Tuesday, August 12, 2014

9th Event of 2014...Rock 'n' Roll Chicago Half Marathon

A Full Slate in the Windy City: Rock 'n' Roll, Allard, Project Onward & More

Wednesday, July 16th:

Another full day of work in NC before hopping an evening flight to Chicago, where I arrived to beautifully cool weather and the last remnants of daylight. When I left NC it was humid and 90 degrees so I was determined to leave the hotel and enjoy a chilly walk downtown before bedtime.

Crisp, cool air in the middle of summer--woo hoo!
One of the things I love about Chicago is the public art on display throughout the city. I usually get to Chicago 2 or 3 times a year and it seems I'm always discovering something new. This time I was greeted by Jaume Plensa's newest installation as I stepped out of the hotel and looked out over Millennium Park:

The first of 4 sculptures to be installed as part of
Plensa's "1004 Portraits".
For such a massive sculpture I was amazed by "her" serenity, she seems to radiate a sense of calm and peace even amid all the hustle and bustle in the heart of the city.

I learned that this sculpture is the tallest of the 4 planned, rising to 38 feet. Girl Number One, or the "Looking into My Dreams, Awilda", welcomes visitors into the park at the intersection of Michigan Avenue and Madison street. For more information on the completion of this project, here's a link for you: 

The first item on my agenda tonight was getting a bite to eat. In my haste to catch our flight I accidentally left the dinner I had packed for Jim and myself on the kitchen counter so we headed out in search of a local eatery. Beneath festive lighting we discovered the Park Grill, an outdoor cafe in Millennium Park adjacent to Michigan Avenue--just what the doctor ordered!


We ordered the heirloom tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad
for a fresh taste of summer...

...along with homemade tortilla chips topped with a Mexican
salad and served with Guacamole--yum!
Our light dinner was perfect but even though I was in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt I was shivering. Poor Jim was in shorts so he was worse off than I but neither of us could bring ourselves to complain. There was an unusual summer cold front gracing Chicago this week--we were just hoping it would hang on long enough for the Half Marathon on Sunday! Instead of lingering over our supper we resumed our walk hoping the exercise would warm us up. As a life-long southerner, Jim doesn't "do cold" well and with these temps in the low 50's he needed to get moving.

That's when we discovered the Crown Fountain, mere steps away from the Park Grill though somehow I missed it as we walked down Michigan Ave:

This sculpture is another of Plensa's work and although it's been here since 2004 this is the first time I've taken time to enjoy it. Crown Fountain consists of a black granite reflecting pool placed between a pair of glass brick towers with dual LED displays. The LED displays are of faces randomly generated and at the end of each person's video clip, water pours from their lips and into the reflecting pool. I read that hundreds of resident Chicagoans volunteered to sit for cameras and perform this "scripted" series of facial expressions...and they never know when their clip will run.

Kids were playing in the water every time I walked by
Crown Fountain, which runs "weather permitting" from
May to October every year.

For more information, here's a link:

As light was fading fast we continued our walk back towards our hotel. Walking south in the park we found another new installation which opened last August. This one is called Borders by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir and features 26 life-sized human forms cast in aluminum and cast iron.

Jim's thinking "I really hope Beth knows that I'm freezing
and that I'd rather be back at the hotel than posing for
her silly photos."
Now he's thinking "Well, if I must indulge Beth at least I
can catch a few ZZZZ's in the process. Wake me up when
I can go back to get warm."

Here's a link to more information about this exhibit and the artist:


And here's a link to some fun photos I found online:


Thursday, July 17:

Today it was an early start--I was getting picked up at 7:00am so I was up at 5:00am getting breakfast and completing about an hour of work on my computer. Unfortunately I don't have many photos from today as I was traveling with Allard District Manager, Jim King to visit O&P (Orthotist & Prosthetist) facilities, rehab centers and physical therapy clinics from sunrise to 5pm. If that wasn't a long enough plan for our day, we capped it off with a 4-hour gait course which ended at 10pm. By the time we made our way back to downtown it was 11pm--poor Jim, he had to put up with me for 16 hours today! (For the record, any time I mention Jim today I am referring to Jim King...gotta keep my Jim's straight this week.)

