Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Losing the Lottery

Those of you who have followed Wrigley Roster Jenga for a while might know that, besides being obsessed with the Chicago Cubs, I am equally obsessed with long distance running.  After eight years of cross country and track in high school and college and a subsequent seven year road racing career, I think it's safe to call my still (almost) daily running habit an addiction.  While the 5k distance has long been my specialty, I've competed in races running the distance gamut from 100 meters all the way up to the marathon, the latter of which I attempted as a lark right after college.  Injuries in the month leading up to the 2011 Chicago Marathon nearly kept me from even starting the race, though I still was able to stumble across the line at 3:36.  All told, that experience was enough to satiate my urge to run 26.2 grueling miles and I was content to stick to my local 5k's and 10k's.

Still, over the past couple of years, something has been rattling around in the back of my head.  Seeing as I was hurt and was barely able to run or train in the weeks leading up to my last attempt, I knew I could post a better marathon time.  Plus, the allure of qualifying for the prestigious Boston Marathon was an accomplishment that I would like to list on my running resume.  So, after six years of hemming and hawing, toying with the idea of giving it another go, this fall, I finally decided to quit being coy and enter the 2018 edition of the Chicago Marathon.  I'm not getting any younger, after all!

Not so fast.  The Chicago Marathon has become such an event that you can no longer simply sign up and compete.  There are so many runners anxious to run across the Windy City that you now sign up for a lottery and hope to be selected for entry.  I know - to non-runners, the thought of so many crazies falling over each to other to destroy their bodies must sound insane; but that's just how we're wired.

The results of that drawing were announced yesterday and... guess who's number did not come up.  I'll give you a hint, he runs a niche blog about Cubs baseball cards and his name rhymes with Stony Curbs.

Now, all hope is not lost.  I could still pair up with a charity and fundraise a ton of money to earn an entry into the crowded field.  Of course, I'm an introvert and the thought of begging my family and friends for money gives me the willies.  Also, I could forgo my hometown event and seek entry into any one of the dozens of other marathons held across the United States in search of a Boston qualifying time.  That said, the allure of running in Milwaukee or the Twin Cities doesn't quite appeal as much to this lifelong Chicago native.  Harumph.

Anyway, I have some options and, once the initial disappointment wears off, I'll sit down and weigh them objectively.  In the meantime, I'm going to take the opportunity to turn this negative into a positive and use this long, drawn out rant as an excuse to show off one of my favorite pieces of sports memorabilia.  It's sort of card-like:

Way back in 1999, Khalid Khannouchi won the Chicago Marathon in world record time, breaking the tape at a (then) astonishing mark of 2:05:42.  The Moroccan native then graciously signed this New Balance poster for my high school cross country coach at some point thereafter.  When I graduated from high school in 2007, that coach (and good friend) generously passed it on to me as a selfless graduation gift.  Obviously, he didn't have to that for little, ol' me and, to this day, this poster has followed me to college, several apartments, through marriage and is still mounted proudly and prominently on my wall.  Without a doubt, it's easily one of the best gifts that I have ever received.

Since that world beating run, the official world record for the marathon distance has come down considerably,as human kind gets closer and closer to the fabled two hour tick.  As of now, the official record is 2:01:39, set by Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge in Berlin just three months ago.  All told, 19 years later, Khannouchi's time longer ranks in the top 25 - that's how far distance running has come over the past two decades!

That being stated, this advancement does not diminish Khalid's stature - he's still a bonafide badass!  Just look at his body of work.

Embed from Getty Images
Khalid in action during the 1998 running of the Chicago Marathon (he would place second)

Mr. Khannouchi has won the Chicago Marathon a total of four times, including his very first attempt in 1997.  In fact, he's never placed any lower than fifth overall in the storied race.  Plus, although the New Balance sponsored athlete is a native of Morocco, he officially became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 2000 and his third win in the the Second City that year set the American record for the marathon distance at 2:07:01.  Just for good measure, he went out and won the race again in 2002.  In short, he's kind of a legend in Chicago.

