Corral D

Corral D

By ginaschmeling   /     Nov 04, 2014  /     Family, Nonprofits, Running  /     , ,

IMG_5276My designated start in the 2014 Chicago Marathon this October.

Corral placement (sounds equine, I know) is a predictive way to keep large races orderly. Faster in the front, middle in the middle, slower in the back. Thoughtful design embodied by 45,000 people.

The longer the race, the more likely things may not sustain. More miles mean less control. Course conditions and unplanned, uh, stuff play a part.

The day before the race, I got a cold. Many runners are vulnerable to getting sick the days before a race. Lucky for me, it was not too bad. Unlucky for me, it meant a slower run.

In the hours of not sleeping before my race day wake up, I mulled my plan. Physically and mentally. Since July, I had some big goals. Big fundraising for my charity (I did great!), a major Personal Record, and a doable Boston Qualifying time. It was within reach. All I had to do was run smart.

The story changed. Now some hard choices. I could ignore the symptoms, break the rules and take all sorts of nasty stuff on race day. Or I could dial into what was most important. While training, I’d envisioned Lake Michigan. Images of Downtown and Lincoln Park entered my mind as I ran long on NY’s West Side Highway.  I am a fourth generation Chicagoan. This was Home.

This day would be about the city. Not so much my time. With that, I finally fell asleep at 1AM.

Taping CHGO NATIVE to my back, I started with Corral D. Many miles, Kleenex later (let’s say Chris Christie would not have let me into NJ), I finished with the good people from Corrals F and G. Exactly where I needed to be to enjoy the race, take in the city, feel proud. My time goal was still in my heart, if not run by my feet. And a near miracle! My mom was at the finish line to see me get medaled.

I apply my running experience to my work. I adore planning, and admire staff who work in a team. As with ongoing fundraising campaigns and longer “marathon” plans, time and other factors shape outcome. I talk to so many runners about their dreams. And nonprofit leaders about their goals. It is easy to celebrate success. But how do we handle setbacks or midcourse changes?

Here’s what worked for me. I hope some of these are useful for you, too.

  • Be consistent, smartly aggressive, push for measurable goals. Data colors the story, but you are the author.
  • Keep your numbers in a system. Understand and analyze trends. Ask an expert to interpret what’s going on.
  • Agree on the real “real.” Is a number goal supreme? Or community engagement? Personal achievement?
  • Know the difference between giving up and redirecting. Olympian Frank Shorter calls this “reframing.”
  • Own your result. Share it.

Now get back out there for your next big goal.

Mine is the Brooklyn Marathon, this November 16th. Hope to see you in Prospect Park.

Gorgeous Chicago. This is my first neighborhood.

Gorgeous Chicago. This is my first neighborhood.






  1. Andrea Learned Says: November 4, 2014 5:12 pm

    Love this, Gina. Your city and running love really come through and – of course – there are wise business/organizational planning elements reflected therein. And – owning, and sharing, your result is a fabulous capper. Put it out there! It inspires you for the next time/run/campaign – and gives friends/colleagues a heads up to be supportive.

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  2. Kristine Jennings Graham Says: November 4, 2014 11:06 pm

    From one Chicago Native to another…KUDOS to you….Excellent article Gina…loved reading every word! Brooklyn Marathon?? Wow! you go girl! Now that is GOAL SETTING…reframing on the fly is my specialty and a great life lesson for sure! Thanks for sharing and WELL DONE in Chicago…sorry I did not see you out there but thought of you for sure! Good luck with your next race!

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