Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Marathon gives us end & beginning

Only in Chicago could this unique pairing occur.

I wasn’t planning to write a word about the Chicago Marathon. The annual event brings athletes, fitness-aware people and those with nothing else to do on a Sunday morning, to our city every year.

IT ALSO MANAGES to generate some national athletic attention, because there usually are some serious runners who aren’t kidding themselves by participating in such an event (one that I doubt I could complete – unless you don’t mind seeing me straggling across the finish line some nine hours after the event began and long after everybody else has gone home.

But this year, the Chicago Marathon was literally the scene of both life and death.

One of the event’s participants was using his running as a stunt that would help raise money for burn victims.

But William Caviness came up short about 500 yards from the finish line, collapsing and ultimately dying at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center.

THE 35-YEAR-old Caviness had actually run marathons before and was a firefighter who actually kept in good physical shape. So “disbelief” were among the words expressed by people who knew Caviness when they learned he had died during the event.

There is one plus from Caviness’ appearance. He was trying to inspire people to give money to the International Association of Firefighters’ Burn Foundation, had $2,000 in pledges before his run, and people were donating money during his run.

After his participation ended, people began making contributions in significant totals – far exceeding his intended goals. Not that the loss of a human life is justified by money, but at least someone will benefit.

Yet it’s hard to think of the 2011 marathon as having a pall cast over it by Caviness’ death.

FOR THE MARATHON also literally saw the creation of a life. (And no, I don’t mean a couple slipping off somewhere private for some intimate activity).

Amber Miller ran the marathon on Sunday with her doctor’s permission, even though she was 39 weeks pregnant and was expecting to actually give birth to her new child sometime this week.

The “sometime” came on Sunday, literally as Miller was approaching the finish line. For her, the end of the race was an experience of contractions as she suddenly had to reduce herself to a walk.

Once she finished, she turned her focus to the baby – although as it turned out, labor took so long in her case that she actually was able to eat something between finishing the marathon and giving birth to her daughter at Central DuPage Hospital.

THE WORLD NOW has June Miller. Born Oct. 9, 2011 at 10:29 p.m., and weighing in at 7 pounds, 13 ounces. Which may turn out to be one of the Chicago Marathon’s most heartwarming stories.

And the karmic portion of my personality wants to think there is some justice in the idea of the marathon helping to give us a life, in light of the fact that it also saw the loss of a life.

Out goes Caviness. May he Rest In Peace.

But in comes baby Miller. May she have a long, and worthy life; one that will be made all the more interesting by her future ability to tell an interesting tale of the circumstances under which she sprang to life.

AND LET’S ALSO hope the Burn Foundation is able to put the money they received in pledges on Sunday (in excess of $3,000, according to the Chicago Tribune) to some good use. I would think that Caviness’ memory makes that a requirement.

For such a worthy cause certainly makes it hard to view this year as a morbid event that caused a man to run until he dropped.


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