I don't have photos because we were traveling to facilities where they were actively treating patients and privacy protection was imperative. Basically, I followed along with Jim as he made the calls he scheduled while working the Chicago area this week. I was eager to unveil our new "Join the Movement" TeamUP campaign at these facilities--hoping that they would then share our online support community with their patients--but ultimately the priority was Jim's agenda for each visit. Not only does Jim introduce Allard's newest products and services but he spends a lot of his time providing more accurate, detailed information regarding the Allard flagship product, the ToeOFF.

While I've discovered that many professionals have a thorough understanding of when, where and why a ToeOFF would be optimal for a patient there are still so many people who've had limited experience with the "dynamic floor-reaction" AFO's (ankle-foot orthosis) like the ToeOFF and still have so many questions. These types of AFOs have been around for over 10 years and yet they're still among the newest technological advancements available. As such, orthotists who've been custom-molding plastic AFOs for decades are understandably skeptical about this type of "off the shelf" option so they really need to see it for themselves, whether from Allard's educational videos and courses or by trying them on their current patients. The beautiful thing about the ToeOFF family of products is that they come with a 30-day trial: after trimming, fitting and customizing the brace each patient has 30 days to determine whether it's their best option. If the patient or orthotist decides for any reason that a ToeOFF product isn't optimal, they may return it to Allard for total reimbursement.

I'm beginning to sound like a salesperson for Allard which is not my intention. However, I am deeply invested on a personal level when it comes to the ToeOFF because it completely changed my life. It pains me to meet professionals in this field who refuse to consider the ToeOFF for a patient without truly understanding its potential. Even more frustrating for me is to meet professionals who do believe the brace is the best option but due to our maddening insurance system it is just easier for them to provide (and get paid for) a lesser-quality option. Don't get me wrong--the ToeOFF products don't work for everyone and the orthotist is really the best-qualified person to make this decision. The majority of orthotists I meet are compassionate souls and brilliant "tinkerers" with consummate knowledge of gait and biomechanics. These are the people I place total trust in when it comes to living with foot drop and what can be done about it. Without laying blame I still feel compelled to speak the painful truth that not every professional I've met meets the standard of care I would desire for myself, for my child or for my parent.


I could go on and on about this topic but it's extremely complicated and there are so many factors and players involved. For one person with foot drop to get a brace, here are all the people other than the patient who will affect the decision: Physician, Physical Therapist, Orthotist, Insurance Provider, Brace Manufacturer, FDA and Federal- and State-licensure boards. Rarely do ANY of these entities work together, much less ALL of them. Now can you understand how complicated this becomes?!

I'm getting myself all worked up so I will end the discussion with what I've learned in my experiences these last 3 years: The O & P industry is experiencing one of the most turbulent and challenging times in its history, with an unprecedented number of hoops an Orthotist has to jump through to provide the best standard of care. Despite this, patients all over the US are getting their lives back thanks to the most dedicated, creative and caring professionals out there... and here are 3 whom I met today:
Thank you, Bob, Matthew and Margaret for the
amazing work you do. It was such a pleasure to
meet you...I would put myself in your care without
one second of hesitation, your patients are so fortunate
to have you in their corner!
The trio pictured above works for Scheck & Siress in the Hickory Hills, IL office and were one of about 8 facilities we visited before our 4-hour Gait Course in Lombard, IL. This Gait Course is one of many educational offerings from AllardUSA and is designed to disseminate valuable information in regards to the biomechanics of walking with mobility impairments. It is also intended to provide required CEU credits (Continuing Education Units) for Orthotists and Physical Therapists so it has a dual purpose. I've been to many of these courses as a guest of Allard over the years and despite this I always learn something new. Here's the description from the Allard course catalog about tonight's agenda:

New Perspectives in Functional Gait Biomechanics (Adult gait)
This course covers the medical evidence relating to gait function and dysfunction. Expanding beyond just managing footdrop, the presentation discusses the other functional deficits and related compensatory mechanisms associated with neuro-involved gait. We will review closed chain functional biomechanics, and how that event triggers the proprioceptive event, and how that triggers muscles to function. Orthotic intervention is presented to address all the functional deficits to allow for a more complete restoration of gait as opposed to just picking the foot up during swing.

This particular course was designed for Physical Therapists but a few attendees were Orthotists, including Dan Kopolow of Innovative Bracing in Urbana, IL. Dan introduced himself to me at the sign-in table and told me that he heard I might be at this course and hoped to have the chance to speak with me--he drove 2 hours to attend.

