When he woke up Sunday morning to run his ninth Chicago Marathon, Edward Hensley felt some “minor pain” in his left thigh.
Though far from ideal for a long-distance runner, he wasn’t running for time this year — just to finish. He’d had the soreness for some time and was getting plenty of rest and therapy, believing it’d be enough to let him run in the 26.2-mile race.
“If this is the way it’s going to be, I’ll be able to manage it,” he thought.
Hensley — running his 11th marathon — didn’t know it yet, but he was about to run the first 24 miles with a fractured hip.
“It gradually increased,” he told the Chicago Sun-Times from a hospital bed Tuesday morning. “At about Mile 20, it started to really act up. At Mile 24 I felt something I’ve never felt before in my life and I couldn’t walk anymore.”
His hip “snapped in half” near 30th and Michigan.
“The pain was so excruciating,” he said.
Hensley, who grew up in Little Italy near Taylor Street and lives in northwest suburban Bartlett, took a seat on the ground and tried to get back up, but couldn’t. A Chicago Police Officer standing about 20 feet away walked over and asked if he was alright before helping Hensley to a nearby aid station.
The officer wished Hensley luck and Hensley thanked him before the officer walked away.
After 40 minutes of therapy at the aid station, the officer “reappeared.”
“He said ‘Listen, something in your eyes told me I needed to come back and talk to you. You really want this, don’t you?’” Hensley recalled.
“If you need to go, I’ll be with you every step of the way,” the officer said.
Hensley and the officer “hobbled” together for about a block before another officer noticed them and offered to help before joining them.
Once the second officer joined them, Hensley joked that, if he had a cane, he could finish the course. That’s when one of them saw a nearby folding chair.
“For the next two miles, that chair was my cane,” Hensley said.
The final two miles took more than an hour for the three of them to walk and they stopped for a break after every block.
One officer told Hensley: “We’ll be here as long as you need up for however long it takes.”
As they made their way to the finish line, through Bronzeville, the South Loop and into Grant Park, the three swapped jokes and talked about their families.
One of the officers told Hensley that he was about to become a father next month, and Hensley told him, “whatever happened before that will become kind of a faint memory because of all the incredible things that are going to be in front of him with his wife and newborn child.”
As they neared the finish line, Hensley borrowed one of the officers’ phone to call his wife and tell her that he was about 15 minutes away.
“Sure enough, they made it just in time for us to stop at the fence and say ‘Hi’ and give thanks to the officers,” he said.
Hensley was runner number 42,860 to finish, with a time of six hours, 47 minutes and 44 seconds.
“On one leg, I hopped across the finish line,” he said.
The officers who helped him weren’t available for interviews, but Hensley expressed gratitude that “they were trying to keep me in [good] spirits” despite his yet-to-be determined injury.
Their company was “something that I could’ve never imagined, in terms of friendship and support,” he said.
“That in itself helped me pass the time in my mind, knowing that they had that type of care for me.”