Marathon to Honor a Friend

2017 Chicago Marathon
I decided to run the Chicago Marathon this year to honor my friend Blake Hastings and to raise funds and provide awareness for Rein In Sarcoma – particularly because it’s my understanding that sarcoma patients don’t always have the benefits Blake has of a strong support system. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. To be clear, the operative word is decided.

I was in our Minneapolis office in late February this year chatting with Blake at his desk and listening to him complain about pain in his foot. The only reason that discussion was seared into my memory was because a few weeks later Blake told me he had Ewing Sarcoma – it was in his foot. The only reason that conversation even happened in February is because I’d just told Blake that I was signed up for the marathon. He asked how it was going; I said I wasn’t really doing anything yet, and he mentioned pain in his foot that was bothering him. We talked about running in the pool and I probably quipped that he should get over it.

Chris Schastok running Chicago Marathon

Chris running the 2017 Marathon

I digress. The truth is at that time, while I’d already signed up for the marathon, I really didn’t have any intention of running. I’d only used my guaranteed entry because my best friend (in picture) had asked if I wanted to run Chicago again. We’d run it twice together in prior years. I figured I’d easily find ways to get out of it as I have a running list of excuses: a two year old daughter at home, a wife pregnant with our second due May 1st, I travel for a living, I’m in the worst shape of my entire life, etc.

Easy out. As the summer months approached I started to tell myself that maybe I should train. See, my 2nd daughter was born and my wife was planning to take the girls to Michigan for the summer. This provided me ample time to train. Well June came, then July, and then August came. I’d gone out and run here and there but I wasn’t following a training schedule or really doing anything material.

When August hit I realized it was time to put up or shut up. So I started following a schedule of long runs but was weeks behind training. I made it worse by telling people “I’m running the marathon.” A guaranteed way that I’d do the damn race. I trudged through August and September. The pounds shed and I was feeling good but having run this five times before. I knew what I was facing but also was acutely aware of how behind I was.

Chris and friend at the finish

Chris and friend Tim at the finish!

On September 29th I walked into a shoe store that I used to buy running shoes from with the pair of Nikes that I’d picked up in April. I’d been training in these shoes. The two salty gents that own the store, something like 100 marathons between them, immediately asked “what the hell are those?” I told them, “the shoes I’ve been running in to train for Chicago.” They were appalled. I told them I needed a new pair and yes nobody buys new running shoes less than 10 days before a race. They asked me if I’d had injuries, pain, etc to which the answer was “running sucks” but no real injuries as I’d only really been “Training” for 45 days. They sold me a pair of Sauconys which felt like I was walking on clouds.

I told them that I’d just told a friend I was running a marathon in his honor. They knocked 10% off the price and gave me a free pair of socks because it was my birthday. The following Sunday in new shoes, a pair of shorts I’d bought a day earlier, and my 2008 marathon t-shirt, I ran Chicago for the sixth time. It was harder than I remember. It was hotter than anyone would want it. I realized during the worst part that I was passing W Hastings St. Crossing the finishing line felt infinitely better than ever before and I’m already thinking about next year. I’ll keep running until Blake is in the clear.

We thank Chris for raising awareness of sarcoma and RIS' mission, and to the many generous supporters who donated over $15,000 to Rein in Sarcoma in honor of Blake!