Dan proceeded to remind me of our very first meeting, which was years ago when I had only had my ToeOFF for about 6 months. (Please keep in mind that I had been wearing the "best custom-molded plastic AFO" for 2 years before getting the Allard brace, which meant that my quality of life had been deteriorating all that time. 6 months into wearing Allard's brace I was miraculously running marathons again, my depression all but disappeared and I rejoined the circle of my athletic friends once again.) So, when Dan and I met at that year's annual AOPA meeting (the national conference for the O&P industry) he told me that it went something like this: Dan was speaking with the Allard education director, Bob Meier, CO, at the Allard booth while I was standing nearby as a guest. He was telling Bob that he was highly skeptical of the ToeOFF and harshly critical of the manufacturer's claims and wouldn't use it on his patients. That's when Bob introduced me to Dan and asked that I share my story with him, something I had been doing over and over that weekend and each time the emotions were still raw.

I must admit that I didn't remember Dan's face because that meeting was a whirlwind for me, but I do remember hundreds of encounters just as he'd described this one. As it was with all of the orthotists I spoke with during that emotionally-exhausting trip I'm sure I couldn't tell if Dan's mind could be changed or not. When I left AOPA I vowed never to appear at one of these meetings again, I felt beat up having to defend not only the ToeOFF but also my own diagnosis because person after person had to prove for themselves that my peroneal nerve was indeed dead and that I truly did have foot drop. This bordered on humiliating.

Well, fast-forward now to tonight: Dan told me that I had helped in opening his eyes that day and thus he opened his mind to this technology. Now he includes all Allard products in addition to his custom options and he's changing lives because of it. Not only is he more successful but he believes he has a happier patient-base and he actually told me tonight that he's hoping to be a consultant to educate other orthotists on Allard's behalf.

I'm sorry to have spent so much time on this, but Dan Kopolow really made my entire week. Despite my early misgivings regarding putting myself on "public display" I continue to do so because of the potential to reach people like Dan who have the power to give people their life back. That being said, I don't always know if this effort is worthwhile because I rarely know who actually gets helped by this campaign. So thank you, Dan for validating my efforts tonight. I now know that your patients--and hopefully hundreds more across the country--are being informed of all the options available to those of us with mobility issues.

And thanks go out to you, Jim King, everyone at Allard, all the professionals out there making a difference for people like me and finally, thank you to all the "people like me" who are refusing to let foot drop rob you of your quality of life.

Friday, July 18th:

After our 16-hour day yesterday I was happy to learn that our first appointment today isn't until 11am, so I had time to go out for a run. Jim Austin had his first appointment at 8:30am so we got out early for a sunrise run in PERFECT weather.

Hello, Chicago! Enjoying my time beside the Buckingham Fountain
before the rest of Chicago's visitors wake up.
Cool, calm morning along Lake Michigan.

I love the sunrises over Lake Michigan.
"It is not just a desire to win which impels yachtsmen to undergo the hardships of the long race, but it is something far greater -- possibly the modern reflection of the ancient love of the art of seafaring, the rigorous discipline, the peerless craftsmanship, the full life that comes to the sailor and no other, and the opportunity to match skills with other men, other ships." 
There Will Always Be a Mackinac --D.F. Prather, 1925

Along the run this morning we ran by the Chicago Yacht Club Marina where I kept seeing shirts and flags celebrating the Race to Mackinac. This race is the longest annual freshwater sailing race in the world and I found out that it's being run this weekend! Oh how I wish I could watch, or better yet, be on board. I spent many summers as a child going over the Mackinac Bridge as we went between Upper and Lower Michigan to visit relatives...though we were always in a car, not on one of these sailboats.

For more about the Race to Mackinac, check out the official site:

Leaving the lakeshore path to run west along
the Chicago River.
A shout-out to my cousins, aunts, uncles and the rest of my
mother's side of the family!

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

A closer view of the pavilion.
Next it was a run to, through and around The Art Institute of Chicago. I don't know how long this bridge has been here but this is the first time I ran along it:

As we were heading back through the park we decided to scope out the Start Line area for Sunday's Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. As we made our way there, lo-and-behold we stumbled upon our beloved Jim Campbell! (I told you I needed to keep my Jims straight this week)

Fellow Gypsy and friend, Jim Campbell, who runs the sound
and lighting for the RnR race series.

