26.2 miles dedicated to women and their unity.
Runners from around the world converged in Chicago on October 9 for the annual marathon, but for some of them it was about more than just a race.
Rosemary Carrera is a powerful runner from Miami. She attended Illinois College of Optometry and graduated in 2005, and she was happy to return this fall to complete the marathon. The comfort of the autumn season was a perk for Carrera, as she said training in 95 degree weather and humidity wasn’t the easiest.
“Prep starts at 4 a.m. and then homelife starts at 6 a.m., so whatever I can do between 4 and 6,” Carrera said. She trained alongside her sister, Nathalie Vazquez, who would accompany her during the race. The sisters focused on long distance running and any cardio they could squeeze into their schedule.
Carrera tackled this marathon to honor her survival of cancer. “It falls on the fourth anniversary of my double mastectomy for breast cancer,” Carrera said. “I figured it would be a good way to celebrate the milestone.”
Her advocacy for cancer survivors continues in South Florida where Carrera helped create 305 Pink Pack. The program launched in 2020 and provides women in cancer treatment with types of support and resources in South Florida. As president of the program, Carrera helps women focus on their healing and work towards recovery as a community.
Another runner advocating for women’s health is Dineke Austin, whose hometown is London, England. “For the first time in my life, making the most of being 70, I’ve worked with a trainer,” Austin said. Her training consisted of running five times a week. The variation was 20 percent consisting of speed and hills, while the rest was long slow runs.
Her early mornings of training have paid off since she’s running her fastest since 2018. Austin has participated in marathons in London, New York, Amsterdam and Manchester, which left Chicago to mark off.
In Chicago, Austin is running for women 70 and up to encourage them to take up running, since she began at 63. “There still aren’t as many women of my age running as there are men,” Austin explained that her generation wasn’t allowed to run more than 800 meters in the United Kingdom.
Running, for Austin, is a symbol of mindfulness and was essential for her mental health after the COVID-19 lockdown. She owes this internal growth to chasing after her newly found passion.
“If I could start at 63 and be getting good for age places in majors like Chicago and getting to see parts of the world I possibly wouldn’t get to see otherwise, it’s never too late to start. It really isn’t, so go for it,” Austin proclaimed.
Whether progress in your training looks like a personal record or a positive mindset, both physical and mental health play an important role. Elsie Diaz-Duchesne from Connecticut felt the effects of each while preparing for the event.
Although this isn’t the first marathon for Diaz-Duchesne, as she’s previously run in Virginia and Connecticut, this training process was hindered due to having COVID-19. She felt the toll of maintaining her long distance running, but that exercise simultaneously kept her active and pushed her to not give up.
“I know I’ve done 26.2 [miles] before, in my head I’m like, ‘I know I can finish it. I know I can finish it,’ because it really is mental,” Diaz-Duchesne said.
Her confidence grew after losing almost 42 pounds, which pushed her to take up running in 2017, and it motivated her to join a running group. “Latinas in Motion is a group that empowers, not necessarily Latinas, but women of color to get active,” Diaz-Duchesne said.
According to the CDC, Latinas have high rates of developing heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Latinas in Motion contradict statistics and promote exercise, good nutrition and self care.
Diaz-Duchesne ran with a member from Latinas in Motion at the Chicago Marathon and she was looking forward to endorphins and the celebration afterwards.
“This marathon is different because my friend, it’s her first marathon, so I’m happy to share that experience with her,” Diaz-Duchesne said.
Header illustration by Dayna Teemer