Cheryl Stang, New Lenox, will be one of some 45,000 registered runners in the 35th annual Chicago Marathon. The 26.2-mile race through downtown Chicago is expected to draw an estimated 1.7 million spectators from around the world.
With her heart pounding and head up, she'll be taking her position in the start coral along Chicago's lakeshore. Stang is slated to step off in the second wave of races that begins at 8 a.m.
With a forecast of a brisk 52 degrees Oct. 7, she'll be weathering not only 9 mph winds but also a knee injury that she acquired about a month ago during training.
"I'm going in with an injury because you put so much effort into the training. You have to move forward," said 41-year-old Stang.
She's not a veteran to the running experience, but she's not brand new either. Stang began running in 2008. This is her second time in the Chicago Marathon--the first was in 2010.
For 17 weeks she's been running along the Old Plank Trail. She begins early morning along the trail, picking up the trail at the Lions Den Park on Cedar Road just south of Fourth Avenue. "I run (west) toward Joliet for three miles and back again."
Then she runs east from New Lenox to Frankfort; that's about six miles each way, she said. Another four or so extra miles get added on for a total 20-mile workout. Frequently, Stang would head over to the Mokena Park District trail off of LaPorte Road just east of Wolf Road.
Some days her training was conducted on a treadmill and interspersed with area 5K runs, she said.
During the bulk of the year, Stang said she doesn't work out extensively. "I keep fit and run 5K races." The marathon training regimen is designated for the four months before the race.
The Chicago Marathon can be quite a grueling race, but for Stang it's a worthwhile challenge. She's compelled to run, she said, by the sheer energy that the experience generates.
"It's just the race itself, the experience. It's surreal to be down there in something so big. It's just truly inspiring to be down there with so many other runners."
She anticipates completing the race in under five hours.
Considering her injury, Stang said she doesn't expect to run her best race. "My personal best is (four hours and 48 minutes) 4:48. I'd love it if I could get 4:47," she said.
Upon completion, her family and friends will be there to cheer her on along the race route and to greet her with a hug and a bottle of water at the end.