The Jim Triumverate. Yes, I'm a "Jim" too...
my family and friends know this story.
With the run completed it was back to the hotel where I received a package from Allard, arriving just in time for today's presentation at Northwestern University in 2 hours. Here's what I got:

Hot off the presses:
Join The Movement/GetBackUPToday.com handouts,
GetBackUPToday stickers and TeamUP bracelets

Now I can really show off my ToeOFF!

Jim King was right on time and off we went to Northwestern University for our tag-team presentation. I knew today was just going to get better when I climbed into his SUV to the overpowering aroma of freshly-baked cookies! Jim stopped by a local bakery to get plenty of huge, warm cookies for the staff and students we were going to meet today... I hope there are some left over for me.
Officially, we were headed to Northwestern's School of Medicine, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation: Prosthetics-Orthotics Center where we were greeted by Kristen Vendeville:

Because she was so gracious to have us here today we'll forgive
her for the Ossur shirt. Kidding of course, Ossur helps so many
people with their orthoses and prosthetics but they also happen
to be a competitor of Allard. Thank you, Kristen, for a great day
here at Northwestern!
Before Jim presented his mini-course I was given about 30 minutes to tell my personal story and also to introduce the group to our Get Back UP Today campaign. Despite the hundreds of times I've told my story I still get choked up when I recall the day I broke down in uncontrollable sobs in front of my sister, and then seeing her burst into tears because she was unable to "fix me".  

For those of you who are regular readers this may be the 2nd or 3rd time you've heard this but that day was a game changer for me. It was only then that I fully realized, as I watched a pair of runners cruise by me without returning my wave, that my identity was slowly seeping away. I was no longer a runner, much less a Boston Marathoner. With my AFO and my awkward walk I wasn't even seen as an athlete--something I had self-identified with since I was a kid. I had become depressed without even seeing it coming. Not only did this realization hit me like a ton of bricks, it was only that day when I also realized how much pain my family was in. They felt so sad for me and were helpless to do anything about it. In that moment I vowed to find a way to run again and thus began the search that took over a year before I finally found Allard USA. 

The rest, as they say, was history.  I finished by telling the students that the best part of this story is that my sister no longer has to worry about me. Thanks to the technology of Allard's ToeOFF, I have my life back, I've run the Boston Marathon 3 more times with foot drop and by sharing my story I am now helping other people achieve the same success.

Jim followed my talk by providing a mini-version of 
the Allard Gait Course geared towards students. The 
medical students we spoke with today are all in the midst
of their Orthopedic rotation so our visit was perfectly timed.

Prosthetic limbs line the halls...

...and here's some sort of Hip/Knee/Ankle/Foot
orthosis with the plastic AFO's that I used to wear.
I don't miss them one bit.
When we left Northwestern I went back to the hotel and awaited news from our PR team about possible media. Jim King had other business to attend to so we parted ways until race day. I then got a call from Jim Austin that he'd be working late as well so I hunkered down for the rest of the evening  and got caught up on my work.

Saturday, July 19th:

Although I won't be traveling with Jim King today I still have a busy day ahead. First on the agenda, Jim Austin and I rent some bikes to head to the Expo to pick up our race gear.

A sight for sore eyes! And this is the last time I'll
see Emily as a single lady--she's getting married in
3 weeks. Hearts are breaking all over the US
(except for Kyle's, of course)

Always wonderful to see another fellow Gypsy
and friend, Dorcas White.

New to me until 2 years ago I now wonder how I ever
survived without rental bikes! Thanks to people like
Dick Kutz for starting B-Cycle (was Denver the first?) and other bike-
rental companies it has become quite easy, economical,
ecological and fun to navigate cities all across the US.

Looking back towards downtown from McCormick Place
where the race Expo is held every year. It would've been a
long walk or public transit without Divvy Bikes.
From the Expo we had to make a plan that still included a lot of unknowns. We were expected to be at a museum unveiling of a Gypsy-runner's long-planned promotion, one in which we were invited to participate. However I was also tied to being on call for potential media and thus I couldn't stray too far from the Expo or city center. The aforementioned Rock'n'Roll Gypsy is George Melichar and he assured me that if I have to miss the unveiling I will still be included in the race day "Mystery Event"...but he also expressed his desire for Jim and I to be present at the unveiling if at all possible.

