20 ways (and miles) to get ready for the Chicago Marathon

It's less than 3 weeks until the Chicago Marathon. Thousands of runners are working hard to finish up their training. I am one of those proud runners registered for Chicago Marathon. I understand the determination, sacrifice, and strength that it takes to train for a marathon.
This past Saturday, I witnessed a strong group of  runners who completed their 20 miler in Busse Woods in Arlington Heights.  This is the inaugural training event organized by Chicago Athlete as an alternative for the traditional CARA Ready to Run 20 miler along the lakefront.  They have an awesome turnout for 500 runners for their first year. I can't imagine how huge this will be next year.
The 20 miler took place within Busse Woods at the Cook County Forest Preserve.  The runners started heading eastbound on the running path where the runners made loops around the park, headed westbound where they crossed over to the west part of the park, and then looped back to the starting point.  It was a very scenic area to run and the temperatures were very comfortable for running even though it was cloudy. There were signs and course marshals to guide them through out the long run.
Well, when I arrived, I unfortunately missed most of the runners taking off to start their 20 miler by just a few minutes and after making a few bad turns getting there. (Mental note: Must have coffee BEFORE leaving the house at 6 AM!) But I was honored to watch the awesome 12:30/mi and more take off. 
About an hour later, I watched the first group of runners from the 7:00/mi pace group cross the halfway point and slowly stop at the water stop before they went back out strong. They were followed by the 7:30/mi pace group within 5 minutes later.  After that, most of the pace groups started showing up for their water and Gatorade. I saw that almost every runner that I took a picture of and cheered for had a smile on their face because they knew that they were halfway done from finishing a huge milestone in their marathon training.
Then I started see members from the 12:30/mi (and more) pace group coming through. 
And boy did they have the biggest smiles on their faces from all of the runners that I saw all morning. It was truly awesome!
The volunteers at the water stop were awesome too. They kept on cheering the runners on and motivated them to push on. In fact, we had a few moments were the music motivated us to dance and get our groove on.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not so nice shortly after and brought a little stormy weather to the 20 miler. I am happy to note that all of the runners were alright and made it back to the start without incident. They even were able to finish their 20 miler.
Please check out the slide show that I have below. It is only a sample of the runners who participated on Saturday, I have the rest of the pictures from Saturday's 20 miler on my Facebook fan page since I could not download all 151 pictures for the slideshow.  I encourage the runners that were there on Saturday to take themselves because they all rock and deserve the recognition. 
Good luck to all of the runners as you finish your taper to race day!
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