Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Race Recap: Humana Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon

Disclaimer: As a Rock 'n' Blogger, I received complimentary entry to the Humana Rock 'n Roll Chicago Half Marathon as well as a VIP pass. All opinions are my own.

Can you believe that I've never run the Humana Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon before? There's only one reason and that's because this half marathon takes place in July. July in Chicago can be brutal! The last half marathon I ran in July, Zooma, was a steam bath and I struggled with the heat. But as a Rock 'n' Blogger, it made sense for me to sign up for my hometown race. Once I started incorporating those 4:1 run/walk intervals into my training, I realized that I had a plan that could work in the heat. There would be no time goals (well, ok, maybe...) but the ultimate goal would be to finish.

I finished, but what a journey it was to the finish line! It was an epic 24 hours for this runner. This is a long post, so sit down, put your feet up, and pour yourself a cold one!




When I filled out the entry form for this race, there was a section asking if you had a special story you wanted to share with the race organizers. I decided to share my struggle I've had with adjusting to running with rheumatoid arthritis. Why not? Imagine my surprise when the week before the race, I received an email from one of the team telling me that Humana (one of the race sponsors) was interested in my story. They wanted to meet with and interview me at the expo. She also told me they were hosting a meet and greet with Kathrine Switzer. I jokingly responded that I'd only meet with them if I could meet Ms. Switzer. I was promised a one-on-one meeting with my idol! Let the excitement commence!

After I finished work on Saturday, I drove down to McCormick Place for the expo. I was very impressed by how well organized packet pickup was. There were stations for bib pickup, t-shirts, and t-shirt exchange. As I wandered the aisles looking for the VIP booth, I observed that there were quite a few vendors. I purchased a "Run Happy" shirt from the Brooks booth. Of course.

I found the Humana booth--it was in the center of the expo and met with Kate and Carmen from Rock 'n' Roll Marketing and they talked with me a bit before my interview. I wasn't nervous at all--just get me talking about running and I can't stop! Even after the camera was rolling, I did just fine. I don't think I said anything cringe-worthy.

Kate introduced me to Kathrine Switzer and I was initially speechless. The cameras were rolling for this too. Kathrine made me very comfortable and we talked about running and running with RA. She told me I was doing all the right things--that I had to keep moving. She also told me that I was a great example of what she and Humana are working to promote--staying active as we age. We talked about training. I shared with her my dream of running Boston. I told her how much I loved her book, which I brought with me. We talked about my blog and I told her about my book club. She was so easy to talk to--I'm sure I was just blathering on!


Sometimes the worst becomes the best. Indeed!
I was floating on a cloud after that. Have you ever met one of your real-life idols? 

photobooth, anyone?
As I left the expo, Petey, the cameraman told me he'd be at the race in the morning, riding on a motorcycle and filming me as I ran. What? He told me if I had a problem with it, they didn't have to film me. I was a little surprised, but I agreed to it. Because what is running if not an adventure? Inwardly, I prayed that I wouldn't have any tummy issues. I certainly didn't want to be immortalized by a code brown.

With that on my mind, I thought I'd have trouble sleeping, but surprisingly, I slept pretty well. My alarm went off at 4 and I was out the door by 4:30 to catch the El to Grant Park. I walked through the race area to the amazing VIP section. Portapotties with no lines? Sign me up! There was also a continental breakfast, but I didn't want to invite trouble, so I skipped it. I was so happy to see Erica--it's never easy to be at a race alone--and we talked for a few minutes before it was time to line up.


I walked over to the corrals, where Kate met me and told me where Petey would be at the start line to film me. I was in corral 6 and it took about 15 minutes for us to cross the starting line. Sure enough, Petey was there and I waved as I ran by. He wished me good luck and told me to look for him on the course.

We were off!

We ran north up Columbus Drive, which is the same start as the Chicago Marathon. The start was crazy crowded and as usual, I was frustrated by the slow start. You would think by now I'd be used to this! There were slow runners and walkers who should have started farther back--I'm not sure how they were seeded into my corral. I spent the first 2 miles weaving around people and skipped my walk intervals since I was running so slow. After mile 2, the runners started to find their paces and there was more room to run. I took my first walk interval at this point. I was sweating profusely and I started sipping my Tailwind.