We made the decision to grab a late lunch while we contemplated our options:

I had a so-so grilled wahoo sandwich at a so-so pub,
of which I totally forgot the name.

With an update from my PR team I learned that any media ops likely wouldn't happen until race day. With that info, Jim and I decided to keep our Divvy Bikes and pedal on over to the museum. We were already 2 miles in that direction anyway (away from our hotel) so it made sense to just keep going. The only problems were 1) hauling our race gear along with us and 2) not knowing where the closest Divvy Bike station was to the museum. We checked our Divvy app to learn that we would have about a 5-block walk from a Divvy stop to the museum after a 4-mile bike ride. Had we known in advance what the route looked like we may have opted for a taxi instead, we went through some very sketchy neighborhoods but arrived safely and intact:

Bridgeport Art Center
1200 W. 35th Street, 4th Floor
Chicago, IL 60609

Other than the address of this event we had no idea what we were in for. All we knew is that our good friend and fellow gypsy-runner, George Melichar, had invited us and 9 others to help him with his mystery project. We were delighted to finally learn what Geo had been planning for almost a year.

Upon meeting the founders of Project Onward last year George vowed to help raise awareness for them during his next stop in Chicago. That "next stop" turned out to be this weekend, for the Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon, so Geo planned his mystery event around the race. Here's what we learned about Project Onward:

Project Onward is a nonprofit studio and gallery for professional artists with mental and developmental disabilities.

Project Onward supports the professional development of artists with exceptional talents and challenges, ranging from autism to mental illness, and provides these artists with workspace, materials, professional guidance, exhibition opportunities and access to markets to sell their work and advance their careers.
Project Onward serves over 45 artists, each with unique creative styles and facing diverse challenges, from autism to mental illness. All artists pass through a competitive selection process that evaluates their artistic talent, potential for creative growth and desire to advance as a professional artist before joining Project Onward. Member artists range in age from early-20s to early-70s and represent over 30 Chicago neighborhoods and several suburbs.

 To learn more about this inspiring community please visit this link:

Now here is what we learned from George about his mysterious (and brilliant) event:

Moving Art Museum at Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon

July 20 @ 6:30 am - 10:00 am

Bill Douglas. George Melichar Shirt FrontKeep your eyes peeled for Project Onward at this year’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicago Half Marathon!  The Project Onward Moving Art Museum by George Melichar will feature ten runners wearing race shirts, sewn by athlete and fashion designer George Melichar, in collaboration with nine Project Onward artists who will each paint one of these "blank canvasses" for George's fellow runners.  Throughout the 13.1 mile race, this 10-person Moving Art Museum will create an entirely new interactive art experience that infuses this year’s half marathon with an exciting cultural element.
The Moving Art Museum was borne out of a partnership between Melichar and Project Onward artist Adam Hines in April 2013, when Melichar used Hines’ original work to create a colorful custom race shirt for the 2013 Chicago Marathon.  The success of this collaboration inspired Melichar to expand the partnership to a full museum collection involving original work by Hines and eight other Project Onward artists.  Their designs celebrate the event’s central themes – music and movement – by incorporating musical motifs and elements inspired by the race’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ connection and Melichar’s passion for New Orleans, Louisiana – one of America’s foremost music cities. Each of the shirts will be hand-painted according to the 9 artists' personal inspiration, design and style choices.  

Wow--what a wonderful event to have been exclusively invited to! Our RnR Gypsy friends never cease to amaze me in their commitment to community, their generosity of spirit and the enormous charitable investments of their time and energy. George has shown his dedication to these values for years and I was so honored and grateful to have been included in such great company of artists and runners. As mentioned above, George designed the shape and patchwork of the shirts and personally sewed each one. He used white t-shirt fabric remnants and kept all seams on the outside so as not to chafe runners (I think he has YEARS of experience from his many, many marathons!) Once the shirts were completed he shipped them to the Bridgeport Art Center where he handed them over to the artists. He gave them carte blanche and eagerly awaited the results. I believe you'll agree that the resulting artwork was stunning:

Included in our gallery reception was a pre-race
pasta dinner for runners, artists and their guests.
George, you thought of everything!

At the reception desk in the gallery you will
find free handouts featuring the artist & their
work on one side and Project Onward info
on the flip-side. 

