Coach races to Chicago Marathon

Joey Harris, Executive Sports Editor

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Lori Gonzalez, assistant girls cross country coach (left), runs with junior Chloe MacMillin (middle) and senior Lia Devereux. Gonzalez regularly trains with her athletes as she coaches them. Photo by Nora Smith

She runs four or five miles before school and four or five miles after, many of which are run alongside her athletes on the varsity girls cross country team during practice. For Lori Gonzalez, assistant girls cross country coach, this is not a punishment or a chore, this is her average day.

“It’s a good escape from your day to go out and run and be with the kids, that’s [my] break,” Gonzalez said.

Over the past year, Gonzalez has been training to compete in this year’s Chicago Marathon on Oct. 7. The girls cross country team traditionally volunteers at the marathon and plans to cheer her on this year.

Bob LeBlanc, head girls cross country coach, said he was impressed with Gonzalez’s ability to return to running only months after having her third child in the spring of 2017.

“She jumped back in in no time and … only got faster,” LeBlanc said.

By the end of the fall 2017 season, Gonzalez and members of her team decided to compete in a half marathon at the Schaumburg Turkey Trot. While Gonzalez, a former Illinois high school state champion at Palatine High School, was impressed with her performance, she said it was one of the hardest races she had ever competed in. Near the middle of the race, she suffered what she later discovered was an asthma attack.

Gonzalez was treated for her asthma and now uses this setback to encourage her athletes to work past their own struggles.

“I always tell them, ‘Here I am, a lifelong runner, and all of a sudden I’m dealing with this,’” said Gonzalez. “‘It doesn’t mean I have to stop [running] … you just have to find things to help you.’”

Junior Chloe MacMillin said Gonzalez is intense during both practices and meets but is often quick to give positive encouragement.

  “A couple weeks ago, I felt disgusting during [a run] … and she told me my pace and that we can keep going.

“It helped me because if she wasn’t talking to me, I would’ve been in my head telling myself I couldn’t do it,” MacMillin said.

LeBlanc said Gonzalez’s commitment to running was exemplified when she showed up at 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning to do her 20 mile “long run” so she could be ready to coach at 8 a.m.

“It’s hard enough to handle a teaching load, plus grading, plus coaching, plus your family and for her to fit that in is just impressive,” LeBlanc said.

According to senior Ashley Yoshikawa, the level of running Gonzalez displays while coaching gives herself and her teammates the confidence to challenge themselves more during practice.

“[It] pushes me more because she tells me I can do it and by seeing her do it, I think I can do it as well,” Yoshikawa said.

Gonzalez said she has seen more girls trying to keep up with the top practice group this year than she has in previous years.

“There’s a group of girls who right now are running with our varsity [runners] who … know they might never be a varsity runner, might never be the best, but they’re going to go out everyday and try and run with those girls,” Gonzalez said.

LeBlanc said he credits the extra effort during runs for the improved times in the team’s two mile trials this year.

“We had a significant number of kids faster than where they were [last year] and a significant number of faster times as a whole,” LeBlanc said.

As of Sept. 24, the team has finished in the top eight two times out of three invitational meets. They hold a record of 1.5-1 in their conference meets.

According to Gonzalez, the opportunity to run with the team has been what has helped her most in her training.

“Looking at times and how I’m running, I’m a lot faster than how I was 10 years ago … and I think that’s where the team really helps, they push me to be faster,” Gonzalez said.

Yoshikawa said the team usually goes to the marathon and hands out water. But this year, they have one more activity scheduled.

“We plan to scream our lungs out,” Yoshikawa said.

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Coach races to Chicago Marathon