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  Chicago Marathon 2004 New York City Marathon 2003 Boston Marathon medal 2005 Caesar Rodney Half Marathon 2007 Anchorage 2003 Marathon Man Ray Christensen
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Chicago Marathon starts
Chicago Marathon starts
Chicago Marathon starts

Perfect Marathon Conditions

The Chicago Marathon would be run under a brilliant blue sky with little wind. Ray knew that this would afford him his shot at a Boston qualifying time of 3:20.

This was my 5th 26.2 mile race, but the most pressure I'd put myself under. I'd have to take ten minutes off my awesome Paris time. But I was pain-free, fully hydrated and loose. Upbeat music kept my feet tapping as we waited for the gun.

Though struggling to hang on at the end, I ran the perfect race. My chip time of 3:19:46 had smashed my PR and qualified me to run Boston.
I was walking [OK, hobbling] on air!!!

- - - Donations have totaled over $8,000 in past 3 years! - - - - Ray's Placing (M40-44): 366 of 3,060 is top 12% - - - - Ray's Placing (Men): 2008 of 19,053 is top 10.5% - - - Ray's Placing (Overall): 2246 of 33,010 finishers is top 6.8% - - - - Average pace: 7:37 per mile

2004 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon: Race Narrative

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Sunday 10/10/04 27th LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon + Celebration Party
The day started at 5:30am with some push-ups and stretching in the hotel room. By 6am, we were suiting up and meeting Bill for the walk to "Charity Village" in Grant Park, where Arthritis Foundation and a dozen other charities had tents for us to stow bags, hydrate and use porta-potties.

The cloudless sky allowed temperatures to climb to the 50's by start time, meaning that "throw-away" clothes wouldn't be necessary. At 7:30, we headed for our corrales. I joined the other purple bibbed runners in the "preferred" area, directly behind the green bibbed "competitive" runners and of course, the "elites".

The singer of the National Anthem would also run the race. There was only moderate congestion and I was able to get out with the 3:20 and 3:15 pacers. The course heads to the north part of the city, winding back and forth across the Chicago River several times. My pace band was too hard to read while running, so I just used my watch and the official clocks at each mile marker for splits.

For most of the race, I'd be near the runners wearing their "3:15" target times on their backs. This meant that I was going out a little fast, but my plan was to have almost 5 minutes "in the bank" by the halfway point. Was bib #3973 making a statement?

Chicago Marathon logo

Marathon starts in Grant Park
Marathon starts in Grant Park

26.2 miles to go
26.2 miles to the finish

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Maintaining pace, fueling with Gatorade, feeling the crowd's energy

I was at the pace I was looking for, around 7:30, virtually until mile 18. I unsuccessfully tried to slow a bit several times, but was just as happy to have a half-marathon split of 1:36:23, just a half minute slower than my PR at the Philadelphia Distance Run back in September. I was running strong, but really started to work around mile 18, when we started spending more time in an industrial area south of the loop.

Ray   Ray   Ray, yet again

The crowds were more sparse, the sun started beating on us and we were feeling tired, but the long water stations pumped us up every mile or so. I grabbed Gatorade and then water at every one. We headed south.

It was nearly mile 23, at US Cellular Field (formerly Comiskey Park) before the course turned back north for the home stretch. I hadn't slowed to a walk at all, so I was coated with sticky Gatorade and afraid that I'd cramp up if I did walk. Each mile saw me losing about 45 seconds from the cushion I had built up, but I knew that my dream of qualifying for Boston was still alive.

Ray   Ray   Ray, yet again

That dream nearly ended when, at 25.8 miles, we turned right to head back into Grant Park for the finish. Upon turning, the only significant hill on the course was staring at us. I knew that I'd lose some precious seconds, but once attaining the top of the hill, victory would be in sight!
I made it without crashing and turned left where the finish line and glory awaited. I was going to do it!!! Training hard for 4 months was about to pay off. But more importantly, I'd soon be able to stop torturing my legs and get a proper few gulps of Gatorade!

Ray   Ray finishes   Ray finishes

Whatever ugly kick I had left brought me past the cheering crowds to the finish. My watch read 3:19:49 and I was in heaven. A medal was placed around my neck, a foil blanket was wrapped around me and my timing chip was removed by a helpful young lady. Water, Gatorade, bagels, bananas, cookies... Yes, this was indeed heaven. When my could barely carry any more provisions, I found a table of Michelob Ultra at the end of the food line. Ordinarily, I'd abstain from a beer for at least a little while, but I had to start celebrating! As it turned out, the water and Gatorade were warm, but the beer was cold, so it was a good decision.

It took 15 minutes for me to leave the runner area and hobble through the throng of spectators to the Charity Village to bask in the glory under a cloudless sky.

Team EPA walked back to the hotel. After a relaxing shower, I limped a few blocks to the local Cathedral to thank God for a heavenly day. Then we headed out for a heavenly meal. The Hard Rock Cafe had just the celebratory atmosphere I was looking for. Steak was OK. The evening was rounded out with a visit to the official race celebration party at the Grand Ballroom at the end of the colorful Navy Pier.
Joints in Motion team
Joints in Motion team: Chicago and other chapters Photo by Cary

Joints in Motion team - photo by Cary   photo by Cary
Joints in Motion team

Monday 10/11/04 Stroll around Navy Pier, Fly back to Philly
Another gorgeous day greeted us as Bill, John and I strolled out to the Navy Pier to loosen up our legs prior to our early afternoon flight. I was already looking forward to sharing my joy with the Rebel Runners on Thursday evening. They were kind enough to send me some congratulatory emails.
Time to sign up for Boston!

Dave,Jeanine   Ray on Navy Pier

Winners speak

Navy Pier   Grand Ballroom on Pier

official marathon shirt

Joints in Motion tent
Joints in Motion tent


Charity Village


Official marathon photos

male winners
Top 3 Male Finishers:
1. Evans Rutto, 2:06:16
2. Daniel Njenga, 2:07:44
3. Toshinari Takaoka, 2:07:50

female winners
Top 3 Female Finishers:
1. Constantina Tomescu-Dita, 2:23:45
2. Nuta Olaru, 2:24:33
3. Svetlana Zakharova, 2:25:01

Top Male Masters:
1. Craig Fram, 2:29:29

Top Female Masters:
1. Jenny Spangler, 2:33:35

Top Male Wheelchair Finisher:
1. Joshua George, 1:36:13
Top Female Wheelchair Finisher:
1. Miriam Nibley, 2:05:51

finish line

official photo

celebrating with champagne

Navy Pier

John, Bill

Marathon Medal

Ray's Official Statistics:
2,246th place of 33,010 (overall)
2,008th of 19,053 (Male)
366th of 3,060 (Male 40-44 Div.)
3:19:46   Chip time
3:21:10   Gun time
7:37   pace/mile

10K split- 45:43
Half split- 1:36:23
30K split- 2-18-15

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"We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon."

Emil Zatopek

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