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.
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!
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....