At mile 3, I heard a motorcycle coming up behind me, and there was Petey on the back, his camera focused on me. He asked me how I was doing and I gave him a thumbs up. He drove ahead and I was alone with my thoughts. This would be our pattern for the first half of the race. After mile 6 or so, I didn't see Petey again until the finish. I didn't find having him there intrusive at all. In fact, I liked having someone cheer me on! I wondered what the people around me thought, though!

Mile 6 was the Blue Mile. I was running along the left side of the road and that side was lined with posters of soldiers who died in action. I read all the bios as I ran along. After the posters were American flags--there were at least 50 lining the course. I started to get emotional--how could you not? I thanked the volunteers. There was one for each flag, all wearing blue. I wish I had stopped for a picture but it just seemed so solemn that a photo would be inappropriate.

I continued to use my run/walk intervals for the rest of the race. At about mile 8, I came upon a guy carrying a speaker playing loud music and shouting "Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson". He had someone running with him and I wondered if he was mentally ill or disabled. Initially amused, I started to find it a little concerning. The woman who was with him led him to the side of the road--I'm not sure what that was all about. I saw him briefly one more time later in the race.

The iconic rocker at mile 10-ish
At mile 10 or so, the wheels started to come off the Wendy bus. I started to feel really nauseous and felt like I was just sucking wind. As hard as I tried not to, my walk intervals stretched beyond a minute. My hip and my knees were starting to hurt. I was really frustrated with that. I noticed that a lot of runners were walking as well. It wasn't warm but it was 80% humidity and I do believe that really took a toll on many of us. Around mile 11, I heard a familiar voice asking if I was ok. It was Amanda aka TooTallFritz and let me tell you, it was great to see her! She asked how I was doing, and I told her I was having some pain. She said she was struggling too. We ran together for about a mile, and then I told her to go ahead. I needed to be alone in my misery.

As I approached the finish line, I saw a runner on a backboard with a neck collar being loaded onto a cart. I wondered what happened to him--did he trip and fall on the uneven surfaces? I wanted to tell the paramedics to drive him across the finish line! How terrible, to get this far and not finish, right? I pushed on towards the finish chute. I saw Pete B and he cheered me to the finish. There was a firehose showering the runners. Even though I was moving along, it felt like I was running in slow motion. It seemed like the finish line would never come.

Finally, I crossed the line and there was Petey. I mustered up a happy face and a victory pose for the camera. Then I put my hands on my knees (my bad, I know) to catch my breath. A medical volunteer came over to make sure I was ok. I told him I just needed to catch my breath. Kate and Petey walked with me as I got some water and my medal.

And then...Kathrine Switzer came over to congratulate me. What? Was I dreaming? She told me to be proud of my accomplishment. I shared my disappointment with my finish time. Yes, I'm still working on adjusting my expectations. We talked briefly and I thanked her for her encouragement. I told her I'd see her in Boston!

Recapping my race

I made my way back to the VIP tent, drinking the best chocolate milk I've ever had. There was food, wine, and beer as well. And those clean, line-free portapotties. Once I recovered, Petey and Kate did a final interview, where I recapped my feelings about the race. Yes, I was disappointed in my finish time. You know me, right? But as Kate later messaged me, it was an RA PR. I'm not quitting. Finishing is winning.

Who needs MarathonFoto when you've got Petey? Thanks so much for all these great photos!
Can any other race experience top this one? The journey I am on while running with RA has certainly become interesting. I'm so grateful for feeling well enough to be able to run long distances, even if it means running at paces that are slower than I'm used to. RA is opening up new doors and experiences for me. Obviously, I'd rather not have RA, but instead of succumbing, I've chosen to make the best of it. My Rock 'n' Roll experience was an opportunity to show runners that obstacles don't have to stop you. I'm looking forward to seeing the video and I hope it inspires others to just keep moving! This past weekend was the experience of a runner's lifetime.


I am certain that even without all the hoopla, I would have enjoyed this race immensely. Humana Rock 'n' Roll is a well-oiled machine and their ability to stage a race is top notch. While this is my first Rock 'n' Roll, it certainly won't be my last. I'm looking forward to Las Vegas in November.


