As we completed the previous installment, Vikki and Jules were about to begin their early-morning long distance Chicago Marathon training, timing their start in pre-dawn darkness in order to be finished with minimal overlap -- read, "running into" -- people competing in the Fox Valley Marathon on the same trail.
The first wave of runners was scheduled to take off at 7 AM, about the same time Vikki would have completed her first six miles, turned around, and headed toward her scheduled 16-mile finish from the opposite direction.
In order to do so, Vikki, Michael and Jules had scheduled a 5:30 AM rendezvous to allow for pre-run schedule-check, rest room visit, and prayer before starting to run at 6 AM.
Some overlap with the marathoners was unavoidable. Yet, if everything went as planned, the primary stress would be on how well Vikki and Jules physically held up. The summer had been difficult on both bodies. If everything went as planned meant if the Michael, driving along a course that had restricted traffic and parking for the marathon, met at the appointed water and support stations on time; and if Vikki and Jules stayed on course and were able to communicate with Michael by mobile device any changes in route.
The best way to tell this story is to borrow from Sgt. Joe Friday of "Dragnet," minimize the narrative, and take you on a visual run. The story you are about to read is true. There's no need to change names. Everyone is a sinner.
Vikki is in the last 30 days of training for her second successive Chicago Marathon on Sunday, October 7. She is chronicling those last days by reflecting on the music playlist she has compiled to encourage her while she runs which we call Chicago Marathon ( VikkiThon) on our YouTube Channel .
Which End of the Trail?
Some readers may recognize some of these visuals. Don't skip, though. We often catch things we missed the first time when binge-watching reruns.
6:00 AM -- Vikki and Jules start their run from The Hill, a desolate, remote, dark spot in Batavia about eight miles from the starting line of the marathon. Destination, Sullivan Road in Aurora -- the 13-mile marker of the Marathon, five miles down the road. Michael is scheduled to meet them their a little after 7 AM, Jules first, then Vikki shortly afterwards.
Michael is familiar with Sullivan Road from the 2015 Fox Valley Marathon. However, the verbal directions articulated during the Saturday planning conversation describe two other stops on the trail, farther into Aurora. One is McCullough Park, the "Ibuprofen Stop" of 2015; the other is downtown Aurora, near the half-marathon turn around. Physically, this fits the description more than Sullivan Road, which on Saturday, all three agreed, was a little hazy to describe.
Fortunately, because he's familiar with the drive along Rte. 31, Michael knows the street signs are hard to see.
Um, Could Be?
6:28 -- Michael arrives at Sullivan Road and Route 31 intersection after making a beeline from The Hill. There is no place to turn, no place to run. The trail goes under a bridge with no access. So, he deduces, the route described must be the half-marathon turnaround. He drives into downtown Aurora, five miles down the road, and turns along the riverwalk frontage road. There are no markers for the marathon runners, and no indication of anything resembling a mile-marker. He's either gone to the wrong place, or the route has been changed from 2015. Indeed, the route HAS been changed, he learns later, but that's not why he is in the wrong place.
6:35 -- Michael arrives at the other possible location, McCullough Park, which he'd already passed. Like Sullivan, it's off of Route 31. Unlike Sullivan, the running trail is accessible and has ample parking. This, he is certain, is the turnaround they meant, for this, he recalls, is where he took the "Handing-Out-The-Pills" photo in 2015 when he first realized runners could actually ingest more than water during a race.
Michael's certainty his is the right spot is enhanced when he pulls into the turnaround and sees the parking lot populated with people in lounge chairs, no doubt waiting to shout encouragement (and hand pain-killers) to their marathoning loved ones.
Though comfortable he has arrived, he's yet apprehensive. After a few minutes, he reluctantly texts Vikki for her whereabouts. Reluctant because, since her music is on her cellphone, he knows the danger of TWR -- Texting While Running. His bigger concern is unleashing Vikki's inner Worry Wart. Yogi Berra is right, "The other half is mental..."
In anticipation of them both losing their minds, Michael accesses the Fox Valley Marathon course map. Now he knows exactly where he is. Where is Vikki?
6:40 -- Michael texts Vikki. After a few moments of silence, she texts back (having mastered the art of dictating texts, comma, while in motion, period. Send.).
He discovers Vikki has just passed where Jules parked when the morning began, and where Jules and Michael will meet later when Jules finishes so that they, together, may tend to Vikki's needs the rest of the way. (Jules is running 11 miles to Vikki's 16...which Michael thought was 18. Stay with us.)
Vikki's pace is fine, a little over 12 minutes, however, she's not sure where she is in relation to Sullivan and in relation to where Michael is. He checks his map, finds his '20' ("Location," in Joe Friday police lingo), and hers. She is a mile short of Sullivan. It will take her 12 minutes to run there; driving, it will take Michael, two. He waits a bit, then texts if he should head back to Sullivan as originally planned, knowing he'll need every minute to find a place to park and meander down the trail.
