Jessica was so excited to go to Chicago. She was so ready to run a massive personal best. She was prepared, trained, and had done everything she had to to finally break four hours in the marathon.
Friday night, before the Sunday race, I get a text saying, "If you have any free time can you call me?" I thought that maybe her suitcase didn't make it to Chicago, or maybe she tripped and hurt herself. Afterall, this is the girl who earlier had stubbed her toe in the Maldives so badly that she couldn't run for a week. I ask if everything is okay, and she responds, "Not at all." I immediately pick up the phone and call her.
She picks up the phone and says, "I'm in a trauma center." She goes on to tell the story of her and her mother waiting for a subway train in Chicago and a man comes up from behind her mother and throws her to the tracks. Her mother is unconscious on the tracks below. Her mother who she asked to come to Chicago to watch her run this race. Her mother who is the person she goes to in situations like this.
Three men jump onto the tracks and lift her to safety. She is immediately taken to the hospital where they realize that she is concussed, has some head trauma, and broken bones that may require surgery.
Jessica is a person who is open and honest with her feelings and says, I feel so guilty because I asked her to come here." She is so good at managing difficult situations and showing up when others need her, and now on the phone, explaining that she reaches out to her mom when she needs help, and her mom is laying in a hospital bed. I remind her to eat, that thing we often forget to do in stressful situations. She says, "I just needed to hear a familiar voice," and continues speaking with the police and doctors, awaiting her father's arrival the following day.
This is obviously an incredibly traumatic event for both Jessica and her mom. Jessica saw someone assault her mother while she was right next to her. That visual does not leave a person easily. Before I even had a chance to bring it up, Jessica said, "I think I still want to run on Sunday." I cannot make a decision for her, this is her choice to make. The number one thing was that she is there for her mom right now.
But then something happened. Suddenly, Jessica wasn't going through this trauma in a strange city all alone. Somehow, the race director of the Chicago Marathon got word of what happened, and the chief medical and safety officer of the Chicago Marathon, Dr. George Chiampas, showed up.
Suddenly, what went from an absolutely awful situation in which Jessica was completely alone, changed into a situation in which she was fully supported. Her mother encouraged her to run the race, and with the support of the community and her family, Jessica showed up to that starting line.
Jessica was escorted by the police to and from the hospital, the race, her pre-race meal and breakfast were delivered to her room, her mother's prescriptions were picked up, George even brought her mother soup. The freaking mayor showed up to visit her mom in the hospital. Chicago showed up for Jessica this weekend.
And so Jessica showed up for Chicago. She started that race and let be whatever would be of it. The only that mattered was making it to the finish line. No times, no splits, just finishing the Chicago Marathon.
Was it easy after not eating for two days, the stress of a traumatic event, not sleeping for days, and barely drinking enough water? No, it absolutely was not easy. This was recipe for disaster. But Jessica reigned in her effort and focused on finishing, not expending more than she had to.
And she did it. She finished that race. And her mom and dad are both home safely.
This woman finished that race because of the way she shows up for others, and others showed up for her when she needed it. She was not alone. Her parents are miraculously grateful and have instilled in her the ability to find gratitude in even the most heartbreaking of situations. The running community supported her, Chicago supported her, and having the trust that you can rely on others allows us to do great things.
This weekend, Jessica finished the Chicago marathon.