“Last November, I was going to participate in the Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon (in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga.)” Simko said. “When my IT band (in her thigh) went out, I began looking at the Chicago Marathon.”
Simko also began looking for relatives to join her on the 26.2 mile jaunt. She wasted no time in sending out a Facebook message that read, ‘All Rumba nieces: Chicago Marathon next October, who wants to join me?’
Her niece, Erin Yeoman, was the first to join. Carson and her sister, Kristin Rumba, were a little more difficult to persuade.
“Kristin and I had just run the Phoenix Half Marathon in December, and we were planning on running the full Phoenix Marathon in 2012,” Carson explained. “Neither of us felt like we could be ready in time to run 26.2 miles by October.”
Their plans were changed when Kristin received heads up that she might be deployed in early January 2012 with the National Guard and Reserve for six months.
“Her deployment was really the sticking point. Everything would be delayed and neither of us wanted to train for a year and a half,” Carson said.
The two sisters signed up in March, just days away from the end of registration.
“The registration was up to the 22,000s by the time Erin and I signed up in February,” Simko recalled. “They only allow 45,000 in the marathon.”
“When Kristin and I registered the list was in the 43,000s,” Carson said.
After committing to the race, it was time to train.
“We started running in July and trained through September,” Simko said.
“Those were the hottest months,” Carson said. “We trained individually, but both of us would begin at around 4:30 to 5:00 in the morning. Sometimes it would already be 85 degrees by 5 a.m.”
Simko and Carson attempted to run four times a week: three during the week and one long run every weekend.
“When I ran 14 miles for the first time, my daughter’s boyfriend ran the whole thing with me,” Simko said. “When I moved beyond that to the 16 miles and up, my husband rode alongside me on his bike. He had my Gatorade with him so I could drink while running.”
“My husband did not ride alongside me, but he did watch my two little ones and provide me with any of the equipment I needed,” Carson said.
The two have collected a fair bit of knowledge and advice after three long months of training.
“Stick to your training guide,” Simko said. “If you are used to running seven miles and the training program tells you to run three miles, then run three miles. Your body needs to get prepared for all the changes and challenges you are going to put it through.”
Simko learned this the hard way when she was missed the first week of training due to stress fractures in both of her feet.
“Don’t let your emotions take over your body,” Simko added. “There were some days when I did not want to go out there and I just had to make myself.”
“Just hang in there,” Carson encouraged. “Those days you don’t feel like running, just put your shoes on and get out there.”
“We come from a family of runners,” Simko explained. “I have 13 brothers and sisters and eight of us ran track and cross country in high school.”
“I began running two years ago,” Carson said. “I was pushing 40 and I needed to start doing something.”
When Carson began, she had no intention of running marathons.
“My goal was to be able to run 4 miles. This year alone I have done the Phoenix and Nashville half marathon and the Chicago marathon,” Carson explained.
Simko ran a little after high school, but gave it up when she had children.
“I am getting to the age where I need to do something,” Simko said. “I have always loved running, it is a stress reliever.”
The two runners said it was hard to explain to people why they were voluntarily choosing to run 26.2 miles.
“It’s a runner thing,” Simko said. “If you are a runner then you will understand why we would choose to join the marathon; it’s an accomplishment.”
“It’s also a pride thing,” Carson added. “Not a lot of people run a marathon, and I did.”
“A big pull of the Chicago Marathon was that we have family that lives up there,” Simko said. “When I saw them at mile 12 I just began crying. I was so emotional; I was just in a lot of pain and touched by the sign of support.”
Simko had injured herself three weeks before the Chicago Marathon.
“I hobbled through the marathon,” Simko said. “My goal was to run a marathon by the time I was 50. I will be 50 in February; I met my goal.”
“She was injured and she should not have been running it, but she finished it injured,” Carson said.
The four runners and relatives met up in Chicago on Thursday, Oct. 6, a day before the starter’s pistol sounded.
“Kristin, Erin, and Dawn knew that I was hurt but they did not say anything to me,” Simko said. “They knew not to tell me not to run. I knew that I should not run, but I was there and I was at least going to start it.”
Simko had her leg wrapped about three times during the run. Medic tents were lined up every one to three miles along the marathon track.
“There were constantly people monitoring to see if the participants were OK,” Simko explained. “I was so glad no one asked me how I was doing because I would have said, ‘It hurts.’”
It was this sense of humor and stubbornness that allowed all four runners to make it through the marathon.
“I never hit a point where I thought I couldn’t finish it,” Carson said. “I kept waiting for that wall that runners always talk about, but it never came. It was tough, especially the last four miles, but I never hit that wall.”
Simko’s experience was slightly different.
“Being injured was awful the whole way. At first I had a certain time span I wanted to finish in, but when I got injured I just wanted to finish it, period. I would like to run another one, but I need to be healthy first,” Simko said.
Aside from watching for potholes, Carson had one thing on her mind the entire run.
“I kept reminding myself to remember how hard the race was and to remember that after I had had a couple of weeks to recover,” Carson said.
“Did you really?” Simko asked.
“I did,” Carson laughed. “I kept thinking, ‘man this is hard!’ I did not want to think after a couple of weeks that it was not difficult. I kept thinking, ‘Just remind yourself, it was bad.’”
“During the marathon there were a couple of times that I thought I was not going to make it, but then I thought, ‘The only way I am not going to make it is if I lay out on this ground and they have to carry me off,’” Simko said.
“She’s my hero,” Carson said. “It was hard enough healthy.”