People often think of running as a physical challenge, but a local runner, Michael Clark, has learned it is more than that. While running the Chicago Marathon on Sunday, Oct. 8, Clark befriended a stranger and helped him overcome the mental challenges of running.
“In order to go that far [26.2 miles] you have to tell yourself mentally that you can do it. It gets monotonous after a while and you stop saying it. That’s the point where you fail, that's the test of your insanity,” Clark said.
Clark, a senior at Lake Central, completed his third marathon last weekend. Although he encountered some physical challenges, he was able to finish along with his new friend.
“Just before I hit the 24th mile, I was walking because my right leg wasn’t feeling the best and I was looking ahead and saw the 24 mile sign,” Clark said. “I was thinking ‘How can I do this? I know I’m so close but it’s so far away at the same time, each mile gets longer and longer.’ I look to my right and I see this guy walking and he’s having a tough time, so I ask him if he is okay. He said his leg was hurting, I responded by saying, ‘You know what, I’m okay, I want to see you make it, because I know you can, I’m going to finish with you, and I am going to try my best to get you to forget about running.”
Clark stuck by his side just like he said he would. He continued to encourage his new friend, and this helped motivate himself also.
“He repeatedly asked if I was sure I wanted to finish with him. After awhile I started to feel better and better and I could have gone on without him, but I kept on saying, ‘The time doesn't matter, what matters is that you finish.’ That reinforced him, that made him happier,” Clark said.
It only took about 30 minutes for Clark to learn all about his friend’s life back in Europe.
“We talked about everything but running. I told him the best way to run better is to forget you are even running,” Clark said. “I learned that his name was Laurent, he lives in Paris and he has a wife and 3 kids; one of them goes to college in London and is going to be a businessman. He owns a 1969 Dodge Charger. We talked about each other's lives and we got to know each other on a personal level for the next 2.4 miles.”
Runners train all year round for one moment, the moment they cross the finish line. At that point, runners feel all kinds of emotions.
“We were finally on the last stretch, all the flags of the different countries that were there were lined up. Different people were screaming, the main person with the mic was cheering on the runners finishing, it was super loud, and super exhilarating. There's that point when you cross the finish line and we call it run motion. It's where everything that's happened over the past six months of training and everything that's happened over the 26.2 miles of running comes to you. This type of running is a high intensity, emotional rollercoaster. There are points where you feel super happy, there are points where you feel super depressed and you feel like you are worthless and you can't do anything and that all hits you,” Clark said.
Besides the emotions from running, Clark was sad to say goodbye to Laurent. He is convinced that they will meet again.
“We got our medals and we took our picture together. I hope I meet him again, it was super great to know him. Neither of us wanted to separate from the other person just because we talked through each other’s hardest points in the marathon and it may not sound like a lot, but a real bond forms through even just a half hour of running through intense pain,” Clark said.