Fremd teachers compete in Chicago Marathon

Rita Jeptoo of Kenya defends the woman's title with a time of 2:24:35. Photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune.

Emily Yin

Watching runners of all ages and skills take their places at the starting line of the Chicago Marathon was an inspiring moment for band director Jeremiah Figlewicz as he prepared for the race Sunday.

“It was really cool to see, especially during my second marathon, people you could tell were doing their first one,” Figlewicz said. “When you cross the starting line, there’s a lot of energy. Everyone’s finally starting what they’ve been preparing for.”

More than 41,000 people participated in the marathon, with Figlewicz and math teacher Kelly Barrett among them.  The cool and sunny weather offered ideal running conditions, and fewer runners were hospitalized than in past years, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Barrett was a first-time runner in the marathon. She enjoyed the experience, despite injuring her foot while training.

“The marathon was a lot of fun,” Barrett said. “I was so nervous though that I might have to drop out because of my foot. But when I was actually there and surrounded by people who were in the same boat, I felt very comfortable, and my foot didn’t hurt at all.”

Both Figlewicz and Barrett began training over the summer. Barrett took part in a group program in Chicago, while Figlewicz followed guides from magazines and books.

Freshman Luke Dinterman admires the teachers for their dedication.

“I respect Ms. Barrett and Mr. Fig for leading such well-rounded lives, preparing for a marathon on top of their other activities,” Dinterman said.

Barrett coaches the girls cross country team after school, and she hopes that her training for the marathon has inspired student runners to strive for their own goals.

“The girls in cross country who graduated last year emailed me to tell me good luck, and a couple of them said that they wanted to do a marathon too,” Barrett said. “I think it’s fun for them to see their coaches trying to reach for personal goals.”

Figlewicz admits that making time to train was difficult for him.

“A lot of these runners run everyday for miles, and I don’t have that much time,” Figlewicz said. “So I bought a book called “Run Less Run Faster”, which was really cool because as part of the program I could do little workouts in my house on some days instead of running.”

Junior Jennifer Brand believes that Figlewicz’s determination stems from his experience as a musician.

“He used to be in Drum Corps, so I guess he has the persistence to run marathons,” Brand said. “It’s pretty cool that he ran his second marathon. I wouldn’t be able to run one.”

Figlewicz and Barrett both enjoyed the scenery of the course, which ran along the lakefront and through cultural centers of Chicago such as Wrigleyville, Streeterville, Greektown, and Little Italy. As the runners ran through neighborhoods, the marathon took on the feel of a block party, with supporters handing out food and drinks and celebrating on the sidelines.

Figlewicz regards the atmosphere the spectators brought to the marathon as a major encouragement to the runners.

“It was a big party everywhere,” Figlewicz said. “When we ran through Chinatown there was lion dancing and traditional drumming, in Pilsen there were mariachi bands, and we ran by a gym they were playing the “Rocky” theme song. There was never a moment when there was nobody on the course, nobody cheering for you.”

Among the thousands of spectators was science teacher Brad Graba, who went with his sons to support his wife. He echoes Figlewicz’s view, saying that the enthusiasm of the spectators was remarkable.

“Most of the spectators were there to support friends or family, but that didn’t stop everyone from cheering on all the runners,” Graba said. “It was really neat to see that.”

Figlewicz accomplished his goal of running a time under 3 ½ hours. He is pleased that his training paid off.

“It was a big accomplishment for me because I came in seven minutes under my goal, and I didn’t think I could do that,” Figlewicz said. “I was able to stay consistent and keep my target pace the entire time.”

After running the marathon, Barrett more deeply empathizes with the victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

“I can’t imagine what the people went through who had that happen to them right at the end of the race,” Barrett said. “Especially with the feeling you get when you’re about to finish-to have that happen to you-it made me feel for what happened even more so that before.”

She also feels more connected to the people of Chicago.

“I finished next to a girl who just started crying because she felt emotional,” Barrett said.  “And even though she was a complete stranger, we hugged each other. I feel like the city just comes together during the marathon.”