By Ross Forman
(Sept. 12, in Arlington Heights, Illinois) – Walter Payton is my all-time favorite football player, so running the 6th annual Walter Payton Run today was an honor, emotional and certainly a run down Memory Lane.
The 16,726-yard race equals Payton’s career rushing total for the Chicago Bears, which equates to 9.5 miles. The event is a fund-raiser for the Walter Payton Cancer Fund, and it also features a 5K Run/Walk and a 3-person 9.5 mile relay.
I ran the 9.5 mile race and though I did not know any other runners, nor did I run with anyone else, I still had a great time.
Especially since I finished with a great time, and, about 45 minutes after crossing the finish-time, it was announced to the hundreds of runners and supporters milling around that I finished in 3rd place in my division.
Event organizers then took my photo alongside Connie Payton, his former wife. That was pretty cool and, yes, I did have a tear in my eye.
Let’s jump back a week, to Sept. 5. I was doing a 10-mile training run in preparation for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 11. As I was about to start, I figured I would instead go 9.5 miles, to see what time I could possibly do in the Walter Payton Run. My goal was 1:40 which I wasn’t sure I could hit. I was just planning to run normally since, ultimately, this was just a training run.
My time on Sept. 5 was: 1:40.12.
So, I knew what my goal was for the Payton Run. Make that, goals. I chose a tiered goal plan.
First, I wanted to hit 1:40. I certainly didn’t want to be slower than a week earlier.
Next, I was shooting for 1:39.
Then, I knew I’d be really happy with 1:35.
And finally, I knew I’d be incredibly happy, though it probably was not obtainable yet for me, with 1:30.
I felt great throughout the race, which started and finished at South Middle School, and definitely thought throughout that 1:35 was possible. I’ll admit, 1:30 flashed into my head from time to time, but I didn’t want to think about it and be disappointed if I didn’t hit it. After all, this was run at basically a training pace, albeit a drop faster, because this was, in the grand scheme, just a training run for the Chicago Marathon. Sure enough, my time was 1:35.39 which, the announcer told the crowd, was only seconds behind the second- and first-place finishers in my division.
So I got the bronze medal, appropriately shaped like a football.
Seeing 1:35 on the clock as I approached the finish-time was super cool.
Next Saturday, Sept. 19, is my last long training run in preparation for the Chicago Marathon. It’ll be 22 or 23 miles along the lakefront here in Chicago.
The Chicago Marathon is my major fund-raiser for 2009 to support the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Please consider donating to support this worthwhile cause as I push my body on yet another 26.2-mile grind – my 6th marathon in less than two years. Click here to donate and all tax-deductible contributions are sincerely appreciated.