevation).

While the speedy tales of the elite athletes are fascinating, I find more interest in the stories from average runners like you and I… who work double-duty as employees, spouses and parents while creating their journey to the marathon.  For them it’s not about record times or cash prizes, but instead an inside glory of personal fulfillment.  

Here I introduce seven great women 
who will be running the 2011 Chicago Marathon…

Britt  |  Chicago Runner Girl
BRITT grew up in the Chicago suburbs and currently resides and trains within the city of Chicago.  “As a teenager I would always go downtown with my cross country friends to watch the marathon and would be captivated by the energy of the day that filled the city. Chicago is a truly amazing city, and it becomes even more amazing on race weekend.”  When Britt began marathon training, she was shooting for a sub-3:10 finish, but after a successful 18-week cycle, her legs are feeling super powerful and she’s not ruling out something even speedier.  But like so many women, she says, “Those are just numbers and they don’t define me. I will be happy with whatever time I finish in as long as I give it my best shot and have fun.”  Britt is also hosting a blogger meet-up for the race (details here). Follow Britt at

Cathy Z.
CATHY is a good friend of mine that I met within a mommy playgroup here in Peoria.  Once we discovered our shared passion for running, we were instant friends.  Unfortunately, she is so much faster than me that I don’t dare try to run with her.  We’ve exchanged training encouragement all summer long as I trained for Quad Cities, and her Chicago, where she hopes to qualify for Boston with a 3:35.  Cathy’s first (and last) marathon was eleven years ago, so she’s just as nervous and excited this weekend as if it were her first.  “I’ve been fretting about everything this week from needing to go to the bathroom, to the long lines at the start and eating the right foods.  But I feel strong and ready.”  I’ll be tracking Cathy throughout the race and can’t wait to celebrate her BQ!

FALON now resides in Iowa, but grew up in the suburbs of Chicago.  So when she made the decision to run her first marathon, it was a no-brainer.  “Holy cow, it’s one of the MAJORS!  Chicago has always had a certain comfort and appeal for me.  Plus it’s flat.”  She plans to run solo, at her own pace and finish under 5 hours.  Her excitement is undeniable and can be caught on her blog at  Best of luck in your first marathon Falon!

CASEY is one of my fellow Sole Sisters and has a huge cheering squad here in Peoria.  Chicago will be Casey’s second marathon (first one this past January).  “Some of the pressure of the unknown is gone,” but Casey says, “This one is because I can. It’s personal for me.”  She picked Chicago because of the reputation of being THEE marathon to run.  “With over a million spectators, each neighborhood brings its own flavor to the race.”  With several other friends by her side, Casey plans to enjoy the entire race and city of Chicago without worrying about a time goal.  “I don’t run for the cash prizes, and I don’t actually do it for the health reason either.  I sincerely love the personal challenge and how it makes me feel.  2011 marks my second full year as a runner… and I’m thankful every day that running found me.”  Run on, sister!

Carolyn  |  The Life of Queenie
CAROLYN aka QUEENIE also picked the Chicago Marathon for her first 26.2 miler.  “I wanted Chicago to be my first because I live so close to the city, only 30 miles away.  It is a flat course, and considering I don’t like hills, it was an easy choice for me.”  Even though this is her first attempt, Queenie plans to run a quick one (or at least much quicker than me!). “I've heard that your only goal for your first marathon should be to finish.  But my goal is to run a sub-3:40.”  She hopes running with a pacer for the first 21 miles will help her achieve that goal.  Follow Queenie at

LORRAINE aka WIFEY is traveling from Atlanta to run Chicago because like Casey, she says it’s just one of those “must do” races.  “I love the thrill of a BIG race - large crowds, spectators and excitement. When I was deciding which race to pick, so many people told me Chi-town should be the one.”  This will be Wifey’s second marathon, which she’ll begin with four of her training buddies from the running group Get Fit Atlanta, and her trusty Garmin pal, Lola.  With a goal of 5:30, Wifey is running for more than just the finish line.  “I’m running to help create a world with more birthdays and less cancer with the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) DetermiNation team. I knew I wanted to run my next marathon for a cause, then in the spring I was invited to join ACS’s Blogger Advisory Council. Once I learned more about DetermiNation and all the great work ACS does I knew it was a perfect fit. I’m dedicating miles of my run to the loved ones of people who generously made donations.”  I’ve been following Wifey’s blog for almost a year now, and she is such an inspiring woman.  She claims she used to be the laziest person on earth, which I find hard to believe, but now she is a marathoner!  “Believe in yourself and go for whatever your goals are… you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish.”  Follow Wifey at

Andrea and the Running Chics! 
ANDREA returns to Chicago for her eighth marathon, fourth time in Chicago.  She calls Chicago her favorite marathon of all.  Residing in Missouri, she makes the trip with the Running Chics group… all whom are Chicago first-timers, many marking their first marathon this Sunday.  “I always run because I can, though in honor of all those who can’t.”  With a goal between 4:30-5:00, Andrea would make a great running partner for me.  Follow Andrea at

Good Luck to all these fantastic women!  
I hope you have a great run and the wind of the Windy City is at your back.


  1. Thanks for sharing all of the information on the great everyday women runners who will be running the Chicago Marathon. I've got a lot of new blogs to follow now! Good luck to every one of them, can't wait to read all about how they do.

  2. Thanks for all the info-Chicago holds a special place in my heart too. It was my first but mine was in 1985-couldn't get pregnant so decided to train for a marathon -this was at the time before " training groups" It started at Daley plaza and finished by the zoo! Joan Benoit Samuelson was the winner! An experience I'll never forget! The feeling of starting something you never thought you could do is beyond belief!

  3. Should be a great race tomorrow! And "yay, new runners to follow!" Thanks!

  4. So excited to see how all my bloggy friends do! Thanks for posting this!

  5. Love this post! Thanks Jess, for focusing on these great local ladies!

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