The Race Midpoint That Never Ends by Dave Schanding

The sign reads 35th St exit 1 mile.  Southbound Lake Shore Drive has been closed to allow for the Soldier Field 10-mile run to use this novel running surface.  The runners have navigated through this turn-around point.  Now we walkers are approaching the half-way point of the race.

In Spring, 2011, Kevin and Dave decided to improve their stamina.  They set their initial sites on the Hot Chocolate Run, 9.3 miles from Grant Park to the United Center and back.  After its successful completion, they sign up for the Soldier Field 10-mile run.  The novelty of this race is completing the run on the 50-yard line at Soldier Field.  What Bear fan could pass up this opportunity?

Dave has discovered that walking in a race is a bit different than sauntering down Michigan Av.  Participants are required to average 4mph, or a 15-minute mile.  Most of us typically walk 2.5-3mph.  As Dave nears the turn-around point, his son, Kevin, waves from the northbound path.  Kevin has done a combination of jogging and walking.  Dave checks his left knee with its titanium insert—no more running after the knee replacement the prior year.

In Dave’s driving mind, 1 mile to the exit at 35th Street should be reached in a minute.  When one is on an expressway, a mile takes a minute.  After that minute, Dave doesn’t feel any closer to the exit.  His body reminds him that he’s not driving today.  Dave looks around and sees ‘the bus.’  Race organizers have paid a pretty penny to have the city shut down Lake Shore Drive, and they are strictly enforcing the 15-minute mile race standard.  ‘The bus’ picks up stragglers and returns them to the starting line, without accolades and without the race medal.  Fortunately, the bus is a good half-mile away—Dave is a little ahead of schedule thus far.

He notices the next 1/10-mile marker.  Each marker should be passed every 6 seconds—10 markers per mile, one minute per mile.  That 5/10-mile marker remains annoyingly fixed in Dave’s sights.

Dave maintains a steady pace, staying a little ahead of the 15-minute-per-mile.  He is joined by many weekend warriors.  There are folks of all ages that seem to think they can run 10 miles but instead have to make frequent stops.  It’s the tortoise and the hare all over again. Some folks are actually wearing dress shoes or flip-flops.  Dave’s feet ache just thinking about going 10 miles in that footwear.

5 minutes have gone by and that 35th St exit sign looms just as far in the distance as it did 5 minutes ago.  Not really, but it feels like it.

After 15 minutes, the crowd reaches the exit ramp.  Another revelation.  Dave’s mind is in driving mode again.  One zips down an exit ramp only worrying about whether to turn left or right at the end.  But Dave is still walking.  He wonders if he will have to move into the left-turn lane to legally stay in the race. The exit ramp is interminable.  He’ll have plenty of time to figure out which lane to get into.

Dave finishes the race a couple of minutes before the 2 ½ hour time limit.  He goes into sprint mode for the final 200 yards, including that magical run on soldier field.  His sprinting self-image is dashed as he reviews the photo-for-purchase that shows a lumbering 60+ y/o fellow rather than an athletic 30 y/o.  Kevin finished 15 minutes earlier and the father and son team take a couple of pictures of themselves on the field.  They proudly wear their medals through the park and cab ride home.  They are feeling every mile, but they’ve made it.

D&K finish at soldier field 05262012

Screaming at Hillary Clinton in Soldier Field

Screaming at Hillary Clinton in Soldier Field

Llani O’Connor and I were rabid Hillary Clinton fans during the 2008 Presidential Primary election. We exchanged did-you-hear-what-she-said exclamations all through the summer and fall of 2007 after she announced her candidacy.

IMG_1029.JPGThis photo from August 7, 2007 shows us with sunny smiles, blouses opened to our bra-lines, red-faced, droopy-haired and sweaty at an outdoor Presidential Forum in Chicago’s Soldier Field. All seven Democratic candidates are on stage in the background: Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It was a full 15 months before the election, and Hillary was way ahead in the polls.

I had worked as Hillary’s advance person on a few trips when I was working in the Bill Clinton Administration in the 1990s and was completely starstruck by her brilliance, kindness and sense of humor. Llani and I were ecstatic to be voting in the Primary Election that would result in the first woman presidential candidate. We knew she was going to win.

I obtained three tickets to the Soldier Field event after shamelessly begging an old friend who was an aide to Senator Joe Biden. Our third companion, Ann, drove us there, dodging and weaving down South State Street to 31st, ignoring stop signs and red lights, crossing under South Lake Shore Drive then barreling back north 17 blocks to the south parking lot of Soldier Field. We recovered quickly from the tilt-a-whirl ride and rushed into the stadium onto the field to get to the closest seats possible.

The stage was set at the fifty-yard line. Long red,white and blue panels draped behind it, and dark blue curtains hung behind the panels, blocking the back and sides of the stage. Folding chairs filled up the rest of the field.

It was 95 degrees that day – so hot that the moderator, Keith Olbermann cracked that if the candidates didn’t behave he’d cut off their air conditioning. The stadium walls offered no shade and we thumbed our noses at the heat along with the other 15,000 people, all of us 1043829789_89f65ee11b_bdancing around and singing songs for three hours waiting for the 90-minute event to start.

We were disappointed that little-known populist Dennis Kucinich received the most applause, but Hillary’s star power exploded next to the six men. We waited for the candidates to leave the stage before heading to the car for the treacherous ride home with Ann.

“Llani! Look! Hillary’s out in the audience shaking hands. Let’s go!” We plowed through hot bodies and upturned chairs to get as close to our hero as possible. Suddenly, Llani, in her baggy pink shorts, flimsy sandals and turquoise tank top climbed onto a folding chair and took off, hopping from one chair seat to another, camera in hand, shoulder bag swinging wildly and screaming at Hillary to look her way.

Traveling home the wrong way down one-way streets with Ann behind the wheel evoked little excitement after that.