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Students have many ambitions

Joe Hettler | Friday, October 10, 2003

Drew Shula has never run 26.2 miles at any point in his life. The fourth-year Notre Dame architecture student hopes that changes Sunday.

Shula, along with 39,999 other runners will compete in the 26th annual Chicago Marathon Sunday for a chance to qualify for other national races, win money or simply accomplish a goal of finishing the marathon.

For Shula and several other Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students, this weekend also gives them an opportunity to challenge themselves in one of the most famous marathons in the United States.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Shula said. “The first time you’re supposed to just try and finish it and get one [marathon] under your belt. It’s going to be a challenge to finish so I’m a little nervous.”

The race begins at Grant Park and ends at that same location, 26.2 miles later. It began in 1977 and has become one of the biggest events in Chicago ever since. Supporters and fans usually total over one million for the race.

A significant difference between the Chicago Marathon and other national races, like the Boston Marathon, is that there is no qualifying time needed to participate. The runners all give an $80 to $90 entry fee and must be one of the first 40,000 people to register. This year that quota was met Wednesday, to the delight of event chairman and chief marketing officer for LaSalle Bank Mark Nystuen.

“We have reached our registration cap in record time this year,” Nystuen said. “This is a testament to the quality of the event and to how mainstream the sport of running has become. We are delighted to bring this event to the 40,000 participants and to the one million spectators who rally the runners race day.”

This will be a very different kind of race for Shula who has never ran, in practice or any other running competition, for more than 20 miles at one time. But he still feels he can break the three-hour barrier, which would qualify him for Boston.

“I’m from Maine, so I’m used to running around lakes so this will be a different experience,” Shula said. “I’m looking forward it.”

The Chicago Marathon had several records broken last year, including a new women’s World Record set by Paula Radcliffe (2 hours, 17 minutes, 18 seconds) and the crowning of Chicago’s first four-time winner Khalid Khannouchi.

A unique feature to the race is the final five miles. During that stretch a different band plays music during each one-mile interval, motivating runners to finish the marathon strong.

Additionally, if anyone breaks a world record in either gender division, Volkswagen will give that person a new car.