Another marathon goes into the books. Leading up into this race was a hard one. Last year was a very busy race season for me. I had a race almost every month starting in September and ending in March. When I signed up for the Chicago Marathon, I was still riding my runner’s high. Then as Spring ended and June grew closer, I became less and less excited to start training again. One thing about fall marathons is that you have to start training over the summer. And having to train for a marathon in the hot and humid Florida summer is MISERABLE. Truthfully, I didn’t start really training until probably July. That was a lie, I didn’t really start training until August.
My usual weekday runs were fine, but I would get seriously depressed whenever I thought about the weekend and the long-training run that I had to do. I think the longest run that I managed to eek out was a 17 miler. Leading up to the race I couldn’t find any ounce of motivation to get me going. I didn’t finally get excited until I actually arrived in Chicago.
First impressions of Chicago
This was my first time visiting Chicago and I had no idea what to expect. It’s now in my top 5 favorite places. I LOVED the city. When I landed I took the “L” into the city (look at me knowing some of the lingo) and was able to see a lot of the suburbs along the way. The city reminds me of a mix between D.C., which is my favorite city, and NYC which completely overwhelms me. Navigating to the expo taking L and then a bus was surprisingly easy. This was also one of my favorite expos. Not because they had anything different or extra, but because of the space! Holy moly! I could walk around the expo comfortably without feeling like I was being herded. It was a little weird that the place to pick up shirts was on the clear oposite side of where you went to get your packet, but I think that helped with some of the congestion and ensured that you passed by a few of the vendors that were inside. While inside I picked up my Team LIVESTRONG gear and a new pair of Vibrams that were on sale. After that it was off to the hotel.
I stayed at Hotel Indigo, one of the hotels that was listed on the marathon website, and really enjoyed my stay. It’s a cute boutique hotel located in the Gold Coast area. The area is really cute with the streets lined with Brownstone Homes and there was even a farmers market finishing up when I arrived. I was fortunately able to check-in early so that I could at least get off my feet and drop off my stuff.
The staff there was very friendly and the room was clean and well kept. My plan was to head back out and do some exploring, but I was so tired that all I could do was get some dinner and then call it a night….at 2 o’clock.
My alarm went off at 5 o’clock but I decided to snooze for an 30 minutes. This led to me running a wee bit behind and getting to the starting line with about 15 minutes to spare. One thing about living in Florida, is that you never know how to dress when the temperature is below 70˚. I opened a window of my room and quickly closed it, and opted for a jacket with a shirt on top, leggings, a hat, ear warmers, mittens, and my Team Sparkle Skirt. And I packed some arm warmers and a few other shirts just in case.
I got to the train station and crowded onto a train with other runners, ran to the gear check to drop off my stuff and then headed to the corral. Since I was running as a part of Team LIVESTRONG I was in Corral E which is the corral for all of those running with a Charity. This was the most pleasant corral experience I’ve ever had. Typically in corrals there are people doing high knees, burpees, and just mean mugging everyone around them (seriously, if you’re in the corral I’m in you need to chill because you’re not going to win no matter how many striders you do across the corral). But instead people were chatting each other up, telling their stories, and offering really positive and kind words. I just wanted to hug everyone, which is the exact opposite of how I usually feel at that time of the morning. We sang the national anthem, tried to listen to the inaudible instructions that were coming out of the speaker system and slowly shuffled our way to the start. Then we were off!
The start to mile 10 was pretty uneventful. When I started the race I decided I would mentally take it one 10k at a time. The first part of the race was exciting! Not only was the crowd support fantastic, but just looking around at all of the people who surrounded me wearing their team shirts for the cause they were running for. It made me realize that no matter what the outcome of the race was, we all really were racing for something bigger than ourselves. The hours spent training and fundraising seemed so trivial in comparison to that moment
I started feeling some light cramps around this point and my left ankle started hurting some around mile 10. Around mile 13 is when I knew the race would switch to a mental one. At the halfway mark my watch said 2:15. My goal was to finish around 4:45 so I was on track for that.
The second half of a marathon is always nicer in that you can start counting backwards to where you are in the single digits for miles left. I also caught my second wind somewhere around mile 16. This race I ran with a Camelbak, which I really enjoyed. I had been training with it and it really made a difference along the race. I haven’t yet mastered drinking and running, so not having to stop at the water stops was a huge bonus. At mile 17 my other ankle started to hurt. I’m not sure what was exactly causing it, I suppose the need for new shoes, but both of my ankles became sore and very stiff. The pain slowly started to move up my legs.
The worst parts of the race. I almost had a mental breakdown during this part of the race. Both of my ankles were throbbing, my back hurt, and my hips were starting to hurt. I was a mess, so I started run walking. I would pick a time on my watch, run until that time came and then power walk for a couple of minutes. I did this for 5 miles. I kept looking at my watch and my pace to make sure that I would still finish in under 5 hours, and once I saw I would, I was able to relax some. I was also able to take my mind off of my pain by munch on some bananas, and reading some of the signs along the course. The best sign said, “I don’t do marathons. I do a marathoner. #ILoveMyWife.” I thought that one was cute and clever. There were also a few ones that referenced Paul Ryan, Chuck Norris, and of course the beer ones which are my favorite. Somewhere around Mile 23 I grabbed some of the Gatorade bites they had along the course, and was able to get just enough energy to take me to the finish. (Sidenote: While having the Gatorade gummies was a good idea i theory, having to dodge them while running, and I’m sure cleaning them up after the race, were probably no fun).
This was the first time that I’ve ever gotten emotional during the race. Partly because of the pain I was in, but mostly for feeling guilty about the fact that I was complaining about the pain I was in, while all the while wearing a Team LIVESTRONG shirt and thinking about the pain that my Dad and my Aunt went through throughout their treatments. I pushed the last few miles and sprinted to the finish line grateful and humbled.
After getting my medal, some food and bags of ice (kudos to Chicago for having bags of ice prepared for runners to grab at the finish) I collapsed onto the nearest patch of grass I could find. I must saw that people watching is fun, but people watching runners right after a marathon is even more entertaining. 🙂
All in all it was a great race. I finished with a time of 4:52:03, and will definitely be back again. Now to prepare for Marine Corps in a couple weeks. Just as soon as I buy new shoes.