By Chasity Cooper
October 9th, 2016, I accomplished one of the biggest goals that I had set for myself in the last year. And while crossing the finish line in my hometown of Chicago was definitely one of the most gratifying moments of my young adulthood, the journey leading up to the 26.2 miles wasn’t always easy.
Here’s my story.
My training for Chicago officially began at the end of June, which also commenced of one of the hottest summers that I’ve experienced since moving to The District almost six years ago. I quickly learned that my best bet would be to run early in the morning before the sun came up or after work at sunset. There were days when I was uber motivated to get those miles and others when I absolutely dreaded lacing up my sneaks to hit the pavement. But I knew that this process would be an ultimate test of discipline.
When you’re training for a marathon, there are a lot of things you must sacrifice because of your training schedule. Multiple times, I turned down joining friends for #SummerFriday happy hours and other social events because I had to get up early (read: 5 am
) and run over 10 miles the next day. My diet didn’t change drastically, but I did stop drinking hard liquor (but not red wine, of course) and eating certain foods for almost a month leading up to the race.
Giving up these things, while they may seem difficult to some, were a test of my strength, focus and dedication to running. If I wanted to fully enjoy my first marathon experience, I knew that I was going to have to let go of some things in order to get to where I wanted and needed to be.
The morning of October 8th, I took my own shakeout run to Leone Park Beach in Chicago near my mom’s crib and as I stood on a ledge that overlooked Lake Michigan, I couldn’t help but feel at peace for the first time since I began my training. All of the sweat, tears and time I put into practice were finally going to be tested on that beautiful 26.2 mile route that I had heard so much about. The days leading up to Sunday’s race were probably the most beautiful because I received a great outpouring of love and support from so many of my friends and family that left me feeling motivated and even more ready to tackle this journey.
Race day typically brings on so many emotions, but I’d have to say excitement outweighed them all. I didn’t run with music, nor with my Nike+ App on, because I wanted to absorb my phone battery every sight and sound that I would encounter along the route. It wasn’t until Mile 15 that I really started feeling pain in my knees, so I had to amend my strategy a little bit. But nothing will ever beat the feeling that I felt running past the DRC + ThreeRun2 Cheer Squad at Mile 18. The confetti cannon (along with Ashlee, Corey and Jasmine running at my side) gave me so much life and a moment in time that I’ll certainly cherish forever.
As I approached Mile 26, I heard a voice call out from my left and, sure enough, it was my Mom and sister clapping and cheering from the crowd. Definitely a proud family moment for sure.
I honestly couldn’t believe my entire life once I crossed the finish line. Knees and shins were shot, face was super salty and ashy, back hurt like crazy – but I got my medal.
Before I end this post, I must take this time to give a few shout-outs:
- My mom + sister Llyoandra for waking up super early on Race Day and venturing to Downtown Chicago among the millions of spectators to support me.
- My friends Kelley, Jordan and Ashley (pictured above) for taking a car, train and bike share to come cheer me on *lol*
- My co-workers Tali + Heidi for helping me get those extra miles in after work hours.
- My entire DRC family, but specifically Keshia, Rob, Jasmine, Traci, Yves, and Tai, who helped push me during those longer runs across The District on Saturdays. Thanks for dealing with my complaining and what not, y’all. 😉
- And of course, a host of amazing family, friends, and co-workers for sending nothing but love, encouragement and good vibes my way before, during and after my marathon.
I was super proud to not only represent my hometown, but DRC as I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. This was definitely an experience like none other, and I can’t wait to challenge myself to become a better athlete in the months and years to come.
About Chasity Cooper:
I began running with DRC in March 2015 for two reasons: one, because I had to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress for my cousin’s wedding by July 1 and two, because I knew I wanted to challenge myself to try something new. My first run was beyond dramatic (I really thought I wasn’t going to make it) but thanks to some extra encouragement from Ashlee, I finished and even returned the next week. Soon, I would discover that running was more than just a way to stay in shape –it was a new world of community and support for me.
iRunDRC because it’s family. Yes we come together to run miles, train for races and celebrate our athletic successes, but we also challenge and support one other in other facets of our lives. I’ve built friendships with individuals who I don’t think I would’ve met otherwise. I’m forever grateful for the camaraderie and proud to run with such an amazing group of people.