Additionally, Khalid has a win in the London Marathon (2002) and several prestigious road races of various distances on his resume.  Unfortunately, Khannouchi was forced into early retirement in 2012 due to recurring, serious foot injuries.  Those are kind of important to runners.

All in all, I'd say that his is not a bad autograph to have in my collection!

1992-00 Sports Illustrated for Kids - [Base] #889 - Khalid Khannouchi - Courtesy of
1992-00 Sports Illustrated for Kids - [Base] #889 - Khalid Khannouchi

Speaking of collections, while I do have this signed poster, I am still looking for a standard-sized, Khannouchi card for my three-ring binder full of runners.  Seeing as the sport of distance running is does not show up on cardboard very often, according to my research, Khalid has just one trading card to his name - the 1992-00 Sports Illustrated for Kids single above.  The fact that his only card shows up in this product certainly comes as no surprise, as the publication is celebrated for it's wide array of subjects when it comes to their complementary sheets of cards.  As and added bonus, it too celebrates the athlete's historic triumph in the 1999 Chicago Marathon.

If anyone has a lead on one of these bad boys, please give me a holler.  Khalid Khannouchi, while he looks great on my wall, would also fit in nicely with my pages of Roger Bannister, Alan Webb, Wilma Rudolph, Kara Goucher etc. singles.

So, while I was not able to win the lottery and earn my entry into the 2018 Chicago Marathon, at least I got the chance to stroll down memory lane, show off one of my favorite bits of sports ephemera, and examine the career of one of the true greats of the American running scene.  One has to look at the positives to keep from going insane, right?

In the meantime, I'm not going to let my disappointment keep me from hitting the trails and treadmills.  After all, unlike Khannouchi, my feet have healed up just fine since my last marathon attempt.  In fact, I've already signed up for a 5k race in Hammond, Indiana this Saturday in order to keep me focused on my training rather than my dismay.  As an added bonus, it's ugly Christmas sweater themed; so, despite the frigid temperatures we've been experiencing in the Chicagoland area, I'll be warmed with Christmas spirit and heavy wool (at least for my warm-up, anyway).

Are there any other runners on the blogosphere?  If so, do you have any special running memorabilia or running trading card collections?  Has anyone else attempted a marathon, be it in Chicago or elsewhere?  Please feel free to share in the comment section below, I'd love to hear from you!

That is, unless you took a spot in the lottery... then you're dead to me.  Just kidding! Sorta....


  1. Sorry you weren't chosen! Still very impressive you can actually do this...and do it well!

  2. You have nothing to worry about here. I did not, and never will, even enter this lottery. I'm sorry you didn't get in. It's rough to reach a point in following your dreams that you don't have control over and then just play the waiting game hope for the best. On the bright side, you're a Cubs fan, so you already have learned how to wait 'til next year, right? I hope you get the chance someday soon.

  3. I run, but not as much as I used to. My last competitive race was a half-marathon in Chicago in early June about 5 or six years ago. It was black flagged due to heat, but I only had two-and-half miles left to go. So, I ignored the race officials and finished. I was terribly ill the next three days due to some sort of heat stroke/exhaustion. I didn't run for about 16 months after that. It kind of ruined running for me.
    I love to go early in the morning during summer vacation. I used to run four or five times a week at about 3 to 4 miles a clip, but any more it's about 2 to 3 miles three times a week. The other days I go to one of my favorite hiking spots instead.
    I like the idea of doing a full marathon, but I don't think my body could take the training.
    Sorry to hear you didn't win a spot through the lottery. Better luck next time!

  4. Bummer! Try the lottery again next year for sure! I’ve always enjoyed running but have never done it competitively. These days I do a 4.8-mile loop from my house about twice a week (but sometimes use the treadmill in the winter)...

  5. Every year we have about 100 kids (about 10% of our student population) sign up for cross country at our school. I'm always jealous that so many kids have that kind of drive and determination. I've tried... but running just isn't my thing. I walked a 5k back in April. Lol. That's more my speed.