UIC marathoners stay the course

Ryan Muench runs the marathon

Ryan Muench fininshed the marathon in 3 hours and 31 minutes.

After the Chicago Marathon Sunday, Ryan Muench has some serious bragging rights.

He finished the 26.2-mile race in about 3 hours and 31 minutes — placing 242 in the 20-to-24-year-old category and finishing 3,630 out of all male runners.

“It was pretty amazing to see those results,” said Muench, a junior in biology and psychology. “I felt great during the race. Everything was perfect — the weather, the atmosphere and the support.”

Muench was among UIC students and employees who raced across the city during the Bank of America-sponsored marathon Sunday.

Supporters — including the UIC Pep Band, cheer and dance squads, softball team and student groups — gathered outside Student Center East to cheer on the runners.

Muench cut 33 minutes off last year’s time and met his goal of finishing the entire course without slowing to a walk.

“Crossing the finish line after all the hard work put into it makes some sense out of all the countless hours training, and it is completely worth it,” he said.

UIC students and employees after the Chicago Marathon

Top row: Suzanne Podleyon, Michael Kowalczyk and Beth Blackwell. Bottom row: ENT teammates Rakhi Thambi, Bennett Barch and Corlyne Mulder, and Tom Cooley.

Nearly 200 people joined Cellmates on the Run, a team organized by José Oberholzer, chief of transplant surgery. The group raised more than $165,000 for the Chicago Diabetes Project, which is working to develop a functional cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Oberholzer’s team included Ande Croll, who is on a waiting list at the UI Hospital for an islet transplant after being diagnosed with diabetes 16 years ago. She finished her 13th Chicago Marathon in 3 hours and 56 minutes.

“I definitely ran a lot of the race in my own head,” said Croll, a 2002 UIUC graduate in mechanical engineering.

“I did what I wanted to do: kept running the whole time — more often than not with a smile on my face — and finished under 4 hours.”

Beth Blackwell ran her ninth marathon Sunday as part of a team of employees from the department of otolaryngology – head and neck surgery. The group raised more than $7,600 to help two organizations, the One Voice Fund, which provides devices that help cancer patients speak again, and Now Hear This! Fund, which provides transportation and education support for pediatric patients with hearing loss.

Blackwell and her husband, Mark, both crossed the finish line after 5 hours and 15 minutes.

“We didn’t have a time goal in mind — we just told ourselves we wanted to finish and that kept us very relaxed,” said Blackwell, residency coordinator in otolaryngology.

At 52, Blackwell thinks she might retire from running marathons, but never say never, she said.

“It’s kind of crazy and training dominates your life for a while,” she said. “I’m glad I’ve done it several times. I’ve said ‘not again,’ but maybe when I turn 60 I’ll want to do something that amazes me.”

Suzanne Podleyon, who finished her first marathon in 4 hours and 53 minutes, plans to run again next year.

2012 Chicago Marathon

Some of the nearly 39,000 competitors in the 2012 Bank of American Chicago Marathon pass by campus. Photo: Joshua Clark/UIC Photo Services

“It was absolutely just the most inspiring, incredible feeling to run,” said Podleyon, a senior in nutrition and senior resident adviser for Polk Street Residence Hall-Student Residence Hall.

“I had my name on my shirt and it was so cool to have hundreds of random people screaming my name.”
She raised more than $1,100 for the American Cancer Society in honor of her mom, a survivor of thyroid cancer, and dad, a survivor of prostate cancer.

“My parents were really proud of me,” she said.

Michael Kowalczyk was fueled to the finish line by the cheering spectators. He finished the race in 5 hours and 5 minutes.

“I’m not sure how people would ever run that distance without all of those people cheering you on,” said Kowalczyk, resident director for guest services and marketing in Campus Housing.

“It was a great experience; everyone should try it once.”

Tom Cooley found his first marathon grueling. Running with the National MS Foundation on behalf of his dad, he finished in 6 hours and 34 minutes.

“It was very difficult; I hit a wall a lot sooner than I wanted to,” said Cooley, associate director for administration in Campus Housing. “Miles 22 through 24 were probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.”

All the work he put into training — logging more than 200 miles — inspired him to keep going.

“I didn’t want to let anybody down,” he said. “I didn’t want to look back on it and think I did all that for nothing.”

Still, Cooley said Sunday’s marathon was his first and last.

“When I crossed the finish line, it reaffirmed that I would never want to do that again,” he said. “It’s just too long.

“But it’s something I can say I’ve done and be proud of the rest of my life.”

Read about UIC News intern Stephen Ragalie’s marathon experience.

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