After all that excitement, it comes down to this:

video



78 comments :

  1. Oh, wow, I am so impressed by Humana, RNR and Katherine Switzer. They realized that there is something special about YOU that can inspire and encourage others. I hope we all can see that video. And, I LOVE that medal, but not enough to run a half in Chicago in July. :-)

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    1. Yeah, it was kind of tough conditions but I wouldn't have traded that experience for the world! Way to make an old runner feel uber special!

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  2. Wow! This was GREAT!!! That does sounds like an amazing experience. Tell me about the filming, did they tell you what they are going to use it for? I am glad your first RnR experience was epic. Vegas will be even BETTER!

    The start was crazy crowded. I also got annoyed with the walkers. Nothing wrong with walking but I remember that as soon as I crossed the finish line, there were a lot of walkers. No one was checking bibs so it was easy to get into any corral you wanted. I know RunDisney checks bibs and makes sure you don't get into one you're not supposed to be in.

    Blue Mile? Is that was it was called? I couldn't remember but I remember feeling so emotional seeing the pictures and the flags.

    Great job Wendy! I know you have you days in which you curse RA but happy to see there are wonderful days as well.

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    1. The video is going to be for Humana to promote their new initiative about staying active as we age. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they do with it. It was a fantastic experience and I felt pretty darned inspired !

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  3. Wow! What a cool experience all around. Meeting KS must have been amazing beyond belief. Finishing is winning for sure but not always easy to accept. Congrats Wendy!

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    1. I have been having so much fun this year--RA might be slowing me down on the road but it has changed my perspective.

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  4. Wow is right! What a great experience ~ one you'll never forget! I'm starting to love the half distance more and more, and by far, my favorite is the Destination Races Wine Country Half from Napa to Sonoma. The breathtaking views can't be beat!

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    1. I've always loved the half distance. You really don't have to do much to prepare for it.

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  5. Congratulations, Wendy! So glad the experience was positive for you on a bunch of different levels. And thanks again for sharing all the good that comes from not letting RA get in your way! Just keep moving, just keep moving... :)

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  6. What an amazing experience!!! Congrats Wendy! Most people wouldn't even try to run a half with what you are going through-- finishing is a HUGE WIN in itself! And your time is still really good!

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    1. I just don't want to stop! I'll never be able to start again.

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  7. I love RnR races! SO COOL about Kathrine! I was squealing when I read this and saw all the photos! I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!!!!!

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  8. I have tears and am totally choked up reading this incredible piece of writing and amazing, inspirational experience. I cried when I read Kathrine Switzer's spot on message to you in signing her autobiography. It's as though she's known you all along.
    Thank goodness you followed that wonderful image with the "photo booth" shots. I laughed out loud. What a memory to have!

    I hope you are able to post the video once it's available. I'm sure it will brighten all our days to see you conquering the world.
    This entire experience must have made you realize what a huge impact your journey has had, and will continue to have. I hope, I deeply truly hope, that you plan to write a book about your adventures. I'll be first in line.

    Since I have run only one half marathon, by myself and in my neighborhood, it is both my best and my worst. I had to walk the last mile. I was determined to crawl it if need be to finish 13.1. I did attend a R&R, the final one held in Providence, to watch my dear friend Sharon cross the finish line. The elites had already long gone and the crowd had dwindled, so we were able to get a great spot right at the end. While the loud and joyful and inspiring rock played, I danced in the street and cried as every back-of-the-pack runner crossed that victory mark in the road, even though I did not know a soul. Thinking of Sharon about to arrive, I had my heart in my throat. Ha! She was faster than I thought...even in her sixties she was still killing it. I missed her finish, but it was still a grand experience.

    Keep on rocking, my friend. On to Las Vegas!

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  9. Omgggggg I got goosebumps everywhere just reading this! I saw all of your pictures on Facebook and was frantically showing my husband -- "OH OH OH LOOK LOOK!". Thank you for sharing your experience with us, heart!

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  10. What an awesome experience! This is what is it all about! It's the people you meet, the fun that ensues -- the uber cool experiences of being interviewed and (OMG) filmed. Not the time on the clock. Great race, Sista.

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    1. Yep! This is fun and I'm so glad you all are along for the ride!

