Anatomy of a 100-mile race

Fourteen hours before the start of yesterday's Chicago Marathon, four friends set off to run a total of 100 miles (74 miles to the start of the Chicago Marathon) in a bid to secure sponsors for 400 children. World Vision writer James Addis followed their progress on his own little adventure through part of the night and during the marathon itself — sometimes by taxi, sometimes by bicycle, and sometimes by train…

The assignment

What a mission! Our four runners will run 74 miles mostly along the Chicago lakefront all through the night, before reaching the Chicago Marathon starting line in time for the beginning of the official race.

The four runners are:

  • Paul Jansen Van Rensburg, 37, a pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois
  • Rusty Funk, 26, Team World Vision staffer, based in Chicago
  • Michael Chitwood, 36, National director of Team World Vision, based in Chicago
  • Hannah Covert, 24, a nurse from Arizona

They all have one thing in common: They have seen sponsorship at work in Africa and are passionate to see more children sponsored.

Saturday (October 8,2011): Let the 100 miles begin...

3:30 p.m. Team meeting in a tiny hotel room. The four runners plus several support staff. The mood is jovial. Steve Spear, a pastor at Willow Creek Church, prays for the team. He asks for protection, courage, and perseverance, should the runners feel like giving up, and also for the hundreds of children who will be sponsored and whose lives will be changed. Afterward, we wander down to the lakefront for the big send-off.

4:35 p.m. They’re off! A small crowd of relatives and supporters offer last-minute hugs and words of encouragement. I manage to catch a ride to the official Team World Vision dinner for the 1,000 or so other Team World Vision runners taking part in the marathon and aiming to raise $1 million.

The Chicago 100 team is off...100 miles to go. ©2011 James Addis/World Vision

6:35 p.m. Our four runners burst into the UIC (University of Illinois-Chicago) Forum where the dinner is being held. They’ve run 10 miles and are looking pretty good. Well, I guess that’s just as well. They burst onto the stage to enthusiastic applause. Each gets a few minutes to explain why they are passionate about child sponsorship. The already-buoyant room gets even more excited. The four make a dash for the door to continue their run. I grab a taxi. I’ve got to get down to the lakefront to pick up a bicycle. I’ll be following them by bike for the next few hours.

A short stop at the UIC Forum. Michael Chitwood with the mic. ©2011 James Addis/World Vision

7:15 p.m. Eeek! A slight delay in finding the meet-up spot leaves me wondering where on earth they’ve got to. Anyway, I grab the bike and head off. A member of the support crew catches up to me and shows me the way.

7:30 p.m. Ahh, this is the life. It’s a warm evening with a gentle breeze blowing in from the lake. Our runners sing a little. It looks like a full moon. I suggest we should be on the lookout for crazy people -- the sort out at night thinking they are running 100 miles. Hannah laughs.

Hannah and Paul running through the night. ©2011 James Addis/World Vision

10:35 p.m. Aggh, over too soon. I have to cover the marathon the next day. I leave the runners for a few hours sleep.

Sunday (October 9, 2011): Race day (two)

6:36 a.m. Another grand entrance. Just as the 1,000 Team World Vision runners are arranging themselves for the big team photo, our four intrepid friends run into view. Now they can stop a few minutes and be included in the shot. Michael is handed a megaphone and gives a few words of encouragement to the big team before the four run off for the start line. I head off to get the train to be at the first World Vision cheer station, 3.5 miles into the official race.

8:50 a.m. Michael, Rusty, and Hannah jog past the cheer station. Rusty’s mom, Pam, waves a sign that says 77 miles. His wife, Annalisa, waves one that says: “One day you will not be able to run 100 miles. Today is not that day.” But hang on -- where is Paul?

Rusty's mom Pam cheering the team on... 23 miles to go. ©2011 James Addis/World Vision

He arrives about 10 minutes later. He’s slowed right down and clearly struggling. Will he make it?

10:40 a.m. I’m at mile 11.5 and see Michael, Hannah, and Rusty speed by. Rusty’s mom holds a sign up saying 85 miles. You would hardly believe it. They show no sign of stopping. But where’s Paul? The word is that he has been struggling to take in any food. I slowly make my way back to the Team World Vision tent near the finish line to await the 100-milers return.

2:21 p.m. Rusty arrives at the tent and looks in perfect shape. Big hugs and applause.

2:28 p.m. Michael arrives at the tent. Big hugs and applause.

2:34 p.m. Hannah arrives at the tent. Many more hugs and applause. She says it’s all thanks to Team World Vision friends and supporters -- and Michael, who kept telling her to think of the sponsored children. But -- what about Paul?

Hannah's arrival at the Team World Vision tent. ©2011 James Addis/World Vision

2:59 p.m. Word reaches the Team World Vision tent that Paul has crossed the finish line. Halleluljah!

3:11 p.m. Paul enters the tent to the most enthusiastic applause of all. I’m so glad.

Paul is cheered on as he enters the Team World Vision tent. ©2011 James Addis/World Vision

Earlier, I had spoken to Paul at length. He was moved to join Team World Vision after witnessing the dire poverty, just minutes from his privileged home, while growing up in Apartheid-era South Africa. He remembers children not having clean drinking water, with no chance to go to school, and with no hope. Paul saw that Team World Vision was his chance to do something about children in these kinds of predicaments. I know he would have been bitterly disappointed if he had not made it.

3:20 p.m. I head for the train. What a great day.

*    *    *

Congratulations to the 1,000 Team World Vision runners at yesterday's Chicago Marathon. And extra kudos to the "Chicago 100" team. We're proud of all of you!

2011 Team World Vision Chicago Marathon runners. ©2011 James Addis/World Vision

Read Friday's pre-100-mile run blog: Train. Pray. Run. (6 questions with a 100-mile runner)

You can sponsor a child in support of Team World Vision and the Chicago 100 team at


    nicely done James! It was nice meeting you. Sorry about the hiccup getting you started on the bike, but glad it still worked out.

    Thank you for this recap! I was wondering how the night went! So glad everyone came back healthy! Praying for a quick recovery and lots of sponsored kids!!

    All the best with your running ventures Paul, take care though.

    Leave a Comment

    The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.