The highlight of the experience for all three, however, was race day and taking advantage of the Hero Headquarters at DePaul University in the Chicago Loop.
“It was just really cool to have a place really close to the starting line where our corral was, have everybody together,” Ryan said. “Obviously, I knew a lot of people from Starcom that ran it, but just seeing a lot of familiar faces that I saw at the pasta party from Friday … just having the camaraderie of the people both working with Mercy Home and people running for Mercy Home was just a really cool experience.”
Marty said that he wasn’t able to calm down until he got to the headquarters the morning of the race.
“Just the day of, going to bed and waking up early, not being able to sleep as much and knowing by the time I get to the Mercy Home headquarters, I’m going to be able to calm down,” he said. “Everything is taken care of there. … You’re kind of leaving from this place of discomfort in a way to going to a place like the Mercy Home headquarters where you could finally breathe easy and relax a little bit before the race.”
“I was very, very impressed,” Maggie said. “I thought there was everything you could have needed before and after. It was really nice to have a central location where you could all meet up.”
Marty said that while he ran, he had Mercy Home’s after-party motivating him to keep going, along with the Mercy Mile.
“I remember really looking forward to Mile 17 especially, passing Mercy Home,” he said. “I knew I’d need a boost at that point and I couldn’t get over the crowds out there, the enthusiasm.”
“What fueled me the rest of the race was the post-race party at the Hero Headquarters. I had a bunch of family members and friends come to the headquarters to celebrate with me and I just remember at Mile 20 just thinking to myself, ‘don’t be late for the party’. I’m not just saying that, it really fueled me through.”
And now, with their first marathon under their belt, all three are eager to continue running with Mercy Home. Maggie and Ryan have already signed up for the 2019 marathon, and Marty is torn between running again or being part of the cheer team.
“It was such a fulfilling experience, both personally with overcoming a goal of running 26.2 miles that I never thought possible a year ago, as well as just raising all the money and working with all these amazing people and helping out the kids,” Ryan said. “It’s just fulfilling and an extremely rewarding experience that I definitely wanted to do again.”
“[After] actually running for [Mercy Home] last year, I can’t imagine running for anyone else,” Maggie said. “I think it’s such a great program. I hope to be part of it for a long time to come. There’s no question that I want to run for Mercy Home again.”
For those on the fence about running a marathon or becoming a Hero, both Ryan and Marty have the same advice: just do it.
“It’s something that you have to just pull the trigger on,” Ryan said. “If you’re even considering it, then I think you should do it because it’s so rewarding and fulfilling. You’ll meet a lot of great people and you’ll know you overcame a personal obstacle as well as helped out endless amounts of kids with the fundraising and all the hard work you put in.”
“Sign up and worry how to finish later,” Marty said. “There were so many ways Mercy Home made it easy to figure out how to train, where to train, hooking you up with running clubs—Mercy Home takes care of everything, you just have to worry about running the miles.”
And if nothing else, let the boys and girls of Mercy Home motivate you, John said.
“I just think what Mercy Home does for the kids and the community is extraordinary. I don’t think there’s another program quite like it. The values, the education, the safety, the self-confidence, the hope, and the way that this program is able to change lives. “
We are so grateful to friends and Heroes like John, Marty, Ryan, and Maggie for their commitment to our kids. They certainly have gone the extra mile to support our mission!