Running for life


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CHICAGO — At 7:30 a.m. on Sunday, while many Iowa students were sound asleep or still celebrating the Hawkeyes’ 30-28 victory over Michigan, a group of 173 Iowa students and community members took to the streets of Chicago and started running.

Not a Forrest Gump type of run, just for sake of doing it.

This was a run for a cause.

A run for the kids.

These runners participated in the 32nd-annual Bank of America Chicago Marathon through the second Dance Marathon: The Marathon.

A total of 34,792 people started the 26.2-mile run around the city, and 33,419 officially crossed the finish line.

“The goal of [Dance Marathon: The Marathon] is to bring together community members, university staff, and students to train for a common goal and raise money for Dance Marathon,” said senior Sarah Rinehart, the Dance Marathon chairwoman.

The organization started at Iowa in 1994 to raise money and support for the children with cancer at the UI Children’s Hospital. Since its inception, the group has raised millions of dollars to support pediatric oncology patients and their families.

Marathon runners are asked to raise $750 for the organization.

“The best way to run a marathon is with a cause,” said senior Kyle Walters, who finished in 4:24:34. “It made it a little easier from mile 18 through 26 to keep it going and keep running for the kids we support.”

Around five steps from the finish — the light at the end of the tunnel — Walters’ leg cramped up, nearly causing him to fall.

Fortunately for him, another Dance Marathon runner was nearby to help him up, and they crossed the finish line together.

“It was a good feeling,” Walters said.

The group more than doubled in size this year compared with last year, when 81 runners participated.

Many of the participants practiced together, taking part in conditioning for several months ahead of time.

Running coaches led groups on a six-week get-in-shape program and an 18-week training program.

The runs started at one mile and went all the way up to 20 miles to prepare for the grueling 26.2-mile trek.

The frigid temperatures and northern winds during the race were a major change from last year’s event, in which temperatures were in the 80s.

“It was pretty much as different as you can get from last year,” said Darren Bryan, who graduated from Iowa in the spring of 2009 and finished the race in 3:05:58. “The wind made it hard, but besides the wind, it wasn’t too bad.”

The scene at the Dance Marathon charity tent after the race was a mix of jubilation and pain as the runners and their families congratulated one another, warmed themselves up, ate copious amounts of food, and relaxed their tired and aching muscles.

Bryan and Walters knew what they were getting themselves into, having run the marathon last year. But many of the students were running their first marathon on Sunday, including juniors Kristen Strawhacker and Mary Welsh.

Strawhacker finished in 3:40:41, and Welsh crossed the line about one hour later in 4:40:06.

“I was definitely looking for the finish line,” Strawhacker said and laughed. “I thought it was going to come sooner than it did, though.”

Prior to the training program, Welsh had never run more than three or four miles.

“Any runners should go out there and try it out,” she said. “It’s an unbelievable experience.”

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