Marathon madness

New Eastside runners describe the inspiration to compete


On Sunday, October 9, the streets of Chicago will once again be inundated with tens of thousands of eager marathon runners as the city celebrates another year hosting the popular 26.2-mile foot race. Though participants come from all over the world to experience the energy and excitement of the Chicago Marathon, our own New Eastside is home to some dedicated and inspiring marathon hopefuls. Each runner has a unique and purposeful story that ignited the courage to start this journey. These are just a few of the many stories that comprise the fabric of this year’s participants.



Paula Almeida, a resident of the New Eastside’s Coast, began running a few years ago for exercise. She has run two half-marathons in Brazil, her native country.

marath01“I always thought marathons were for crazy people and could never picture myself doing that,” Almeida says. But her father, an avid runner and marathoner, convinced her to enter the lottery for this year’s Chicago Marathon, which would be her first. They both were selected for entry, which Almeida took as a sign that this was the year to run it.

“After a few weeks, I embraced the challenge as a personal accomplishment for overcoming my limits and set up my mind to do it.” Almeida began training with Chicago Endurance Sports (CES). “The encouragement of the group helps you believe in yourself and overcome your limits every week with a lot of support from the coaches, pacers and other runners,” says Almeida.

As she enters the final weeks of training, Almeida is focused on preparing her mind. “It is amazing the power that our mind has on our body, and how our body adjusts and develops when you believe it and follow the training.” Come race day, Almeida aims to keep her pace and finish strong. “I look forward to crossing that finish line and accomplishing something that ten months ago I was sure that I could never have done.”



North Harbor Tower resident Walter Boza is a marathon veteran. With seven marathons under his belt, three of them in Chicago, he is no stranger to the challenge of running 26.2 miles.

marath03Boza runs with a group from CARA on Saturdays, which meets in Lakeshore East Park by Mariano’s. In September, CARA hosted a 20-mile training run, a “dress rehearsal” for race day. Boza says that though he struggled between miles 16-18, he was able to pick up the pace at the end, and he’s confident that he’ll finish with a smile.

Running five days a week, Boza follows his own unstructured program. “I’m strict about long runs,” says Boza of his training, but during the week he runs solo. “I have a time goal, “he says, “but I reassess every day.”

Boza hopes to run a 3:45 marathon on October 9, which stands as his Personal Record set at Chicago in 2009. “But my real goal is to finish with a smile.” Following Chicago, Boza is looking forward to running with his eight year old daughter, who recently joined “Girls on the Run.” They plan to do a 5K in November.



Lisa Aggarwal, who lives in the Parkshore, will celebrate her birthday on marathon Sunday by running through our beautiful city with thousands of spectators honoring her with cheers and encouragement. “I figured this would be a unique way to celebrate,” she says.

marath02Aggarwal has been a runner for a decade and has completed the Soldier Field Ten Miler three times and the Rock N Roll Half Marathon twice. As a proud native Chicagoan, she’s ready to tackle the Chicago marathon, which is the only marathon on her radar.

The road to the start line hasn’t been perfectly paved for Aggarwal. Three weeks into training she suffered a foot injury that sidelined her for seven weeks. She’s back in action though, and hasn’t let the injury stop her.

Aggarwal is training with CES, and she’s also raising money for the Children of the Crossroads Foundation. “I’ve watched many friends run the Chicago Marathon over the years, and I look forward to my turn running it this year! My husband and two daughters always cheer me on during races, so I most look forward to seeing them on marathon day.”



Local resident Raman Kansal will be attempting to complete his fourth marathon in Chicago on October 9. “Being born and raised in Chicago, this marathon is extra special to me as it allows me to experience so many of our unique neighborhoods, including Lakeshore East,” he says.

marath04As a child, Kansal suffered from severe asthma and could barely run half a block without coughing and wheezing. Over the years, his asthma has gotten much better, and he credits running with this improvement.

“I joined a local running club (CES) to help with the training and seeing my fellow club members complete the marathon is my primary goal.” He’s also excited about seeing all the people coming out to cheer and support the runners; Chicago has the most fantastic spectators!

When he’s not running, Kansal enjoys spending time with his niece and nephew in Maggie Daley Park. “It is, by far, their favorite park in the city!”


Good luck to all the runners on Marathon Sunday! And if you’re not personally logging the miles that morning, spectating is a great way to join in the fun. As residents of the New Eastside, we have easy access to nearby cheering zones. Get out there and clap your hands, ring a cowbell, offer a smile or simply stand on the sidelines and stare in awe as the runners make their pilgrimage to the finish line. Congrats, runners. Now go get those medals!

— Angela Gagnon

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