The Last Minute Marathon

Recently, I started a project in my home office which involves pictures from marathons in various states. Included in my wall of memories is a shot from the infamous 2007 Chicago Marathon.

I snapped the photo while walking up Jackson, 16 miles in. It’s about 90 degrees outside, the fire hydrants are opened up, and everyone is slowly being guided back to the finish line in a state of disbelief.

On that long, hot walk it seemed everyone was discussing one thing in common: we had all devoted time, money, emotion and energy into something that had unexpectedly stopped short. Because that year, just a few short hours after the gun went off, the Chicago Marathon was cancelled.

I spent the next few days reading about it online. I was mesmerized by the different ways the tale was told over and over again. Scouring the web revealed something else interesting: select marathons around the country were reporting discounts into their races, for those who had tried to run the 2007 Chicago Marathon.

Des Moines, IA was one of them.

It was during my second marathon in my second state when I decided I wanted to run all 50. By October, 2007 I had only completed three. Which meant Iowa could be #4. Did I dare? The race was in two weeks…I was trained…it was only a little over 5 hours driving…

Before I knew it, I was emailing my friend Patrick who lived in the area, asking for suggestions on hotels, and if he knew anything about the marathon itself. And emailing my friend Nicolette to see if I was crazy. And…

Oh my God! I was registering.

Friday before the race I worked a 16 hour day between my full-time job and my part-time job. I dragged myself home after a closing waitressing shift, slept, and woke up early Saturday morning to pack and hit the road.

Five driving hours later and I was in Des Moines, IA.

Patrick insisted I stay at his house and was the perfect Des Moines ambassador. We took his motorcycle out to the marathon expo for my packet, drove around town to snap a few pictures, and had dinner at his family’s local Italian restaurant. After eating, we headed back so I could prepare everything for the next morning.

He crashed on the couch and let me have his bed. All too soon, it was 5:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. Originally, I was going to drive myself to the race. Since he was woken up anyways, he offered.

I was dropped off by the start. I was nervous. Why the hell was I in Des Moines, IA?! I had 20 minutes to freak out, and then get my shit together. The gun went off.

I remember unique residential areas. I remember thinking the hills were not gently rolling, as described on the website. I remember Patrick coming out to cheer around mile 16 or so. I remember texting Nicole M. at Mile 18. And I remember Patrick meeting me up around mile 24 or 25 to run the last little bit with me. I remember him letting me finish solo and then taking me to a local bar to celebrate with a beer. Or three.

I showered. Changed. Napped. And hit the road.

And on Monday, when a co-worker asked the mundane question: “so, what did you do over the weekend?” I had and answer I hadn’t yet processed:

“I drove to Des Moines, IA and ran a marathon.”

To date, it’s still the coolest risk I ever took. And I’ve got the pictures on my wall to prove it.


  1. I am a veteran of the 2009 Des Moines Marathon. Really enjoyed that race. And yes, definitely not “gently rolling” hills, especially in the early going! Loved your story! Way to get it done on such short notice. That is awesome! :)

    • Thanks! Yes it was a great race, put on by a great group. I’m so glad I got it done in that way. Also: that Monday at work? Uh….yeah. I was not exactly productive ;) But it was worth it! Awesome that you did it in 2009!

  2. I have to admit, I sort of love that brief panic you get after completing a registration… Way to do it short notice! You rock! And to nonchalantly say, “Oh, I ran a marathon.” Way cool! ;) Can’t wait to hear about #5!!!


      I’m actually up for #13 this June – I totally forgot about this one till I went to print the pictures! SO grateful for my friend who was the perfect host :) :) :)

  3. I’m loving your reminiscing about your marathons completed!! That’s a hell of a drive to drive TO a marathon, but gawd I can’t imagine driving back home after that. This 50 states thing is quite the adventure!

    • Thanks! Doing this project with the pictures is bringing up fun memories :) I have to admit – the drive home was AWFUL. I kept stopping to get coffee and I remember pulling in to Sun Prairie at 2:00 a.m. And before going home, I pulled right into a McDonalds for a supersize order of fries.

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