A little over 3 weeks ago I was fortunate enough to run The Chicago Marathon! Waaaaaay back in February I decided on a whim to try to make one of my husband’s bucket list wishes come true, and we registered. Tim has always said that if he was to ever run a marathon he wanted it to be the Chicago Marathon. I knew from the previous year when we started toying with the idea that the race sells out quickly. In 2012 it sold out in a record 6 hours, so the moment the registration opened at noon on February 21st I was sitting infront of my computer ready to get’ta clickin’. It took about an hour of refreshing the screen over and over again to finally get through, but ultimately I was able to register myself, Tim and Drew before the server completely crashed and the registration became a lottery.
After being injured in March and April, I was finally able to start my training plan in May. I initially wanted to try out a training plan from the book Run Less, Run Faster which is a fairly intense 3-day a week running program. The program is based on 3 quality runs a week: a tempo run, an interval run and a long run. Since I planned to also continue CrossFitting through my training I thought the 3 days a week would be ideal for me but I ultimately ended up choosing a less intense Runner’s World Smart Coach program that I have used before because I felt like I wasn’t quite ready to run as hard as the RL, RF plan required.
Training through the Alabama summer was difficult at times, but it kept me motivated through a tough time of the year when it would have been easier to stay in bed. I reminded myself how sweet the payoff would be come Fall.
In the weeks leading up to the race I found myself more excited and less nervous than I ever remember feeling for previous marathons. However, in the days leading up to the race that all changed. In my final taper week aches and pains started surfacing that really put me in a bad place mentally. On top that I’m a notoriously nervous traveler, so the entire trip to Chicago was extremely stressful and then just to make matters that much more interesting I started my period the night before the race. Super duper.
I was just really an emotional, hormonal ball of nervous energy. That part was horrible, but somehow I did manage to have some fun anyway. On Friday night when we arrived, Tim and I met his boss (his company is based out of Chicago) for dinner at The Boarding House. We had a really great time and lots of yummy food and drinks.
I don’t even remember what exactly this all is, but it was good and I took pictures of it:
On Saturday morning Tim, Drew and I headed down to the local Fleet Feet store to participate in a short shakeout run with Bart Yasso, stopping to take pictures along the way.
During the afternoon we hit the Expo to pick up our race packets.
By Saturday night I was a complete bundle of nerves. Tim, Drew, Drew’s friend Will and I went out to dinner at Pizano’s, a local Italian joint for our final carb loading session before the race. We waited approximately 45 minutes for a table, which was to be expected, but once we finally got seated we ended up waiting almost 2 1/2 hours longer for our pasta orders. By that point we were begging the manager to just let us leave. We ended up getting our food at almost 8:00 and wolfed it down before booking it back to the hotel. Thankfully the manager comped our entire meal, so we paid nothing but a tip to our waiter.
I set my alarm for 5:15 Sunday morning, but ended up waking up at about 4:45. Tim and I had some breakfast and coffee in our room and then went downstairs to wish Drew and Will well before they headed off to the race. They started 30 minutes before us, so we hung around a little longer and then eventually headed down ourselves.
We walked about 1/2 mile from our hotel to the starting area. Tim and I were in different starting zones so we had to suddenly separate before going through the security checkpoints, which unexpectedly overwhelmed me with emotion. I checked my gear and made my way to my starting corral. I was cold, nervous, alone and feeling very negative about the race in general, but I kept telling myself that as soon as I started actually running I would feel at home again.
I listened as the announcers started the wheelchair race, and then the elite runners. I remember thinking, “I’m about to run a race with actual Kenyans” and laughed. The first wave started, and then it seemed like no time before it was time for my wave to start. Everyone moved forward to the starting line and in just over 1 minute I was crossing the line.
I warned myself for 2 straight days to not go out too fast, so I concentrated on that. Keeping an effortless, comfortable pace. Within the first mile we went through a tunnel that completely confused my Garmin and immediately my distance was off by atleast 1/4 mile. My Garmin was essentially useless before the end of the first mile, which I never anticipated happening. Also, one of the bottles from my fuel belt bounced out of it’s holder and hit the ground during that first mile. There was no way that I could retrieve it without being trampled. During the 2nd mile I felt a little bouncy in the chest and realized that my bra had come undone. WHAT?! Seriously. So here I am trying to re-fasten my bra while running a marathon and for a split second I thought this actually might be the death of my race. I might be crazy, but I wasn’t about to run a marathon with no bra. Thankfully I was able to fix it and carry on.
Around mile 7 I started feeling some achiness in my knees, which were what were worrying me pre-race. I had a mini panic attack and then forced myself to push it aside agreeing that I would zone out and reasses the situation later.
By mile 11 I started realizing that my knees weren’t hurting any worse than before and I started to feel a little more positive. I finally started relaxing enough to take in my surroundings and get caught up in the amazing crowd support of the race. I’ve never seen anything like it! The spectators were 5-6 people deep on either side for the full length of the race.
Once I hit the Half Marathon point I felt even more confident. I actually had the thought, “I think I’m warmed up now”. Somewhere around this point I decided to pick up the pace a little bit and agreed to reasses at mile 16. By now though I had to pee … bad. I ended up having to stop just after mile 16 to hit a porta-potty. I knew I wouldn’t make it 10 more miles unless I did.
At mile 18 I was feeling so good that I just couldn’t imagine that I was going to possibly hit “the wall” in 2 miles or so. Since my distance was so off on my Garmin I only watched my overall pace time. I conservatively increased the pace a little more, still realizing that even though I felt great I had a lot of distance left to cover. At this point I started to see people dropping off to the side with obvious cramps.
I knew by mile 20 that I had run the earlier miles too slow to hit my goal time that I had in mind, but I felt absolutely wonderful so I couldn’t be upset in the least. People were dropping like flies at this point, and I was speeding up. I couldn’t help but wonder when my time was going to come. I gave myself a quick assessment. What hurts? .. Absolutely freaking nothing. .. Then go!
By mile 22 I saw more people walking than were running. I had told myself in the early miles of the race not to make the mistake of increasing my distance by weaving around people, but in the late miles it was unavoidable. The streets were more narrow and people were giving less and less shits. At one point I slammed into the back of someone who stopped to walk right in the middle of the road. I took one last Gu although I didn’t feel like my stomach could hold anymore and promised myself that when I hit mile 24 if I was still feeling good I would go all out.
I ran the 25th mile at an 8:43 pace and realized I was still slightly holding back, and then ran the 26th mile at an 8:08 pace.
My final time was 3:54:36. Even though this race wasn’t a PR for me, it was absolutely my best marathon ever. I overcame a lot of self doubt and anxiety. It was the first marathon I ever ran alone and the first one where I actually felt strong from beginning to end. Of course there are things looking back that I could change here or there, but I have absolutely no regrets. Chicago knows how to put on one hell of a race!
After the race, I collected my bag from the gear check, grabbed a beer, took my shoes off and sat down on the ground in Grant Park and relaxed.
I was so proud of my hubby who finished the marathon in 5:27 and Drew who PR’d (and barely missed Boston Qualifying by 3 seconds)with a time of 3:25:03.
After my previous marathons, I swore I would never do another one. Clearly that was false, but after Chicago I know I’ll do another one and I can’t wait!