You play rugby? You must be crazy! I say, you run a marathon? You must be INSANE!

So when people hear that you play rugby the thing that you're crazy. It's such a brutal sport and how can you not be scared to be tackled with no equipment are common questions you've either asked or heard. As talked about in other articles being rugby fit is a total dedication and training experience, however getting ready for a marathon is an entirely different dedication. I was at a rugby game talking to a player's girlfriend who told me she is running in the Chicago Marathon this year. I was impressed, particularly after she said that she would never be able to play rugby. She also told me her boyfriend will come home after practice and training and say how tired he is and she'll tell him she's tired too since she had just finished running 19 miles.


In an average rugby game the amount that a player runs depends on the position with scrum halfs running the most most, and flankers...then the out half, 1st center and so on. The average scrum half would do maybe 7-8km in an 80 min game, players like the great Richie McCaw runs about 10km in a game but also incorporates in other work (tackling,rucking,mauling etc). So I wanted to not only wish the runners this weekend the best of luck but also share some of our local rugby players experience training and participating in marathons.


The first marathoner is Mary LaPiere aka Mary La. Mary La played rugby from 1993-2001 and first started playing with ISU. She was a high school cheerleader and always wanted to play a tough sport which is what brought her into the game of rugby. When I asked her how long she's been a runner she responded,

Since I could walk – I have always been athletic and running is a part of it.  I’m not a runner... I had never run a marathon or been an avid runner.  In fact, I have always disliked running and yet, it’s necessary for all sports.  I decided to complete the marathon because as an aging athlete I want to constantly challenge myself physically and mentally.  Seemingly impossible athlete feats, even as an amateur athlete, inspire me to stay active and try things that I wouldn't have tried otherwise.

Mary La also completed a sprint triathlon in 2008 and said that she's not a swimmer either.  For her, rugby differs from marathon running because you have more than one job to do. You need to not only keep moving forward, break down, tackle and get back into play as fresh as when you started, and also be able to "pick up the slack" and help out where teammates may lack or need support. She knew part of being in a marathon was the training, however she admitted to not doing the best job at it.

God, I trained horribly for the marathon.  I had dedicated myself, on paper, to an 18 week training program that consisted of 3 short runs during the week, 1 long run on Saturday, and 1 short run on Sunday.  I didn't stick with the program, except for the long runs every Saturday or Sunday.  This may make me a terrible example in terms of taking the marathon seriously, which I did.  It is a 26.2 mile race of constantly moving. [Rugby]  It’s a combination of aerobic and anaerobic with quick recovery.  You don’t have to necessarily tackle another marathon runner, catch a ball, stay in play, or on sides - unless you want to get removed from the race.It has been said to me throughout my rugby career, rugby is 20% physical and 80% mental and that’s true of any sport.  With the marathon, I relaxed, told myself you have one job and that’s to keep moving forward – that’s it – easy.  Grueling and yet, easier than being tied with the opposing team with 3 min to go, playing behind your own 22, every muscle aching and understanding that the next tackle has to be yours.

Mary La's goal was simply to finish it in less than 6 hours to medal and she did just that. She finished with 40 min. to spare.  She also raised some money for charity, as many runner do and was in it for the experience and for fun.  Out of her many athletic endeavors, with includes rugby and cheerleading, she said' "the marathon truly was my most favorite."  She had one job in the marathon and didn't have to rely on any one else to get there, just her two legs. Like many marathon runners and other athletes she had teammates in spirit and on the side lines helping to keep her going including Yvonne Gonzalez aka Bones (former packie for North Shore) who joined her at mile 22 to keep her motivated. She stayed with Mary La until the final 800 meters.  Laryssa Santiago, another North Shore woman. also completed the marathon in 2010 as well as many members of North Shore showed up at different points along the course to cheer Mary La and other runners on.  Mary La added that her North Shore family was with her the whole way and it made the end that much the sweeter.