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  11. I didn't realize this was your first RnR race. How amazing it all went for you! I can just feel your excitement and giddiness through your post. Congrats to you girl! I can't wait to see the video. Please share it with us.
    How is this course? Is it rather flat? I love RnR races and have been thinking of running Chicago for a while now since it is a summer race. I'm not excited that it will be hot but since I don't work in the summer it is a good time to take a racecation and not have to ask off work.

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    1. The course is pancake flat. That's what makes running in Chicago so awesome. Even in the worst weather, you just keep swimming. Literally.

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  12. Congrats on the finish! What an amazing weekend! I'm glad I was able to spot you near the finish. I took a couple of pictures, but the runner in front of you was in the way, so I think the only part of you I captured was an earbud and your shoe! Kathrine seems like the nicest person. She probably met 1,000 fans that weekend and treated each one like they were an old friend. So cool that you were able to interview her. Any idea when will it be released?

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    1. I'm so anxious to see this video! I have no idea when it will come out but they cameraman said he was going to work on editing the footage over the weekend. I would assume it will be sooner rather than later.

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  13. It was so awesome to see you and chat with you before the start. I was feeling a bit out of sorts and worried about how the race would go. Having a friend and hearing your story was a big boost for me - so thank you!! Glad the day turned out well and that you were treated like a queen!! (PS. My url is ericafinds.com :))

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    1. I was so happy to see you too! It's never easy going to a race alone. And I'm so sorry I put the wrong url. I fixed the link Doh!

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  14. This is so wonderful. I'm so happy you got the VIP treatment and quality time with KS. Isn't she the best? RnRChi is always a challenge because at best, it's overcast. But always too warm.

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    1. I really don't think I could have had a better experience!

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  15. What an amazing experience, Wendy! So happy that you got the VIP treatment you deserve.

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    1. Oh, this was just the best!!! How do I go back to being a regular runner after this?

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  16. Great job! That humidity is no joke. At least there were a lot of people struggling. Hopefully Vegas will be much better since it's in November. I know the desert can be chilly in the late fall and winter, but that's better than heat.

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    1. 100% agree! Plus we will be running at night.

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  17. Wow, congratulations! What an incredible experience - meeting Kathryn, the VIP treatment, I bet you were on cloud 9!! You should be so proud of yourself!!!

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    1. Proud and excited. Wow, was this fun!

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  18. It IS hard to believe you've never run this race before, but I totally get why. I am not a fan of summer racing. Not at all.

    I've done several RnR races -- they can be a well oiled machine -- but they can be a total mess, too.

    But meeting KS had to take a lot of the sting out of it! And you just never know who you will encourage with your interview.

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    1. My experience was perfect. Except for the corrals--as we were moving forward, a ton of people were pouring into my corral. That did not make me happy at all.

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  19. I was tearing up reading this!! What a wonderful experience and opportunity to share and inspire others and to be congratulated by KS at the end :) Gives me goosebumps :) Super cool!!!
    A big congratulations! Finishing is winning.
    I totally get how it feels to see a time and have expectations for yourself, I have struggled trying to adjust to whatever my "new normal" is for a long time...in the end the experience is what matters, running 13 miles is not easy, we become to immune to the distance but it really is a long ways!
    And...you had run a very speedy 5K - it does use up the legs a little :)

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    1. You are right--13.1 miles is never easy. But experience with the distance really helped me push through those tough miles.

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  20. WHOA! congrats on this experience- & thanks for sharing it all with us!

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  21. Congratulations!! how amazing to meet Ms. Switzer!

    I can't believe this is your first RnR! those races spoil me for all other races!

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    1. This was a great experience! They know how to make a runner feel special.

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  22. What an epic adventure! That will be a tough one to top ;-) My 2014 Chicago R'n'R medal also has the Bean ;-)

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    1. You are so right! How do I top this one?

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  23. I am totally and completely mesmerized by your experience!! As my college boy says all the time ...you're the GOAT!!! (Greatest Of All Times) :)

    I'm just so stinking happy for you Wendy ...you've found a way to turn a difficult life changing diagnosis into something positive and inspiring to others. Keep up the great work!

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    1. I'm so fortunate to have all these fun opportunities--how can I be on the sidelines with all that running has to offer!

