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A beautiful Sunday morning stroll in Chicago

By Joe Centers • Updated Aug 13, 2019 at 11:26 AM

CHICAGO — I have been a part of athletic events all my life as a reporter and I appreciate the skills of the people I cover, no matter what their ages.

From the tiniest of tots to the aged athletes, everybody has some skill.

My years of an athlete have passed me by, aside from a walk or two with our dog, Sparty.

Speaking of Sparty, there were plenty of Michigan State fans floating around Sunday at the eighth annual BTN Big 10K in Chicago.

Thousands of Big Ten runners filled Grant Park in downtown Chicago for the 10K and 5K races.

Afterward, runners gathered to kick off the college football season in style at the ultimate post-race tailgate party. Packed with Big Ten mascots, cheerleaders, food, live music, beer and interactive games.

Sparty was there. Brutus the Buckeye was there. And so was the Boilermaker from Purdue.

My son-in-law, Dan Mayer, a proud Purdue graduate, signed me up to compete in the race. Mayer is a runner who has competed in two Chicago Marathons. I have one 5k to my name, way back when they held a race to raise funds for an all-weather track at Whitney Field. That was a long time ago.

We got to Grant Park just a little before 7 a.m. Sunday, right before the 10K race started. There were 4,380 racers waiting to take off. The fastest runners are in the front so they can take off to compete. There are different bullpens with the slowest runners going fast. The gun went off at 7 a.m. and the last runners didn’t even got to the starting line until about 7:23. That’s how many runners there were.

We competed in the 5K along with 2,289 others. We started about in the middle of the pack and I told everybody I was just going to walk.

But when we got to the starting line, something kicked in and I decided to run — not very fast — but I gave it the old Michigan State try.

We ran for awhile and then we walked. And my walk, as my wife Jody will tell you, is pretty fast. My stride is pretty long and I can cover some ground.

The great thing about the race was everybody was wearing their school shirt. I saw a lot of green, along with a lot of Ohio State fans.

Before the race they announced Michigan was No. 3 in participants, Michigan State was No. 2 and Illinois was No. 1.

As we made our way around the course, we ran past the museums near Soldier Field and along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. We ran along Lake Shore Drive and back into the park. As we made our final turn, Dan told me to pick it up and we could finish under 50 minutes.

By then the tank was empty. We both crossed the line together — Dan was was 1,911th in 50:25 and I was 1,913th in 50:26, both a 16:13 pace per mile.

After crossing the finish line we all received a beautiful medal — the first medal I have received since high school track and before that the medal I received in grade school for perfect attendance.

It was a great day and before it was over Dan was already talking about competing in the Milan Melon Festival 5K.

Count me in.

Joe Centers is Reflector managing editor. He can be reached at [email protected]

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