Thursday, October 26

They finished

Stories by Chris McNamara
Published October 26, 2006

Some runners thanked God in English or Spanish or Swahili as they crossed the finish line of the 2006 LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathon. Others shouted four-letter expletives. Some declared 'Boston!' noting that their time qualified them for the upcoming marathon in Bean Town. And still others weren't sure they'd finished, including the one winded woman who pleaded with race officials, `Is that it? Is it over?'

Of the 34,698 men, women and children who started the marathon, 33,633 completed the 26.2 miles and were able to say, `I finished.' These are some of their stories.

FINISH TIME: 3:38:07

Rick Roeber, 50, Kansas City, Mo.

Aching feet are a common problem for distance runners. But not Rick Roeber, who forgoes shoes. "I ran my first 18 marathons with shoes and nearly destroyed my knees," said the Kansas City resident, who maintains "Running feels so much better without shoes. It forces proper landings and you have a quicker cadence. You don't have to have tough feet, you just have to land lightly." Roeber claims that he high-fived 10,000 spectators, stepped on zero pebbles, and received a prickly foot massage when crossing bridges over the Chicago River. "Barefoot running is like a metaphor for life -- watch out for the big stuff and don't worry about the little stuff."

And that leather string around his right ankle was less a fashion statement than a necessity -- when you've got no shoes, you've got nowhere to lace your timing chip.

4:38:06, 4:45:00

Bob Jacobs, 34, Westfield, Ind. / Andy Cowen, 14, Carmel, Ind.

Just a freshman at Carmel High School in Carmel, Ind., Andy Cowen (right) not only completed his fourth marathon, but along the way teamed up with Bob Jacobs from nearby Westfield. The two began chatting as they ran, mostly small talk about their small towns. At mile 23 Jacobs began cramping and noticed that Cowen was slowing, too. "So I used a bit of reverse psychology," explained Jacobs. "I figured if Andy thought he was helping me, he wouldn't be thinking about what he was going through." The mind games worked, for both runners, whose matching exhaustion clouded the distinction between tutor and pupil. "I wouldn't have gotten through it without him," admitted the elder runner. As for Cowen, well, practice runs for the Indiana Junior Olympics awaited.


Tim Rogers, 42, Chester, United Kingdom

A runner dressed as a medieval knight? Sure, lump him in with the others dressed in business suits or Fred Flintstone get-ups. But Rogers complemented his sword and shield with a video camera with which he recorded himself throughout the race. He had run dressed as a rhinoceros and a computer before, but the boots, fake chain-mail suit and cowl posed some unique challenges, which you can view at, where St. George, as he was calling himself, will soon post clips of his conquest of Chicago's streets.

3:33:43, 3:59:38

Cicero Chimbanda, 36, Chicago

Joseph Chimbanda, 61, Denver

For the first 13 miles, father and son ran together. Then Cicero (right) broke away. But after crossing the finish line, he looped back to find his father at mile 25, and the two reached the finish line -- for the son's second time -- together. "I don't know how much longer we'll be able to run together, so as long as my dad is still running, I will run with him," said the Bronzeville financial consultant of his father, who was told he'd never run a marathon after his hip was destroyed in an auto accident in 1995. During the race the two maintained a dialogue -- father describing life in Denver, son providing updates about his wife and daughter. "We talk about family; we talk about life. We're creating memories


Staci Beiswanger, 41, South Whitley, Ind.

Becca Hollenbaugh, 32, South Whitley, Ind.

They laughed and they cried and they hugged as they strode past the finish line. The young mothers began training on the streets of South Whitley 14 weeks before the marathon. Four weeks into that regimen Hollenbaugh (right) learned she had stomach cancer. "They gave us a bleak outlook when I was first diagnosed," said the nurse practitioner, a mother of two. "Six months if I did nothing. A few more months with chemo."

While Hollenbaugh began treatment that would rob her of her hair, appetite and stamina, her partner trained alone. "She was the phone call after every long run asking me `How did it feel?' " said Beiswanger, a mother of a teenage boy, through tears.

Eventually some strength returned, and doctor gave the patient clearance to run shorter distances. By mid-October Hollenbaugh was up to 10 miles. "I figured if I could run 10, I could run 13 miles," she said, chuckling. "I'd already paid my $90 [for the marathon]."

So while Beiswanger took off from the starting line, her partner joined her at the halfway point, her short hair dyed pink so she'd be easy to spot. And the two finished together, just as they'd started 14 weeks earlier, when 26.2 miles seemed the greatest challenge in their path.

You can follow Hollenbaugh's journey at


Christie Tate, 33, Chicago

As she passed the finish line Christie Tate clutched gloved hands to her face and sobbed. "I didn't think I could do this," the lawyer admitted. "Throughout the race I had that doubt, which is what is making me cry."


Emmanuel `Manny' Perryman, 46, Chicago

While most stagger across the finish line, Perryman leapt atop a barricade and launched into a dance routine that would shame Michael Jackson. After a minute of thrilling moves, the customer-service agent with the Chicago Transit Authority bounded over to his cheering section behind a fence, planted a smooch on his sister through the chain-links, then resumed his pops, locks and moonwalks. "This is the way he is all the time," chuckled Monique Perryman as her brother, a part-time Jacko impersonator, launched into what he labels The Manny Shuffle. "You are a fool, buddy! But you earned it!"


Ricardo Rodriguez, 45, Mexico City

Three across, arms locked into arms, legs wobbling back and forth, they resembled The Monkeys goofing around in the intro to their '60s television series. Finishing their fourth consecutive Chicago Marathon, Francisco Espinosa (from left) and Maria Pia, Maria Jose [not pictured] and Ricardo Rodriguez were in high spirits, even as their stamina was low. "I want to give my girls an example of how important sports are in life," said Rodriguez, a pilot for Mexicana. How do you feel, the Mexico City native was asked. "How do I look?" he deadpanned.


Perry Romanowski, 37, Chicago

As if sticking a finger in the eye of the marathon, Romanowski juggled three balls throughout the race. He dropped them only twice -- the result, he claims, of getting bumped by other runners. The scientist has similarly clowned his way through 19 of his 21 marathons, adding a degree of difficulty to a feat most humans already find impossible. "I may not be the fastest runner," he said. "But I know I'm the fastest juggling runner."

4:39:27, 4:29:39

Pam Haynes, 55, Golden, Colo., Eleanor Decker, 47, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Strangers will often develop bonds while running marathons, the physical demands and emotional environment expediting connections between similarly paced athletes. Haynes (left) was ready to nominate Decker for sainthood as the two crossed the finish line. "For the last eight miles she kept me in sight, kept my pace. She pulled me along. She's wonderful," said the veteran of three marathons, who at mile 19 bluntly asked Decker, who was running to raise funds for her local St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital, if she could tag along with her. "Pam was a gracious inspiration," demurred Decker, bolstering her bid for canonization.


Rick Nielsen, 29, Orland Park

In the 2001 Chicago Marathon, just after the 9/11 attacks, Rick Nielsen carried an American flag for the final mile. This year, while the global political climate remains tense, at least our football team is uplifting. "That last game [versus the Arizona Cardinals] was like a marathon," said the special-ed teacher, who was happy the marathon fell on a Bears bye week. "It shows that you can never give up, especially in the last mile."


For more photos see:

Copyright 2006, Chicago Tribune

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