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  24. You know RnR Chicago is one of my favorite races and I'm so glad that you had such an awesome experience. It was definitely a busy 24 hours for you and I'm so happy you got to meet Ms. Switzer!

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    1. This was such a fun, magical weekend. Just when you think you've experienced it all, life throws a big surprise at you, right?

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  25. What an awesome weekend! How exciting not only to meet Kathryn Switzer, but to get to interact and have fun with her!

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    1. She's just like us! Only fast and famous.

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  26. How amazing! What a great experience. Who cares about times when you can get your medal from such an inspiring runner.

    And it came at such an important time in your running!

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    1. I just can't believe that this all happened--it feels like a dream!

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  27. Congratulations! It's so wonderful that you not only got to meet Katherine, but she found you after the race and you guys chatted some more. You are like BFF's now. Congratulations running such a tough race in the heat!

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    1. You know I'm still not happy with that finish time. Mentally, I'm still not there yet! But finishing was indeed winning in that humidity!

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  28. What an incredible day, an incredible opportunity, and so well deserved!

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    1. It was just amazing, a kind of "pinch me is this really happening" experience, although the race itself brought me back down to reality!

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  29. Congrats, sounds like an incredible race and experience!!

    I'm also a Rock n' Blogger but have never made it out to the Chicago race.

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    1. I am so glad I ran this race. I do love my city, and it feels so good to have run yet another epic Chicago race.

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  30. What a great recap! It sounds like an amazing day. Fun fact: my cousin-in-law's (my cousin's husband) parents are very good friends with Katherine! I'm hoping to meet her one day, too. Sounds like she's an amazing person! Congrats, Wendy. You did great!!!

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  31. Oh Wendy this was an awesome recap! What a great experience for you! Congrats you deserved it!!

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    1. Thank you Michelle! It was amazing. Truly.

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  32. You are awesome! They couldn't have picked a better person to interview. It was nice you got to meet Kathrine Switzer and she met you at the finish line! Congrats on a great race!

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    1. Who would have thought it? I'm so glad to still be running--I hope I continue to have epic adventures until I hang up my shoes!

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  33. What an amazing experience!! There's nothing like getting to meet your idol. I can't wait to see the video of the interview, so cool!

    And congratulations on finishing the half and toughing out the weather. Your RA PR is still pretty damn good!

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    1. Ha! I've heard that from a few people. I need to adjust my expectations!

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  34. I'm so glad that you had such a great race weekend! You definitely deserve it with how persistent you've been with your RA fight. And I like the idea of considering your finish time to be an RA PR. And you know what? Your RA PR is still faster than my half marathon PR. So way to go!!!

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    1. Before she left, Becky told me that everything is reset now and all my PRs are new. I like the idea of that. I'm going to keep shooting for the stars!

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  35. What a great story Wendy! You are an inspiration! :-) I hope you will share the video when it comes out. What a runner's high for you, truly a great experience all the way around! So who are we going to meet in Las Vegas? You are on a roll! XXOO

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    1. This all transpired at the last minute--so who knows what will happen in Vegas? Remember, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Just sayin'....

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  36. Loved reading this! What an awesome experience! So cool you met Katherine Switzer and to congratulate you at the end..that's awesome! Congrats! You are an inspiration!

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    1. Thank you! It was an amazing experience!

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  37. Wow!! Congrats! So awesome to have been interviewed and meeting Katherine Switzer not once but twice! That must have been the best to see her and congratulate you at the finish! Rock'n'Roll races are the best! You will have a blast in Vegas!!

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    1. I can't wait! I hope it's as fun as Chicago was!

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    2. I can't wait! I hope it's as fun as Chicago was!

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  38. What an awesome recap and how cool that you were spotlighted! I hope you'll share the video when it's released. Congrats on a great race and an RA PR. I met Kathrine Switzer at the expo before the 2010 Boston Marathon, and I blathered on and on when I met her, too. She sure is a sweetie!

    I want a Petey! Of course, my husband is great at taking race pictures for me, but he doesn't have a motorcycle and access to being on the race courses. :-)

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    1. I didn't mind having Petey there at all!

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  39. Love this! I saw so many who were able to meet KS. I wish I had. I did see her at the start line but she was on the sideline. Congrats on a great race. I certainly know how hard it is to readjust expectations. Working on that myself.

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