Northwestern students conquer Chicago Marathon
October 7, 2012
Ari Sillman ran from Chapin Hall to Chicago's Water Tower Place during his freshman year. However, this 12.1-mile route did not even cover half of what he tackled Sunday morning for the second time in his life: the 26.2-mile Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
“It was definitely both an emotional and physical feat in a lot of ways,” the Weinberg junior said.
The Chicago Marathon, which drew more than 45,000 runners to the city from 115 countries, was more than just an item on a bucket list for Sillman and other Northwestern students.
For Weinberg sophomore Erika Schonher, the race was about battling heart disease. Before the event, Schonher said she was running in support of the American Heart Association, one of the marathon's participating charities, because one of her neighbors recently suffered a heart attack.
Schonher said she stayed in a Chicago hotel the day before the race with other runners, including her mother. They spent the day attending expos, viewing inspirational presentations and enjoying free pasta feasts organized for registrants.
Schonher said she decided to participate in the marathon after her mother asked her if she wanted to in January. She began training for the race during last spring.
“It was totally out of left field,” Schonher said. “But I said yes.”
The marathon was also a personal challenge for Schonher, who was born with a left knee condition that causes tendonitis, making long distance runs particularly difficult, she said.
Around the 10-mile mark during the race, Schonher's mother twisted her leg, pushing her and Schonher's goal finish time of four and a half hours back by an hour.
“At the finish line, she was holding my hand and actually cried because she was so proud of herself for going on despite the injury," Schonher said. "It made me tear up."
Other NU participants who have run marathons in the past said they also often experienced moderate to severe muscle cramping once their bodies wound down from the race.
“Your muscles start getting tense in the 20s (miles),” said McCormick senior Will McCabe, who ran his third Chicago Marathon on Sunday. “Afterwards, your muscles just give in.”
This is also all too familiar for Sillman, whose knees were bending in so badly last year after finishing that his friends had to help him down the steps to the El platform.
Fellow runner Paige VonAchen stressed the importance of taking care of her body throughout the months of training. The McCormick junior regularly stretched and did Bikram Yoga after workouts to make sure she did not hurt herself.
“I listened to my body,” she said. “If I wake up and it’s hard for me to even walk, I obviously will not push myself that day. But on days I felt really good, I would allow myself to go a little bit further than what my training regimen said I had to go.”
For some students, including Schonher and McCormick senior Ewa Glowik, the marathon was a family affair in which relatives were a source of strength and inspiration. Glowik said she paired up with her older sister Agnes for the feat.
“It’s something that, for me personally, I aspired to do but never thought I could,” Glowik said. “It’s a little surreal. All the running I’ve done this summer with my sister — over 600 miles. I was so anxious for it to finally be here.”
Gideon Resnick, a former Daily columnist, said his mom took the El on Sunday to three different stops to fist bump him throughout the race.
"The plan to run this marathon started as a stupid 'what if' question you talk about late in the morning," the Medill sophomore said. "And coming towards the finish line, you just start to think about all the families that the charities are affecting — that was a powerful moment for me."