The thirty first running of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon will feature a new title sponsor, a new footwear sponsor and many improvements. Last year was a battleground for the marathon management. The heat and humidity conspired against the race, and the challenges with preparing for such a war zone.
Self examination of one self is a tough situation, self examination of an event known for catering to 45,000 runners is another. After reading the press release below it is obvious that the management, from Carey Pinkowski and Mike Nishi on down, have developed the contingencies needed to deal with hot weather, cold weather, strange weather.
I have told the story many times, of coming back from dinner late the night before the race and seeing Carey Pinkowski checking the course. Most race directors do not sleep the night before, or very little. There is the famous picture of the late Fred Lebow and Alan Steinfeld checking the painting of the long blue line that marks the
New York marathon course. Race Directors are dreamers, they are perfectionists, and they want to make each race a little better than the one before...
What is significant about the race is that the new title sponsor, Bank of America, took over from La Salle. LSB was a very good title sponsor and helped grow the sport. Bank of America, and rightly so, is trying to put its imprematur on the race, with its theme of 29 neighborhoods, one world class race.
The new footwear sponsor, Nike, took over from New Balance. With Nike's experience in events, from Nike women's marathon to the Human Race, it will be interesting to see how Nike manages their new responsibilities.
Marathons are big business. From the 45,000 application fees, to the shoes sold at the expo, to the hotel rooms, miles of pasta and sight seeing that goes out, the city of Chicago, as does the city of New York and any other major city event, gain huge benefits from a major city marathon.
Even with the stock market searching out record lows, and the economy scaring most people, running should continue to thrive. My reasoning, after discussions with numerous running stores, races, event directors, is that running and walking are one of the few things in our life that we can still control. A pair of $150 shoes, a pair of $40 shorts, and even a pair of $30 socks pails in comparison to the cost of anti depressants or a nice white room, with perhaps, a straight jacket.
Running and walking allow us to do more than exercise, it is a time to reflect on the day, on your family, on your life, and on you. Training for a marathon is an experience that is good for more than one's heart, it is good for the soul. That is why, for so many, the day of the marathon is a celebration. It is a celebration of making it through the long dark nights of training, the typical aches and pains and the questions that one has-did I do enough? did I train long enough?
All of those things add up, and on the line, on October 12, 2008, 45,000 runners and walkers, all with different stories, will begin moving together across the city of Chicago. For those two plus to eight hours, they virtually own the city of Chicago, and for the thirty-first time, that is good.