Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chasing a Dream - Rock 'n' Roll Chicago 2014

"Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle--behold, the Running Man." Christopher McDougallBorn to Run

George Melichar has a lot of dreams. What sets him apart from the crowd is that he works hard enough to see a lot of them come true. We were there to see this happen at Rock n Roll Chicago 2014.

George had been working with Project Onward (Project Onward on Facebook), a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the career development of visual artists with mental and developmental disabilities. Located at the Bridgeport Art Center in Chicago, Project Onward provides professional opportunities to artists who have exceptional abilities but face challenges ranging from autism to mental illness. Society makes allowances for juveniles with special needs, but once they turn 18, the resources are scarce. Project Onward fills a need for these individuals.

It was a quick trip for us, taking off from Oakland early Saturday morning, landing at Chicago Midway at noon, heading to the Expo for a few quick things then straight to the Project Onward Gallery. There were 10 of us in all. Each had a shirt painted by a different artist. 

At the Project Onward Gallery. 10 runners and walkers and six of the 10 artists.

George picked a great group. Brian (aka. Pavement Runner), Michael (pointonemiles) and John all met Geo at the big SA2LV event last November along with Beth, Jim, Susan and me. Amelia Sawyer, a gallery employee, joined us for the event. It was shaping up to be a long day and with the 6:30 AM start, we headed back to the hotel for an early night.

Susan's shirt was painted by Bill Douglas. Susan spent a long time talking to Bill at the studio and about the significance of the symmetry and the bees on the back. "By being in touch with nature through his art, Bill is getting more in touch with himself."
Michael Bryant painted my shirt. His favorite subject is "People and what life does to them"

Getting to the starting line was a lot less of an adventure than last year. We took a group pic just ahead of the starting line a half hour before the gun.

Dang. We look good.
We did our best to stay together as a group, even with most of the group being sub-2 hour half marathoners, Susan and I in the mid-2's at best and Michelle nursing a recent leg aggravation. We made it easier by taking breaks at the mile markers for some photo ops...

...and calisthenics. 

Michael and Mindy with a donut cameo.
If the shirts didn't attract attention by themselves, we sure did.

A lot of things went through my mind that day. Probably the thing that's going to stick with me was late in the race when I was next to George. He was talking about two years ago when he first met the folks at Project Onward and came up with the idea. The last few months had been a flurry of activity in the design and painting of the race shirts. He said that then 10 of us willing to race with him was a blessing. It's us, and the rest of the world, that was blessed this day.

Swiped from Pavement Runner's race report. It's a great read.
Some of the artists met us at the finish line. The shirts and our bibs were returned to Project Onward to be some day put into an exhibit. With any luck, the shirts will travel the country as much as we have, raising awareness for such a great cause.

George kicked off his next two projects this week. He'll be striving to raise $100,000 for the Hard Rock Foundations IMAGINE there's no hunger campaign in collaboration with Yoko Ono Lennon and WhyHunger. He's also close to finalizing a world record attempt. Details on the latter should be coming soon.

I, for one, can't wait to see them.

Talk about chasing a dream. I didn't think I'd ever do that literally.


Rock 'n' Roll Chicago has been under the CGI banner for 6 years. There were 13754 finishers for the Half (median finish time of 2:17), and 1901 for the 5K. This year's event added a 5K on Saturday (1162 finishers) that offered a bonus medal for completing the Saturday 5K with the Half on Sunday. There were also a handful of crazy SA2LV alum who did the 5K on Saturday, the 5K on Sunday which started at the same time as the Half and made it back to the corrals in time to do the Half. Kelvin, Justin and Shannon also earned one of the Heavy Medals for the Half, so they collected a total of 5 medals each for the weekend. Not bad considering all three races were included under the TourPass!

This was our 5th time at RNR Chicago. Most of them were last minute decisions or because we were in the area that weekend anyway. Since it's usually close to RNR San Diego and Seattle, we rarely make it an A race. The typical Midwest heat and humidity make it more challenging anyway. This year's race started in the mid 60's and ended in the mid 70's.

The course had a few changes with an early diversion east to Lakeshore before weaving through the city like previous years. We merged onto Michigan Avenue closer to the center of Grant Park and had a short loop south in Lake Meadows park before heading back up the narrow Lakefront Trail. While it's a flat course, some of the sections of the race can be described as a 'good character building experience'.

More pictures of RNR Chicago and the Moving Art Museum are on the blogs by Brian (Pavement Runner). I'll be linking to Michael's (PointOneMiles) when I see it.

This was Susan's 12th half marathon in 2014 and her 67th lifetime. With everything going on, we also missed that it was her 50th Rock 'n' Roll event. Ron is at 11 half marathons for the year, 65 lifetime and will hit his 50th Rock 'n' Roll in Philadelphia in September.

We haven't signed up for RNR Chicago 2015 yet, but with TourPass 2015 already paid for and Southwest Companion Pass coming as soon as next week, it could be a foregone conclusion.

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