With crowd’s support, he crosses the finish line

Stephen Ragalie stops for a photo with the Pep Band at Mile 17.

Stephen Ragalie stops for a photo with the Pep Band at Mile 17.

On Sunday, I had thousands of friends and family — it didn’t matter if we weren’t related.

Two million spectators cheered us maniacs on as we ran the Chicago Marathon.

I woke up bright and early to get to the train, just like a day of class. Only this time I was wearing shorts, my Runners’ Edge long-sleeved shirt with my number clipped to the back. It was about 36 degrees, and I drew some sideways glances from bundled-up passengers in winter coats and scarves.

I met several fellow runners on the train. We shared running stories, strolled up to the starting gate, wished each other the best of luck and separated. At the starting line, music was jamming, cameras were snapping and the man on the PA shouted “Only 26.2 miles to a cold beer,” and “You were crazy enough to come out here today, so you better finish.”

There was only room in my pockets for an energy bar, my iPod and some money for a cab in case I couldn’t finish.

Slowly, we moved out of the starting gate. I was back with the 10-minute-a mile runners. I tend to run a little faster, but my training this year was slack and that’s where I ended up.

I didn’t even feel the first four miles. I was swept along the human current. At the 10K mark someone next to me shouted, “Just three more of those — let’s go!” We were on the North Side, starting to head south. I rewarded myself with music for additional motivation.

My battery graced me with enough juice to make it through Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life” at Mile 12.

I was about halfway through the race and I had a couple of things to look forward to: the energy bar in my pocket, heading through UIC, Taylor Street, Pilsen and Chinatown, and hopefully the finish line.

I munched down the energy bar at Mile 16 and grabbed some Gatorade to wash it down. At Mile 17, I passed UIC and, out of breath, got a quick photo with the Pep Band.

There was still a long way to go.

Some of the signs and shouts from supporters helped me keep up my pace. My favorite sign came around Mile 20 while we were still heading south. It read, “Channel your inner Kenyan.” I tried.

Going through Chinatown, a cheering station blasted “Gangnam Style” by PSY as two kids danced to the song. I had to laugh.

Miles 20 through 26 were all mental. My body was ready to shut down. Once I rounded the final turn on Michigan Avenue and 35th, I knew I was in the home stretch.

It was incredible to see nearly every participant run the last two miles.

I got my beer at the finish and watched what looked like the walking dead cross the finish line.

When I finally made it home, I received my congratulations, took a long bath and slept.

UIC News intern Stephen Ragalie is a senior in English. This year’s race was his second Chicago Marathon.

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