LINCOLN PARK — At Lincoln Park High School, "It's the year of doing things you didn't think you could do," Principal Michael Boraz said, and in that spirit he'll be running his first Chicago Marathon next month.
Boraz will be joined by Chris Merle, chairman of the school's Counseling Department, in what they're turning into a fundraiser for Friends of Lincoln Park High School.
"Most people look at me and think, 'He can't run a marathon,'" Merle said. "It's the limitations you place on yourself," however, that truly matter, he added.
This, in fact, will be Merle's fourth marathon.
"If you train for it, anyone can do it. I firmly believe that," Merle said. "It teaches you a lot about yourself."
Boraz said that insisting that you can't run a marathon "really is just because you're afraid. You really don't think you can do it. There's an element of fear."
So while readily admitting he's not the sort of person who typically inspires kids with his physical attributes and achievements, Boraz said there was an inspirational message for the 2,100 students at the school in running his first marathon.
"OK, I learned past age 50 that I could do something I didn't think I could do," Boraz said. "It's hard to change when you're old."
And maybe not so easy when you're a high school student, either, but Boraz said it would be a benefit "if we can encourage people to try something, especially if it's something they didn't think they could do."
Boraz said the decision was relatively easy for him. He likes running and training, and when a band director at the school ran the marathon last year and raised more than $3,000, urging him to do the same, the decision was made.
"I feel for my first one about as ready as I can be," Boraz said, adding that he'd run his 20-mile leadup to the marathon over the weekend.
"It was hot. But I got finished," he said. "It felt like 20 miles."
Part of what drives them, they agreed, was that they'd made the public commitment to the school's students. The other part, of course, is the opportunity to raise money for the school.
Friends of Lincoln Park High School already has set up an online pledge page, with suggested donations of $2.62, $26.20, $262, $2,620 and so on — in multiples of the 26.2 miles they'll run. But any amount can be donated by anyone.
"Our goal is to not just always go back to our parent community," Boraz said, since they're already being hit up for school fees, homecoming tickets and outfits and the like. "School's not cheap. So we need to get it outside the community where people in the neighborhood will see it."
Boraz knows there's support for marathon runners out there. He attended a marathon watch party last year near Willow and Sedgwick streets, and that also contributed to his decision to run this year — getting caught up in the excitement of cheering runners on, which he'll experience on the other side this year on Oct. 8.
"My goal is really just to stay under control through the first 20" miles, Boraz said. "That adrenaline can get you going too fast."
Merle said he didn't expect he and Boraz to be running together.
"He's got a faster pace than me," Merle said. "I'm definitely the tortoise of the pair."
But Merle admitted that the estimated 1.7 million spectators cheering on the route can get to a runner, and inspire at various junctures.
"Pilsen's a party," he said.
"It really does make a difference when you see somebody you know who calls out your name," Boraz said. "I'm hoping they'll find a way to line up past mile 20."