Michael drives north on 31 toward Sullivan, the Fox Valley trail map on the phone just faint enough for him to see.
The phone rings.
Phone Call from the Edge
6:48 -- He answers a breathy call from his wife. In other circumstances, this would be welcomed. Calls on the trail are urgent. Rather than dictate a text -- like, "thumbs up," or "ok" -- she's in producer mode, dictating instructions.
"I'm going to come to you," she says. "Nnnnooo!" he cries to her, his inner spirit shouting, This is not a morning to improvise! "I'm almost to Sullivan, I'll meet you there (as we planned)."
He turns on Sullivan Road, still uncertain how to find the trail, but feeling confident he could. Dorothy's Scarecrow returns to Oz. "Which way do I go?"
The trail at Sullivan is scary. Though becoming light, it was still dark, a darkness enhanced by shade trees along the riverbank; a scariness enhanced when he turns left and feels that the isolated frontage road above the running trail below has transported him into the backwoods of "Deliverance." Before some that movie's scenes play in his head, he U-turns and crosses the road where he finds, not "Deliverance" but "Salvation" -- the Marathon 13-mile marker. He was on the right course, but soon has new concerns.
Opposite the trail is a gravel driveway that screams "Keep Out." He sees just one car and a solitary figure walking the river bank .
7:02 -- Risking harassment from parking officials, he parks and hurries to the shore lest Vikki not see him when she emerges from under the bridge and begins texting where he is. Before he gets to the marker, the solitary figure -- a woman -- approaches him, head down, take a couple of steps back, turns and utters, "Excuse me, sir!"
She didn't yell, but she evokes the same pit in his stomach that occurred when the Secret Service agent yelled pointed, "SIR!" when he once, accidentally, crossed a gardening fence at the White House. This time, Michael seemed official.
"Excuse me, sir?" she said. "Is it all right if we park here?"
So Michael met Trudy (her name has been changed to protect her innocence). Michael and Trudy chatted while waiting for their spouses. Trudy's spouse was actually running Fox Valley to prepare (maybe) for Chicago (he hadn't decided). Randy (his real name, not), hadn't started his race,. She says this just as Vikki was just appears from under the bridge, 5.5 miles into her morning and...ahead of Jules!
7:14 -- Not two minutes later, Jules reaches Mile 13. When told Vikki is heading a mile further before turning around, Jules says nothing...verbally. That extra mile -- adding two miles by the time Vikki returns -- has the potential to throw off the timing with Fox Valley.
Undaunted, Jules presses on. Michael and Trudy resume conversing Vikki appears in the woods through the woods in the distance. He runs downhill to the mile-marker, offers the Ibuprofen -- for they are now at eight miles. Vikki refuses. "Maybe later," she says.
They are 90 minutes into the run with two hours to go. Comfortable, now, that Vikki is running well and that they caught up without issue, Michael opts to take an Instagram video update with his new camera phone. To capture the moment, he begins running backwards to interview her under an overpass on the banks of the Fox River. The road is curved. There is a 5-foot guardrail between he and the river.
The Hill and Back
Knees on Fire
Michael takes too long saying goodbye to Janie. His phone rings. It's Jules. His instinct, as two-shall-become-one-flesh-absorption from Vikki, is that something's wrong. It's not. Jules is simply informing him she's done and at the car. He breathes out the tension, thinks of Trudy and their share "stress of not running" conversation and pulls into the makeshift parking lot by 56.
9:05 AM -- When they meet again, approaching Route 56, the three of them are amid a throng of runners. Vikki is now slowing down . It's a "come to Jesus" moment, confessed when Jules finds her amid the maddening crowd and runs with her a tad:
9:25 -- That her knees were burning brought to mind a song which had inspired Vikki many years before she began running, "Church on Fire," recorded by Hillsong with leader worship singer Darlene Zschech (As in Check). The thought of the song propelled her to the end of the run 20 minutes later, along with the help of some of the marathon runners who encouraged her until she finished near The Hill, but on the opposite side of the river. As they reconnected a last time and reviewed the previous 24 hours, Vikki paused to Zschech in and give glory where glory belonged, inspired to press on toward the goal.
Final Credits: Church (and Knees) on Fire
The KIT 'n' Kaboodle Blog
The essays here are culled from our travels, conversations, worship experiences and discoveries.
Many are reprints from our newsletter, The KIT 'n' Kaboodle, or Facebook notes over time.
They're written by our ensemble, Garlan Garner, Michael Edgar Myers or Vikki J. Myers -- solo, or collectively.