The artist responsible for this masterpiece is Pedro Basantes,
who was not in attendance during the reception. Next time
I'm in Chicago I'd really love to meet him.

Another of Pedro's works-in-progress.

These 3-D pieces were sculpted and painted by
Ricky Willis. I bought this cardboard arrow in
hopes of using it throughout our Moving Art Museum
during the Half Marathon on Sunday.
This is work by Moe Mansur.

We run right by the iconic Chicago Theatre
in our race. I decided to purchase this piece as a
beautiful reminder of this whole experience.

Thank you, Moe Mansur, for allowing your
artistry to shine in our NC home.

Once we'd all had time to eat and to tour the studio spaces of each artist it was time for George to pair the artists with the runners.

My artist was Jacqueline Cousins: soft-spoken, quietly fierce, petite, armed with an infectious smile, artistically inspired by the power & grace of 'women warriors'.

Jackie presents her shirt to me. I will will wear it with
great pride!

Jackie had her original sketches and
final mock-ups pinned to a board in her
studio space.

For a great slide show on Jackie's entire "Moving Art Museum" experience, please visit her blog entry on August 3rd, via the link below. She uses photos to take you through the design and execution of her shirt as well as to detail her experiences during the opening reception and race day. (Note: once the video of the runners crossing the finish line starts, you can skip to the 10:39 mark without missing much)

For more information about Jackie and her art, you will find her short bio and social media links here:

Please stop by her sites for a "cyber visit" and tell her I said hello!!  :-)

Jim's artist was Ricky Willis, a very outgoing
and hilarious man, they hit it off right away.
( I apologize for the quality of the photo
 but the lighting was terrible for crowd shots.)
When the last of the shirts were presented Jim and I took the opportunity for one last round of shopping before heading back on our bikes to the hotel.

We bought an incredible ink & gouache 
work from this artist, Andrew Hall. 
(See next photo for a close-up)

This is a photo-enlargement of the piece we
bought, which doesn't do it justice compared
to what it looks like up-close and in-person.
 The true precision of the details are lost in this
iPhone enlargement version.

Here is another example of Andrew's talents but again,
you really need to see his work in person to appreciate
the enormity of his talents.
Before I leave the topic of Project Onward, I strongly encourage you to visit this page to learn more about these artists and their work:

Jim and I biked the four precarious miles back to the McCormick Place neighborhood, not-so-expertly balancing our race gear packets and our newly purchased artwork through heavy traffic. We arrived just in time to meet the Divvy bike check-in deadline, which is every 30 minutes if you are actively riding around. Happily there was a restaurant adjacent to this station. We took a quick break there before checking the bikes back out again for the 2-mile trek to the hotel.

By this time, the pre-race pasta party at Bridgeport
was 2 hours in our rear-view window. We weren't hungry
enough for a full meal but we knew that we needed
something more before bedtime. This restaurant
provided the perfect light bites. I had olives...

...Jim had selected exotic meats...

...and we both shared an assortment of
gourmet cheese.

"Say 'Cheese'"!
The name of the restaurant was Square One, a great place to go for half-price appetizers if you're there early enough: http://www.squareonechicago.com

Sunday, July 20th: RACE DAY!

A shout-out to my younger sister, Becky, whose birthday it is today. Happy Birthday, sis! I love you and hope you are having fun in Quebec.

Whew, what a busy few days. I was up late last night making my sign and jotting my notes so I wouldn't forget what transpired throughout the trip thus far. The race start is always 6:30am for the Chicago Rock 'n' Roll race so we were up at 4:45am and down in the Start Line Village by 5:30am. Jim King was already there and awaiting us at VIP.

Roger Craig of San Francisco 49'ers fame was
showing his support for our work and our mission.

Jim Austin, Jim King an I are enjoying another
beautiful day in the (not-so-windy) city.

The Moving Art Museum runners are
beginning to arrive.

George helps pin my shirt to make it
more comfy to run in. How "fitting"!

The Moving Art Museum runners pose in front of the Chicago skyline.
Back row: Brian, Michael, Jim, Ron, Amber and John
Middle row: me, Michelle, Susan
Front row: George
I'm breaking for a second to invite you to read the Carinos' account of this unique experience.  Their joint blog, "Hooked On Marathoning", has become one of my favorite runner-reads. Within this entry you will also find links to George's, Brian's and Michael's blogs so it's quite comprehensive...please read it--it's way better than mine!