Courtnay O'Connell another North Shore "Old Girl" ran/walked her first marathon in 1994. She said,

Back then, there were probably less than 10,000 runners in the Chicago race.  I crossed the finish line and they had run out of medals,  it was mailed to me.  I ran it again in 1996, was suffering from IT band issues and spent the last mile battling it out with the first woman over 60 to finish. She got a lazyboy recliner. All I got was a stinking medal.

O'Connell took a 10 year break until 2006 and then decided to run the Quad Cities marathon. Her marathon goal: beating Oprah's 1994 or 1995 time of 4:28 in the Marine Corps marathon. She finished just over her goal because of a bathroom emergency, but still had her best time ever. Which after 20+ miles who wouldn't have bathroom needs?  Her next running goal is to do two marathons one week apart which she tried last year but was too injured for either. Her marathon advice to all athletes is that,

   Everybody should do one...but don't wait until your 40's to start.

As for the final marathoner I talked to, she has been a runner on and off her entire life, though never a hard core runner. When Megan Hall turned 30,she was living in London and thought running a marathon seemed like something good to do. She was not in shape at all, but was in it for the personal challenge. Meg said

 I'm really good at starting things, not so good at finishing them, so this was as much about mental toughness as anything else. Courtnay told me after a marathon once (when I was in rugby shape) that, if you can run a mile, you can run a marathon - it's all in your head - and I thought about that a lot when I was training and when I was struggling through the last few miles of the marathon.

Meg chose a really tiny marathon, with just 500 runners, populated only by super fast people so her 5 hour marathon time was 3rd from last. She found something she wrote right after her first marathon, about when kept her going on her commitment to finish something"... the stretch of the race where I was running past chip shops and drunken stags and holiday-making families, weaving around  them on the pavement, completely alone in the race - at that moment, the only thing moving me forward was that inner resolve." Meg describes herself as someone who, gets excited about new things, new projects, new hobbies, new obsessions rather easily. But seeing them through to the end - that's  something she wishes she could do better.

But I'd committed myself to this marathon. Everyone I knew, and  everyone on the Internet, knew I was doing it. I had to get myself to  the starting line. And once there, and moving forward, no matter how  much I wanted to stop and how loud the refrain in my head saying "you  don't have to do this," there was the feeling that I'd be letting down  myself and everyone who cheered me to the starting line if I stopped for no reason, so I kept asking myself "why are you going to quit? Just  because you're tired? That's no reason. Tired goes away but imagine how  good you'll feel at the end." And I kept going until I finished.

Dick Beardsley once said that when you cross the finish line of the  marathon, it will change your life forever. I didn't believe it when I  was on the pre-crossing side - it's just a race, it isn't as if I'm  getting shot at or delivering babies in war-torn countries or even  sitting down to lunch with the homeless guys on my block. I believe it  now. I'm not about to become one of those "sunshine and butterflies"  unrealistically optimistic/annoying people. I'm not going to stop  dropping the f-bomb in polite company. I'll probably still have trouble  finishing things that I start. But I've proven that I can do something  incredibly difficult all on my own, and the next time, when I run a  marathon with screaming hordes of cheering fans and 50,000 of my closest friends, and it's still tough, I'll always know that I did it once  without those things, and I can dig within myself to improve.

So to everyone who is runnig in the marathon this year I wish you all the best of luck. For fund raising reasons, personal goals, or just to finish a commitment, I hope you keep running and know that the people cheering along the sides aren't just for one runner, but each person who has decided to push themselves and finish an amazing feat.


As for games this weekend....

The Chicago Blaze D1 will be hosting the Chicago Lions and the Blaze's D3 team will play the Chicago Dragons.

The Chicago Griffins will be out of town and also having their Golf outting

Lincoln Park will be hosting the South Side Irish and the NW Woodsmen

Chicago North Shore will be host St. Louis and following their game will be a fundraiser at Black Rock Kitchen and Pub. This fundraiser will help the women raise money for their trip to Nationals this year, where if you read Rugby Mag, they are said to be more than likely to bring back to Chicago a second National Championship.

Chicago Women will be out of town in Denver, Sirens do not have a game


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