The next day, I was flown out to Chicago where I was greeted by my good friend Vicki who accompanied me into the city for a fun day on the town complete with my fav: Gino's East famous Chicago-style stuffed spinach pizza. Yum! Vicki also used Chicago Marathon to raise funds for charity, specifically For the Love of McKenna, which helps provide care for 4 year old McKenna Tyszkiewicz, who was born with an extremely rare chromosome disorder that leaves her medically challenged but not without heart.
After having some fun in the city, it was back to my digs for the next several nights at the Chicago Hilton, the host hotel of the Chicago Marathon. I had a pretty sweet view of Chicago's famous skyscraper Willis, formerly known as "Sears", Tower, which was illuminated in pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
As I went to bed that night, I could hardly contain my excitement about the press conference that lay ahead and more importantly, the opportunity to share JT's story as well as meet the other charity runners including Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, and Hope Solo of the US Women's soccer team.
The Press Conference
After taking advantage of a nice swim at the Hilton gym, it was off to press conference where the charity relay was officially introduced to the media by Bank of America Illinois State President, Tim Maloney, as well as given props by Chicago Marathon RD, Carey Pinkowski and the Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emmanuel pictured below with Abby Wambach.
A great shot of my fellow charity runners at the press conference can be seen in the following album posted on the Bank of America Chicago Marathon website:
Among the inspiring people I got to meet include (please check out the websites for information on how to help):
Pat Arbor of Chicago, IL representing Mercy Home for Boys & Girls
Hailey Danisewicz of Evanston, IL representing Great Lakes Adaptive Sports Association
Chad Doellinger of Oak Brook, IL representing Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation
Wayne Drash of Atlanta, GA representing the American Cancer Society
Christie Galvin of Orlanda, FL representing American Cancer Society Relay for Life
Scott Herrick of Gurnee, IL representing the Greater Chicago Food Depository
Joe Jasnosz of Yorkville, IL representing the Kendall County Triad
Dylan Kwait of Brooklyn, NY representing the Chicago Diabetes Project
Dori Luke of Matthews, NC representing Girls on the Run, Inc.
Danielle Maglinte of Evanston, IL representing American Heart Association
Susan Taylor of Spring Grove, IL representing UPS for DownS
James Tiller of Mooresville, NC representing the Childrens Miracle Network
The press conference served as a great opportunity to share JT's story as well as educate others about Got Your Back Network with several members of the media.
After the press conference, I caught up with Wendy Shulik of Wendy City Productions, who interviewed me about my experiences running down my dream of qualifying for the Marathon Olympic Trials. There are a handful of females in the same boat as me, trying to qualify while juggling other obligations whether it be a full time job, motherhood, or a combination of the two. Miles and Trials is a story about these women. Check out the sweet footage that Wendy has shot to date and shall you like to be a part of the project, please contact her. The interview with Wendy was a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing the finished product.
Before I knew it, the day was coming to a close but the night was bound to be a fun mother-daughter adventure in the city complete with good eats and enjoying Chi-town's amazing architecture.
After a fun night on the town, it was off to check out the scenes of the Chicago Marathon expo with both my mom and my friend Vicki. Marathon expos are essentially all the same but now that I've been active in the sport for a good 20 years, it is a fun venture because I inevitably bump into a bunch of people I know as well as make a few new friends. Thanks to my friends at Sweaty Bands with setting me up with a sweet lineup of bands for my weekend adventure in Chicago!!!
Later, it was off to meet my friends Amy & Ben who flew out from Virginia Beach with their cutie Lulu in Greek town. Ben is a Seal brother of JT, another bad ass valiantly serving for the better of our country, and Amy was like a sister to JT, someone I met through common friends and a mutual love for the game of soccer. Love them both. Also joining us were Ben & Amy's friends Sergio and Danny, Wendy, and her friends Aaron & Justin. Food was outstanding but sharing stories and raising the toast to JT in the presence of great friends was priceless. Never will forget it.
Saturday included some down time to explore the gorgeous city (may be a bit impartial but check out the lakefront view and I dare you to disagree!) as well as get the pre-race briefing as a charity runner and take advantage of my VIP status at the tasty carb-lovers buffet at the Hilton with my friend Lisa, who, just 4 weeks post Ironman, was taking on 26.2. Total studette!
Since the charity crew had a mandatory 4:30am pre-race meeting, checking out the Sat night scene was out of the question. Just can't function in a sleep deprived state anymore and I wanted to soak in every moment of this experience. To bed I went and that alarm clock, not surprisingly, caught me a bit off guard. As soon as I remembered what day it was, I had no problem bolting up and joining the crew in the Hilton lobby for some caffeine and pre-event excitement.
And then we were off to meet up with Abby, Alex, and Hope and prepare ourselves for more media frenzy before we joined our handlers (the awesome volunteers who helped us out) on a trek to our respective relay leg locations.
My handler, Jeff, and I headed off to mile 10 where we later met up with Alex Morgan who was running my 2 mile leg with me. Jeff was a blast to hang out with as we watched the elite runners go by while waiting for our relay runner to tag me. He is planning a "Million Dollar Marathon" where he is striving to gather a million dollars that he'll use to fundraise for a variety of different charities. So cool and can't wait to support his awesome adventure next year.
Before I knew it, Alex and I were joining hands for a 2 mile leg, which I ended up extending another 14.2 miles. Yeah, I'm crazy but as a marathoner, you already know that. Lol. I thought it would be more fun being out in the midst of other racers and chatting with my fellow charity runners than waiting at home base, aka, the finishline.
In case you are wondering, yes, I carried my camera for 16.2 miles but it was worth it. As the group convened at mile 26 miles to run the last 0.2 miles in as a team, the race announcer called out all of our names. The moment we all crossed the finish line, I looked up to the blue skies and knew JT and his fallen brothers were smiling from above.
And the race wouldn't be complete with a JT$ shot with Alex, Abby, Hope, Ben, & Amy.
As I said my goodbyes to my fellow charity runners and new friends, I was able to catch the champions of the day, new course record holder, Moses Mosop and World Major Champ, Liliya Shobukhova, who ran 2:05 and 2:18 respectively on a beautiful, yet warm, Chicago Fall day.
And to close off the perfect weekend, I joined hands with friends and family of JT to share more stories and raise another worthy toast in his honor.
On behalf of Got Your Back Network, a charity designated to helping families of fallen soldiers through special events and organizations, I am proud to present $5,000 to JT's Frogman238 Memorial Fund. If you'd like to help JT's family build a memorial statue in his honor as well as start up an annual JT$ road race in his hometown of Rockford, Iowa, please visit www.3minutes.org. Never forget 8-6-11.
Thank you Bank of America for this amazing opportunity!!!