If you did read it you will see that some of the following photos are duplicates. There's a good reason for that since we all tried to share our photos with each other. There are many new ones below but I want to leave the duplicates posted here for those who don't choose to visit other sites:

The officials with the Rock 'n' Roll race series allowed us to pose
in front of the starting line just before the gun went off. You wouldn't
know it but here we are staring back at, literally, thousands of runners ready
to race to the finish.

Although we are sharing our voices with Project Onward
today, we carry with us our TeamUP mission to support
those living with mobility issues due to conditions like these:
 CMT (Charcot-Marie-Tooth), MS (Multiple Sclerosis),
Stroke, TBI (traumatic braininjury), MD (Muscular Dystrophy),
SCI (Spinal Cord injury),Diabetes, Cerebral Palsy, Neuropathy, Cancer and more.

Jim is never alone! He runs with Carter everywhere he goes.

This is for our new friend and artist, Moe Mansur!

Michael and Mindy do handstands while eating donuts.

Thanks to Ricky Willis for his arrow art!

Jim King was hopping all over the course to cheer us on
and spread the GetBackUP message. Thanks for the support!

Jim King apparently didn't get the "crazy shirt" memo.

Silly rabbits.

Taking another break from running for a short workout.

As the Sesame Street song goes, "One of these things is not like the other".
In this case I'd love to hear which one that is.

"Look, Ma, no hands!"
(Mindy's one-hand impressed me the most.)

Susan's making sure everyone's in proper form.

Did I mention there was a Half Marathon in Chicago today?
It's a beautiful day to Rock 'n' Roll!

We took a break at mile 9 to form a Moving Art Museum Pyramid.
Okay, our geometry might be off but after 9 miles we felt proud of this effort.

Somewhere before the mile 10 marker Ron and Susan spot an
old friend cheering for the runners. What a small world.

More pushups while we wait for the rest of our team.

John helps George with his knee raises?

One mile to go and we're all here...except Michael. When
he catches up (he's literally carrying a runner on his back now)
we'll run the final mile as one.

In case you opted out of linking to Hooked On Marathoning, here's your second chance:


Jim King had his first Rock 'n Roll TeamUP experience today.
Next year he's going to be running in this race! Thank you, Jim,
for the work you do every day--you're making a big difference
in people's lives and this week I saw that with my own eyes.

I love you, George. Thank you for being you and for
taking me along for the ride.

Thanks also to you, Jackie--it was truly an honor to
share your artwork with the City of Chicago today.
What a talented woman you are!

This is the last time we'll wear these works of art. They will be put on
exhibit (after a thorough washing of course!) along with the race bibs
from each of today's Moving Art Museum runners.

For those who know me well, I'm sure you let out a collective
gasp when you heard I'm donating my bib to the cause. To this
day I have EVERY race bib I've ever worn--from 5K's to Marathons
to Triathlons--which total into the hundreds. This will be the
first "in absentia", and I'm quite proud to let it go.

No RnR would be complete without an official Gypsy photo!

Always a joy to see you, Joe!

Monday, July 21st:

We had a great post-race celebration with our Rock'n'Roll Gypsy friends then returned to the hotel to pack up and rest before our 7:00am flight this morning. The weather seemed to match our mood; it was sad to part company with such inspiring, caring, creative, intelligent, community-minded, hardworking and fun-loving people.

End note: We departed the hotel at 5:00am on this particular Monday for our 7:00am flight. Unbeknownst to us there were massive storms in the southeast affecting air travel. After numerous cancellations and delays we were actually fortunate to get home 18 hours later, just before midnight. We met many passengers who slept in airports on Monday, so there will be no complaining from this road warrior--only gratitude to have arrived home safely.

Thank you, Chicago, for a great week.

The 2014 medal features Anish Kapoor's "Cloud Gate"
sculpture, more commonly & affectionately called
"The Bean". 

In 2012, when the GetBackUP campaign was launched,
I got my Rock Idol medal at the Chicago Half for running 10
of the RnR races in a year. This year, with a later start and
the addition of races outside the RnR series, I have my
Rock Star 5 award instead. I love the new design!

Next up: 4 days of Allard meetings in New Jersey and from there, off to Dublin for another Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon. 

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