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Chicago friends ran wild in 2012
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2013-01-09

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A wild adventure conceived in October 2011 by two Chicago friends came to fruition on Sunday morning, Dec. 9, along the shores of Waikiki Beach.

Will Dong and Ming Mac, who are both openly gay, ran the annual Honolulu Marathon, thus completing their running goal for the year: 12 marathons in 2012, one per month.

"Twelve [marathons] in '12 just sounded good," said Dong, who first suggested the idea.

Their running journey—encompassing 314.4 race-day miles—included stops in San Francisco, Indianapolis and Quebec City, among other courses. Both also ran the annual Chicago Marathon in October.

Mac, 41, who lives in East Edgewater and is an accountant, has run 23 total marathons. His best time (3:48) came in Chicago in 2004, on his first-ever marathon. He has lived in Chicago for 24 years.

Dong, 36, who lives in the South Loop and is a software engineer, has run 16 marathons. His best time (3:34) came in Louisville, and he has lived in Chicago for about 10 years.

"At first, we didn't even know if it was possible since we didn't want to go to small towns," Dong said. "Part of the fun [of the overall adventure] was the logistics, figuring out where to run, how to get there, etc."

Even when thrown a curve in their path. They were, for instance, scheduled to run in Madison, Wis., over Memorial Day weekend. However, organizers cancelled the 26.2-mile race days before due to heat concerns.

But they found a marathon that weekend in Rochester, Minn., so, with Dong behind the wheel, they drove to Minnesota.

Ironically, en route, they stopped at a McDonald's near Janesville, Wis., and met other runners heading to Rochester instead of Madison.

All four posed for a photo together after the marathon in Rochester.

"It was a lot of fun trips," Dong said.

"It was an awesome experience," Mac added.

Dong and Mac always started each marathon together, but rarely ran long stretches together.

In Louisville, though, they were side by side with not many others nearby. Fans yelled in support, shouting, "'Goooo … Asian people,' since they didn't know what to say," Dong said, laughing.

Dong said the San Francisco Marathon was his favorite of the 12, mostly because it was near his native San Jose. Mac said Indianapolis was his most memorable.

Mac tagged Fort Lauderdale as his least favorite due to the heat, and the trouble he endured late in the race finding a bathroom. Dong said Quebec City was his least favorite, also due to race-day heat, plus the limited shade over the final six miles.

Both spent about $5,000 on the year-long journey which, due to his day job, Mac was responsible for. Dong handled most of the travel plans.

Was it worth it?

"Oh, yes; this was a lifetime memory," Mac said.

"There were so many good memories," Dong said.

Some nervous moments, too. Such as in Honolulu when Mac boarded a bus bound for the starting-line and had a bag of personal items with him that he wanted to store at the gear-check area. However, there is no gear-check at the start of the Honolulu Marathon.

Mac, Dong and a friend of theirs split up the times and ran with the items for the first 5 miles until they made it back into Waikiki and left the items with friends.

"I was really stressed out, nervous, worried, mostly because I had my cell phone," in the bag, Mac said. "Ultimately, it all worked out."

So what's next?

Both are considering the 50 States Marathon Club which, as the name implies, is running at least one marathon in all 50 U.S. states.

They have 39 states to go, but the drive to do it. After all, they ran the Chicago Marathon two weeks after running a marathon in Denver.

Dong has about 10 pairs of running shoes and ran about 1,100 miles in 2012, including races and training. He plans to have a quilt made with the shirts he acquired from each race.

Neither has a plan yet for their 2012 medals.

Both have marathons scheduled to run for each of the first five months in 2013, but that doesn't mean they're shooting for 13 in '13. But they haven't ruled it out, either.

For anyone considering running 12 marathons in a year, go for it; it's not as bad, as difficult as you may think," Mac said. "It definitely is do-able, but it takes a lot of planning."


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